Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Sen. Murkowski, Fairbanks North Star Borough hope for census plan review

FAIRBANKS — Sen. Lisa Murkowski is asking the U.S. Census Bureau director to review the agency’s plans for counting the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

Borough officials said they’re worried that the Census Bureau’s approach will lead to an undercount of the area’s population, since nearly half of local residents receive their mail at post office boxes.

Census Bureau policy allows its questionnaires to be sent only to physical addresses. If the mail is returned to the bureau as undeliverable, an attempt is made to contact the resident directly.

After hearing concerns from borough officials that the approach could lead to an undercount, Murkowski sent a letter to U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves on Monday asking that the agency take another look at its approach for Alaska.

Some federal spending is based on an area’s population, making it beneficial for communities to have good participation in the census.

Only half of Fairbanks North Star Borough households responded to initial contact efforts by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000, said Kathryn Dodge, the borough’s economic development specialist.

Dodge said rigid policies such as the bureau’s prohibition on post-office box mailings are among the issues that caused that low participation rate. A borough survey determined that 49 percent of area residents receive their mail at post-office boxes.

Dodge said the borough is working to educate Fairbanks residents about complying with the census efforts. Informational kiosks and postcard reminders will encourage residents to register with the federal agency.

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Source: By Jeff Richardson. Originally published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on November 03, 2009