Census Bureau celebrates open house

The U.S. Census Bureau celebrated an open house for Shelby County’s local census office Jan. 21 with several county dignitaries there, including mayors, commissioners and chamber members.

Darryl Lee, a partnership coordinator with the Census Bureau, said the department wanted a platform to present its purpose to Shelby County.

“We all need to work together to make sure we get a complete and accurate count,” Lee said. “The numbers dictate the amount of funding the county gets. It affects the whole community.”

For every resident not counted in the census, Shelby County stands to lose at least $826 in federal funding per year. That money goes to fund schools, highway planning, food grants and other federal programs.

The Chelsea census office will be active until the fall of this year, Lee said.

“We have to have the numbers on the president’s desk by Dec. 31,” he said.

Lee said Shelby County is part of a census region that covers Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Out of 12 regions across the country, Alabama’s region counts the most people.

Jerry Dozier, manager of the census office, said the Chelsea office is one of about 50 across the country. The Chelsea office will serve as the headquarters for those working in 11 Alabama counties.

He said an accurate census is important because of how much money is at stake.

“Those numbers will determine how $400 billion in federal funds are allocated,” Dozier said.

Chelsea Mayor Earl Niven said he believes the census office will make a difference in Chelsea’s economy.

“There will be 50-60 people here at lunchtime,” he said. “They’re close to city hall, so we can help if they need some assistance in the Chelsea area.”

The office is located on Chesser Crane Road. Census questionnaires will be mailed to households across the country in February and March.