The Census Bureau is gearing up for its massive counting effort in the area, and the City of Storm Lake plans to add some muscle to make sure the official population count is as steep as it possibly can be.
"The Census count determines quite a few things. On the national level, it will have an impact on the re-allocation of representatives to the U.S House, for example. And locally, some sources of funding and grants are based on your population numbers. A great example is road use tax funds - the revenue is doled out on a per capita basis, and if we don't get all the revenue we are due, it might be impossible to keep up with all the street work," says City Clerk Justin Yarosevich, who heads up the city's census efforts.
The city has been working for about a year to make sure the Census Bureau has correct lists of addresses and maps to work with, so that every resident can be counted.
The national Census is done every four years. In 2006, city officials vocally expressed that they felt the city's population had been under-counted, and launched a major effort to get a more accurate number. The official count was 10,076 in 2006.
"I think we are still underestimated," Yarosevich said of the number. "I would venture to guess that every city in America probably thinks they are undercounted," Yarosevich laughs.
Some growth in development and housing since 2006 could lead tor hopes for a higher population count in Storm Lake in 2010, he adds.
"In the next month or so we will really be working to encourage people to fill out census forms when they get to their homes," Yarosevich says.
While some people have concerns, they should know that the process is secure, and that data is not used for any purpose other than the census count, he said.
Kris Allen is heading up recruiting for Census representatives in Buena Vista and Clay counties. A total of 49 people will be hired to comb the region for people who may be missed by the form process.
For the first time, the counters will use an electronic device instead of paper forms, allowing the data to be instantly transmitted from a simple computer about the size of a Palm Pilot, she said. She hopes that will allow data to be handled rapidly, cutting down the time between the count and release of the findings to the public.
The job of locating every living person in two counties is a massive undertaking. "It's mostly a matter of getting people informed. We are getting started, slowly but surely."
City officials have in the past speculated that the population may be underestimated in part because of cultural and language difficulties in reaching a multi-lingual population.
"The situation has its unique challenges," says Yarosevich.
It is a hurdle Census Bureau officials are well aware of, Allen adds.
"It makes it tough. We are hoping to be able to hire some bilingual people, but I am not able to administer the test for applicants in Spanish, so we have to look for someone who can do that."
The Hispanic community can be somewhat fearful of government interaction, which can make it hard to obtain an accurate count, Allen says.
"That's the trouble - we have to make these people see how this process involves them, and how they benefit just as everyone else does," she said.
Anyone interested in working on the Census count may contact Allen. The temporary jobs range up to 40 hours a week with flexible hours.