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Helmut Schmidt, Published March 10 2010

Officials stress census urgency

Area officials urge residents to fill out their census forms now, saying federal aid to the area could be lost if the task is put off and forgotten during the spring flood fight.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said $1,000 in federal aid comes to the area annually for each person counted.

He said Fargo’s population is pegged at 94,000, but robust growth in housing starts and North Dakota State University enrollment, and regular influxes of New Americans, point to a population that’s closer to 100,000.

With federal aid distributed by population, that means millions of dollars of funding for local cities and individuals may be lost annually because significant numbers of college students, new Americans and others are not being counted, Walaker said.

They said the 10 minutes spent on the forms is an investment in the area for the next 10 years.

“This is kind of the last thing (people will) devote their attention to in the midst of fighting a flood,” said Darrell Vanyo, chairman of the Cass County Commission.

“Sit down, fill it out, and mail it back in,” Walaker said. “It is extremely important.”

Jim Hinderaker, a Fargo senior planner, is chairman of the area Census Complete Count committee.

He said the 2000 Census had a response rate of about 73 percent locally.

“We believe the estimate (of Fargo’s population) is actually low,” Hinderaker said. “We’ve got to be quite a bit over that.”

Questionnaires have already been sent to the rural areas of the Red River Valley, said Cathy Lacy, the Denver-based regional director for the Census.

The prioritized delivery should give people in areas vulnerable to flooding time to get census forms done before their time is eaten up by high water, she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583