November 11, 2009 Edition

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JPs hear update on census

Leslie Ginn
Staff Writer
Gary Underwood, partnership specialist of the U.S. Census Bureau, instructed the Lawrence County Quorum Court on the importance and particulars of the 2010 census. The census will be mailed in March 2010 and will contain only 10 questions for the head of household. If necessary, a second census will be sent, and then a census employee will visit, in an attempt to complete the questionnaire.

"It will only take about 10 minutes to fill out and drop the form back in the mail," said Underwood. "Once we get the completed census, it is unlikely that individuals will be contacted again by a census employee."

Taking a census has been a part of U.S. history since the constitution. The first census was completed in 1790. In Lawrence County in the 2000 census, the final response was 66 percent.

Underwood emphasized, "Counting every single person is very important because it determines funding and congressional representation."

Underwood pointed out that some people do not want to participate because they do not trust the government, but he stressed three significant points about the 2010 census. One, the census is important because it determines money and power for the county; two, the form is easy and requests neither financial information nor social security number; and, third, the census is safe because no one can lawfully see the completed form for 72 years.

In about three weeks, over 5,000 people will be hired state-wide to help complete the census. Although exactly how many will be employed in Lawrence County is unknown, the census bureau does hire people to work in their own area. It is a full-time, temporary position. Those interested in employment may call 866-861-2010 or go to online.

Underwood is also interested in creating partnerships with churches, businesses, schools and other organizations to promote the 2010 census. Those interested can call 501-255-8126 for more information.

Also on Monday, County Judge Alex Latham commended the county employees and officials for working together to stay within the budget during 2009. Since the county will end the year financially positive, Latham recommended the quorum court members pass a one-time, end-of-the-year three percent salary adjustment for county employees and elected officials. The adjustment, as well as longevity pay for elected officials, passed unanimously.

Court members approved both the 2010 budget and millage. The millage was reviewed, but reads the same as last year. The millage determines what percent of every tax penny collected is given to each county organization. Anticipated revenue for 2010 is $3,222,157 of which 90 percent, or $2,899,941, is available for county use.

Junior Briner, quorum member, said, "I want to thank both the elected officials and budget committee for the many hours of hard work put in to make a workable budget."

The recent rainfall has caused a disaster to be declared in Lawrence County by both local and state governments. The river needs to recede enough for damage to be assessed by F.E.M.A. before the county will be declared a disaster area by the federal government, thereby allowing access to federal funds. Latham said that he anticipates being informed regarding the federal involvement by the end of the week. Appreciation was expressed for efforts made by the county road foreman and department since the recent flooding.

Six resolutions were passed in an effort to acquire grant money from the Arkansas Rural Development Commission.

Two grant requests were made from community organizations: 4-H Foundation requested $20,000 to purchase a youth transportation van; and the Children's Shelter requested money to purchase a camera system.

Four of the grant requests were from county fire departments: The Alicia Fire Protection District requested $28,435 to replace outdated turnout gear; Lynn Fire Protection District requested $44,925 to purchase air packs; Saffell Fire Protection District requested $45,265 to purchase 24 complete sets of turnout gear; and the Sedgwick Fire Protection District requested $40,641 to purchase three air packs and 12 turnout gear sets.

Latham said, "According to my understanding, money may be provided to fund one fire grant and one community grant. The Arkansas Rural Development Commission will make that decision."

Latham also made the statement that all county audit and budget paperwork is public property. Anyone may ask for this information and his office staff will do their best to locate that which is requested.

He said rumors circulating that his office is under investigation are false.

"I have had 20 good audits and 20 balanced budgets," he said

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