Wood County ready to work with census committee

PARKERSBURG — Wood County is prepared to work with the statewide committee on the 2020 census created on Wednesday by the governor.

“We’re on top of it,” county commission President Blair Couch said Thursday.

Gov. Jim Justice by executive order established the West Virginia Complete Count Commission for the 2020 U.S. Census. The commission will help the Census Bureau with the population count, Justice said.

The county commission has already taken steps to make sure everyone who resides in the county is counted in the census, Couch said. The commission named Pam Brust as its liaison and chairman of the 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, of which Andy Hartleben, chief deputy assessor, is a co-chairman.

Meetings are being planned with numerous county organizations, such as social service agencies and nursing facilities, for their recommendations and participation in making sure everyone is counted, according to Couch.

The census is critical in numerous areas, not the least of which is determining how much federal money a city or county receives.

“A good count can only help Wood County,” Couch said.

The count also determines the boundaries of representative districts and could impact West Virginia’s three U.S. representatives. The number of representatives for states, which are guaranteed one, is determined by population, and West Virginia has the potential of losing one after the 2020 census, Brust said.

An effort will be on counting the residents of nursing or residential treatment facilities, including the inmates at the Parkersburg Correctional Center, Couch said. Inmates, technically, are residents here, according to Couch.

“They’re part of our census,” he said.

Another target will be areas of the county where there is the potential for low-response rates, Brust said. The non-report rate in some areas was from 16 percent to almost 25 percent, based on the 2010 Census, she said.

“We need to make sure we get to those folks this time and make sure they are counted,” Brust said.

The first meeting of the county Census Complete Count Committee will be held 10 a.m. Oct. 25 in the Fort Boreman room of the Black Annex on Market Street, Brust said. The committee is working with Kathryn A. Johnston, a U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist.

The committee will have speakers available for presentations before groups and organizations, Brust said. A link on the county web page is at woodcountywv.com/commission-agenda/u-s-census-information.

Questionnaires and postcards for residents to use in reporting census data will be sent March 12-20. By April 1, every home should have received an invitation to participate and, upon receiving the invitation, responses can be done online, by phone or by mail.

Census takers will visit students who live on college campuses, senior centers and group homes. In May, the Census Bureau will begin visiting homes that have not responded.

The state advisory commission will meet at least quarterly and as often as required. A final report is expected July 1, 2021, to the governor about its activities and suggested improvements for the 2030 Census.

Jess Mancini can be reached at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com.