Just as Paul Revere signaled that the British were arriving, the opening of the Gainesville census office signals that it is almost time for the decennial count.
Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a survey of the American population as outlined by the Constitution.
On Wednesday, area elected officials and community members were on hand for the grand opening of the Gainesville census office on Queen City Parkway. The office will serve as the administrative headquarters for the census process for 31 Northeast Georgia counties including Hall, Jackson, Dawson, Banks, Lumpkin and Gwinnett.
"We are here to ensure that an accurate and true count of every resident in your community is taken," said Carol Zaremba, Gainesville census office manager. "It is important to collect accurate information because the numbers will affect each and every one of us every day for the next 10 years."
Although many people may be tempted to disregard the questionnaires when they arrive in the mail, you shouldn’t because census results are used to determine how many congressional seats will be allocated to each state and how much federal funding various community programs will receive.
"It’s important for people to feel comfortable filling out and returning the (questionnaires)," Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Gwinnett, said during the ceremony. "My message is for the Latino community and other minority communities to not be afraid (of filling out the census questionnaire)."
The data collected from individuals during the census is kept confidential and not shared with any other governmental agency or department including those associated with the deportation process.
In previous years, most household received a short-form version of the census, while 1 in 6 households received the long-form version. Beginning this year, all households will be given the short version and it is estimated to take around 10 minutes to complete.
Although the next census isn’t scheduled until 2010, there is preliminary work that needs to be done now, before questionnaires are mailed out next March.
Census Bureau staff will be busy verifying the mailing addresses of every household in the United States, as each must be accounted for during the surveying process. If a household fails to return the questionnaire, it may be visited by a census worker.
"The success of the census depends largely on public cooperation, but reaching all members of the community in places like Gainesville that have such a diverse population can be difficult," said Manuel Landivar, assistant manager of the U.S. Census Bureau regional office in Atlanta. "The primary purpose of our temporary offices is to prepare the for non-response follow-up interviews."
According to Landivar, it costs the federal government upward of $80 million to track down every 1 percent of non-responding households.