Wood County Commission hears plans for census

Photo by Brett Dunlap Janet Spry, West Virginia partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, addresses the Wood County Commission Thursday about the Local Update of Census Addresses Operation (LUCA).

PARKERSBURG — U.S. Census officials are hoping to be able to make use of local maps and address databases when it comes time to do the next census in 2020.

Janet Spry, West Virginia partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, addressed the Wood County Commission Thursday about the Local Update of Census Addresses Operation (LUCA).

After the 1990 census, local jurisdictions across the country decided there was a terrible undercount, Spry said.

“Local jurisdictions had better address lists than what the census bureau had,” she said. “Congress enacted this program in 1994 that basically allows local jurisdictions, one time a decade, to review the census bureau’s address list. The jurisdiction has the opportunity to review the list and correct it.”

West Virginia counties already participate in the Geographic Support System Initiative and they are continually updating addresses and maps through assessor’s and/or E-911 offices.

Those addresses and maps are forwarded to the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security, which can then be provided to the Census Bureau.

Spry said that Wood County’s maps and address lists would be updated between January and July 2017 for when preparation for this program would begin in October.

“Because West Virginia is one of the few states that provides a statewide map, West Virginia counties should have less work to do in terms of updating,” Spry said. “This lays the foundation for the 2020 census. This is your best opportunity to get a more complete and accurate count in 2020.”

The numbers provided in the 2020 census will be what the state will have for the next decade.

“You essentially live with those numbers for 10 years,” Spry said. “That is important.”

The numbers help determine federal funding levels for infrastructure projects and services.

“Those figures are used in formulas that allocate over $400 billion every year from the federal government to local jurisdictions,” Spry said. “You want to be sure you get your share.”

The census numbers are also used to determine representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“There is concern in West Virginia that we may go down to two seats in the House of Representatives after the 2020 census,” Spry said.

Information is being sent to counties about the LUCA program and training workshops will be held from October 2017 to January 2018.

Spry wants to get the word out so people can participate in the program and in filling out census forms.

Compared to other states in this region, West Virginia had the lowest response rates during the last census compared to states like Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee.

“I am hoping we can get that up,” Spry said.

In other business:

* The Wood County Commission gave its approval to apply for a $115,799 grant from the 2017 Emergency Management Agency in Charleston. The grant would fund up to 50 percent of the salary of the assistant director, the administrative assistant and the planner as well as a portion of cell phone and Internet service at the county office of Emergency Management. The county regularly applies for this grant.

* Commission President Blair Couch informed the commission Mountwood Park received a $20,000 grant from the McKee Foods Outdoor Happiness Movement to build a flow trail at Mountwood Park.

Couch is the commission’s representative on the Wood County Parks and Recreation Commission, which governs Mountwood Park.

McKee Foods, the makers of Little Debbie snack cakes, is providing this grant to 10 states each year over a five-year period to fund projects that encourage people to spend time outdoors.

A flow trail is a machine-built trail that is built using standards for sustainable trail construction that account for water drainage and trail grade. These trails last a long time with minimal maintenance and are also enjoyable for hikers and mountain bikers of all ability levels.

The flow trail for Mountwood Park will be part of the park’s hiking and mountain biking trail network, and will travel across a scenic and seldom-visited area of the park south of Mountwood Lake. When finished, it will be close to two miles in length and will be maintained by the River Valley Mountain Bike Association.

“These flow trails drive a lot of people in from all over to come in and ride your trails,” Couch said.