A U.S. Census Bureau representative instructed the City Council Monday on how the city can best prepare for the 2020 census as a college town.
Aaron Dagres, a partnership specialist at the U.S. Census Bureau, presented an overview of the new census design for 2020, explaining how Athens residents can be accurately counted. He said people between the ages of 18 and 24 are some of the most uncounted for people in census data. Athens also has a poor response rate, at about 79.9 percent, which leads to miscounts.
Dagres said spreading the word about the census on social media, and community involvement, can help get a higher response rate.
“It takes effort to educate people on the importance of responding to ensure that (a low response rate) doesn’t come to fruition,” Dagres said.
Dagres also said communities can partner with the U.S. Census Bureau by creating a Complete Count Committee, or CCC. The purposes of a CCC are to educate, encourage and engage communities about the census. They specifically target hard-to-reach groups to ensure that demographics, such as college students and children under the age of 5, are counted.
The City Council President, Chris Knisely, said Athens County has established a CCC and would like to see involvement from members of Ohio University and the student body in it.
“We stand firm to partner with you and help in any way we can,” Knisely said.
OU students are counted as residents of Athens, Dagres said. The Census recognizes a resident of a town as anyone who lives in that town for 51% of the year. Counting students as residents of Athens will help the town better appropriate services for students.
City Council also met in committees to discuss street repairs and closures, among other topics.
The city is undergoing a cash flow problem, councilman Peter Kotses, D-At Large, said. Some of the bigger construction projects are taking up more funds than anticipated. As a result, money is being moved around in order to pay for street payments before the warm weather ends.
The Richland Bridge project, which is still underway, is one of those larger projects. Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said the project will still be ongoing while OU students move in.
“That, to a certain extent, will be a problem, I believe,” Patterson said.
All streets that were expected to be paved this summer will still be done, City Auditor Kathy Hecht said.