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Feds seek local census takers

December 31, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

If you can read maps and recognize numbers, the U.S. Census Bureau might have a job for you.

The agency that counts America's population every 10 years is looking for about 20 people in the area to verify addresses next month.

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That is a portion of 100 temporary workers needed in Western Maryland, Census officials said.

"They really need people from that area - badly," said Census spokeswoman Juanita C. Britton.

Britton said the agency prefers to hire workers who live in the area to be checked. Successful applicants will be assigned blocks close to their homes, she said.

Applicants who pass a test will be trained in downtown Hagerstown from Jan. 11-13, said Larry Marshall, field operation supervisor for Western Maryland.

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Between 15 and 20 people will begin verifying addresses on Jan. 18. The process will take six to eight weeks, Britton said.

About 20 or so people will be trained as backups in case some workers drop out before the job is finished, Marshall said.

A job as a temporary enumerator can be an important first step toward a permanent government job and can lead to other Census assignments, Britton said.

"There will be things for them to do all the way through 2000, on and off," she said.

The workers will be given a list of addresses to verify. Workers, among other things, will record whether the type of housing - single family, for instance - is still accurate.

The project is a precursor to the main event in March 2000, when the bureau will mail Census questionnaires to be used in determining official population statistics as mandated by the Constitution.

Slightly more than 74 percent of Washington County residents returned their Census questionnaires in 1990, Britton said. Population statistics are important because they are used to determine funding for hundreds of government programs.

With a booming economy, fewer people than in the past may need temporary Census jobs. But Britton said officials are not concerned.

She said they have increased pay - to between $8 and $10 per hour - in an attempt to lure retirees and people wishing to make extra money.

Marshall said the Census Bureau has attracted temporary workers in Garrett County, where address verification began several weeks ago.

"It's not bad, really," he said. "It's been just a little bit better than I thought it would."

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