By Valerie Baldowski
Henry County's government leaders are gearing up for the important process of conducting the 2010 census count.
The Henry County Census 2010 Complete Count Committee met for the first time Tuesday, at the County Administration Building in McDonough. Two local officials involved in the count are County Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis, and Michael Harris, Henry County's planning and zoning services division director.
Mathis is a member of the State Complete Count Committee, and Harris is the Complete Count Committee Chairman for Henry County. "My hope is that we can educate the citizens on how critical the census count is to Henry over the next 10 years, and that we have 100 percent participation," said Mathis.
The 2010 Census is 10 questions long, and will take an estimated 10 minutes to complete, said Harris. The purpose of the Henry committee meeting was twofold, he said. The first objective was to outline the purpose and functions of the local Complete Count Committee. The second was to establish the key subcommittees that will focus on select areas.
There are subcommittees on these broad topics: education, government, faith-based organizations, media, business, and nonprofits, Harris said.
"Data collected from the census count is used in a variety of ways," he said. "Most notably, from a local standpoint, legislative and congressional district boundaries are determined. Every year, the federal government allocates over $400 billion to states and communities to fund community services, such as school-lunch programs and senior-citizen activities, as well as new road-construction projects.
"Census data is further used to determine where critical services, such as hospitals, need to be located," continued Harris. "Private industries use the data to identify viable locations for new businesses and industries, that subsequently bring more jobs to our community."
Henry County's population has increased approximately 60 percent since the last census was completed, according to Harris. Federal dollars are tied directly to the population count, he said. A complete and accurate count will be critical to the county getting its fair share of money for roads, schools, and other programs and services, he said.
"Volunteers on the Complete Count Committee will be asked to organize opportunities to reach out to their spheres of influence to help dispel fears and anxieties, and educate people about the purpose of the Census and the ease of completing the survey," said Gloria Solomon, Partnership Specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau. "They will not be asked to go door-to-door."
More than 130 million addresses throughout the nation will receive a census form in March, according to Pamela Bellis, the regional senior media specialist for U.S. Census Bureau.
Census Day is April 1. Responses to the questionnaires should include everyone living in the household. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share an individual's personal information with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement agencies, said Bellis.
Residents who have not responded, will be visited in person by a census worker, from late April through July. Bellis said census workers can be identified by a census badge and bag. The Census Bureau is expected to provide the 2010 apportionment counts to President Barack Obama by Dec. 31.
Harris said Henry County is still looking for people to serve on the committee, in the areas of business, faith-based organizations, education, media, non-profit organizations, and government. The volunteer positions require a three-or four-month commitment, he added.
The next meetings are scheduled for Jan. 21 and 26, at the Henry County Administrative Building. For more information, or to volunteer, call (770) 288-6028.