Census forms fail to find Northampton homes

Published 9:08 am Thursday, May 13, 2010

JACKSON — Northampton County officials are urging citizens to complete their 2010 census despite widespread reports of Northampton County households never receiving a form due to a mailing glitch.

Last week, Department of Social Services Director Dr. Al Wentzy appeared before the Northampton County Board of Commissioners to request authorization for Chairwoman Fannie Greene to sign a letter to encourage citizens to support the current census.

“I discovered to date, Northampton County is not doing well in the Census Bureau’s effort to count our citizens,” said Wentzy.

Wentzy said he recently discovered that only 67 percent of citizens in the county have participated by turning in their mailed surveys. He added this number is below the state’s average is 73 percent.

“In my humble opinion, less than 100 percent is not satisfactory,” he said.

Wentzy continued that the census did not just help with receiving funds from the government, but it helped guide local decision-makers as to where to build new roads, hospitals, housing, schools and more.

Businesses also use demographic and economic census data to locate retail stores, new housing and other facilities.

Furthermore, census data determines representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and in state and local governments.

Commissioner Virginia Spruill noted that there had been a lot of publicity about the census. She questioned why the county would only be at 67 percent.

Commission Vice Chair James Hester spoke about a recent incident at the Conway Post Office where census forms where sent back because the carrier didn’t know where people lived.

The board addressed this issue on Wednesday during a reconvened meeting in which the commissioners approved a drafted letter to be sent to Congressman G.K. Butterfield, Senator Kay Hagan, Senator Richard Burr and Governor Beverly Purdue.

The letter reads, “We have had wide-spread reports from our citizens that they never received mailed Census surveys. In investigating why, we are told by the Postmasters’ that the Census surveys were addressed, ‘Resident, with the applicable Street address.’ All of Northampton County’s nine-rural municipalities/ towns are small and very few have local residential USPS (United States Postal Service) delivery, nor do they have residential delivery boxes; therefore, most Postmasters’ were required to return trays and trays of these Census surveys to the US Census Bureau, the sender, as “Return as no mail receptacle.” Cities have residential delivery, our towns do not.”

The letter recommends that the surveys should have been addressed, “Resident, town, NC 27845,” which would have allowed citizens to received the survey in their PO Box and would have included all town residents.

“We again acknowledge the US Census Bureau’s multi-phased enumeration process; however, Northampton County is not only a rural NC county among 85 percent of all NC counties, but our poverty ranks within the top ten most ‘economically challenged’ and we are most concerned that our citizens not having this opportunity to be counted will seriously impair our end result and negatively affect Northampton County for 10 years.”

The letter concludes, “Please inquire as to any extra strategy that might be employed to off-set this initial shortcoming in the enumeration of our citizens and those in rural NC.”

County officials also point to myths and concerns surrounding the census, including military veterans who are scared of being sent to war and senior citizens who are afraid of giving out information.

Wentzy attributed some of the hesitation to people wanting privacy.

“It’s the American psyche of privacy, don’t tread on me,” he said.

Hester offered a motion to authorize Greene to sign the two letters (one will go to local clergy while the other will go to county agencies, organizations and citizens); Spruill offered a second. The motion passed without objection.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2010 Census will ask for name, gender, age, race, ethnicity, relationship, and whether you own or rent your home.

The Census Bureau representatives recently began door to door visits to homes who did not return a census form.

For those who have census workers visit their home, the U.S. Census Bureau offers the following recognition tips:

The census taker must present an ID badge that contains a Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date. The census taker may also be carrying a bag with a Census Bureau logo.

The census taker will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the local census office phone number for verification, if asked.

The census taker will only ask you the questions that appear on the census form.

A census worker will never ask for your Social Security number, bank account number or a credit card number. In addition, the 2010 Census form and the 2010 Census takers never solicit for donations and will never contact you by e-mail.