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Clear Spring hits census peg

April 03, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Clear Spring has exceeded its census mail-back goal, becoming the first Tri-State area municipality and only 1 percent of communities nationwide to hit its mark, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Monday.

In Clear Spring, 49 percent of all residences have returned their census questionnaires so far. That is 3 percent more than the goal census officials set for the town and 8 percent more than the 41 response rate in 1990.

"I'm glad to see that they passed their target," said Norman Bassett, coordinator of the Washington County Complete Count Committee, which has been trying to boost participation in the decennial population count.

Bassett said he does not know why Clear Spring has met its goal first or why its return rate was 20 percent lower than the next closest town in the county 10 years ago.

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Clear Spring Vice Mayor Julianna Albowicz said she is happy to hear that the town has exceeded its goal. She said several large houses have been converted into apartments over the last 10 years.

Perhaps that has meant that younger people have replaced elderly residents who have trouble reading the small print on the questionnaires, Albowicz said.

"I would think people having problems with the census would more or less be the senior citizens," she said.

Wayne Kline, the Census Bureau's regional office manager, credited an unprecedented national advertising campaign for raising awareness throughout the country.

Washington County now is just 13 percentage points away from its goal, with a 60 percent response so far. The state response rate is 57 percent.

Boonsboro has the highest return percentage of any town in the county, with 66 percent.

"I think we're going to see a big increase in the next seven days because I know there were a lot of people that waited until Saturday (to mail their forms) because that was Census Day," he said.

Bassett expressed confidence that the county and towns will reach their marks.

"We seem to be getting very close to those," he said. "If we keep going the way we've been going, adding 2 or 3 percent more a day, by the 15th of April, we'll add 30 points more."

The town with the lowest response rate so far is Smithsburg, where 40 percent of residences have mailed forms back. That compares with 63 percent 10 years ago.

Mayor Tommy Bowers said the town has had problems this year with the federal agency. He said the town has not been able to convince federal officials that certain addresses are inside town limits.

In addition, many residents have post office boxes. Those types of homes do not get mailed questionnaires, but are supposed to have them hand-delivered.

Many have not yet, though, Bowers said.

"I didn't even get my form yet," he said.

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