CITY OF LA GRANDE QUESTIONS CENSUS FIGURES

March 11, 2002 11:00 pm

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Stand up and be counted!

Thats exactly what Ken Kennedy tried to do. But no one was listening.

He has lived in the Sac Annex on Fir Street for six years, but never got a U.S. Census report to fill out for the 2000 census.

Now the City of La Grande is considering appealing his and other cases so that the population count can be raised and so that the city can get an increase in certain funds it receives.

Its not like Ive left town, Kennedy said. A lot of people in the building were not counted, and about 100 live there. I talked to a few other people who werent counted. And no one knocked on their doors either. And I know there were census takers around.

He has notified the city that he was not counted. The city, which is still disputing the announced official 2000 population figures, is asking any residents who were not counted to come forward and add their names to a growing list.

The Community Development Department staff has issued an urgent plea for anyone not counted to call the department at 962-1307.

Community Development Director Mike Hyde said the city is considering an appeal of the official U.S. Census count of 12,327. Before the city can challenge the official numbers, it must gather information from people who say they were not counted.

Hyde said the officially announced count was substantially less than a 2000 population estimate of 13,015 developed by the Portland State University Center for Population Research.

However, an Aug. 9, 2001, report prepared for Union County by The Benkendorf Associates Corp. of Portland stated the July 1, 2000, estimate had been revised to 12,340.

A July 1, 2001, PSU estimate latest available puts the population at 12,420.

The city is using the 13,015 figure on its Web site but receives several funds based on the lower figure.

It is important that an accurate population count be taken as the city receives revenue from several sources on a per capita basis, Hyde said.

The lower figure could mean as much as a $20,000-a-year loss to La Grande. State-shared revenues distributed based on population include highway user taxes, liquor taxes, cigarette taxes and emergency telephone (911) tax.

Hyde said that many La Grande residents who have post office boxes as their mailing addresses were not provided a chance to complete a census form. He said similar problems have been reported in Rogue River, Gold Hill, Shady Cove and Eagle Point.

In January 2001, the city announced its population was 13,015, based on revisions made by PSU after the city discovered what it called a major error in answers on some forms submitted to PSU. The city staff had listed only movable mobile homes (those in mobile home parks) under a category that should have included all manufactured homes.

That mistake left the impression La Grande had 211 fewer housing units than it actually had, and with other data, PSU concluded the citys population had dropped by 332 from the previous year.

They later agreed to change that.

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