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Count ‘is coming’
Area office opens; surveys in March
From left, Alpharetta Mayor Arthur Letchas, Census official Linda Baptiste, Lawrence-Clarke and Waleska Mayor Doris Jones watch Alpharetta Census Office Manager Dick Gormly cut a ribbon for the new center. - photo by Jennifer Sami
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To get involved in the 2010 U.S. Census, visit
The United States Census 2010 is counting on every resident of Forsyth, Cherokee and northern Fulton counties to be counted by the Alpharetta Local Census Office, which officially opened Wednesday.

Dignitaries from the area attended the ribbon cutting and open house for the facility, and learned more about the importance of making sure every resident, regardless of race, citizenship, gender or age is counted.

“You as leaders in this community can help by spreading the census message to every resident— the census is coming,” said Dick Gormly, office manager. “It is quick, it is safe and it is important to respond to the census questionnaires you will be receiving soon.

“With your help, the Alpharetta local census office will succeed in our mission of counting each and every person once and in the right place.”

The message, “It’s easy, it’s safe and it’s important,” was repeated by the handful of speakers addressing the group.

Debra Lyons, director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, said the state’s version is “it’s secure, it’s easy and it’s essential.”

Lyons doesn’t want to repeat last decade’s census results.

Georgia’s 2000 census mail response was 2 percent lower than the national average.

For every 1 percent of the population that doesn’t respond to the mailed questionnaires, it costs about $2.7 million to track down in other ways.

“This is a very tight budget season. We’ve got to get people to mail them back,” she said. “We’re going to judge our success on Georgia’s mail return rate. I want Georgia’s rate to be above the national average.

“I think we can do that. I think with a strong communication plan and working together, we can get there.”

The information collected by the census is used to determine congressional seats and the need for schools, hospitals and community services.

About $300 billion in federal funds are distributed annually based on census results.

The Alpharetta center is one of about 500 offices opened nationwide to help with the 10-year census, which began in 1790.

About 30 employees will work from the Alpharetta office, but Gormly estimates more than 500 employees will handle field operations between the three counties, which he said could have about half a million residents.

Cherokee County Commissioner L.B. Ahrens talked about his county’s  population increase over the decade.

Forsyth, being among the fastest growing counties in the state, should see similar results, said Gormly.

Ahrens serves on the county’s Complete Count Committee, or CCC, a census awareness group. The committees help raise awareness, specifically in multi-cultural sections of the state, making sure there are no language or cultural barriers.

Surveys are available in five language, and residents can also request a language assistance guide, available in 59 languages.

Janice Lawrence-Clarke, chairwoman of the Women’s Caribbean CCC, talked about the expansion of questions on the survey, allowing for more specific backgrounds.

“It is often noted on the forms ... check ‘black.’ We now have an opportunity to say, ‘I’m from the Caribbean,’” she said. “So that’s a good thing because everyone likes to know that they’re recognized.”

Lawrence-Clarke also talked about the importance of the safety behind the census, specifically for immigrants, legal or not.

All responses are confidential and remain locked for 72 years.

“We find it very important to stress this to our people that it doesn’t matter if there are 20 people living in the basement, or if you came and you didn’t leave, you forgot to take the ticket and go back home,” she said.

“It doesn’t mater when it comes to the census, because you are here.”

The 10-question survey should take about 10 minutes to complete. They will be sent out mid-March, with in-person visits to those who don’t respond to follow through as late as July.

The Alpharetta center will close by the end of September, with all numbers reported by Dec. 31.