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Fayette continues to challenge census

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2001

UNIONTOWN - Fayette commissioners on Tuesday indicated they have received much interest from county municipal officials who want to review the 2000 Census population count for their municipality.

At Thursday's voting meeting, the board is expected to approve the purchase of census kits for all 42 municipalities, allowing municipal officials to determine if there were mistakes in misallocations of populations such postal addresses that do not correctly reflect geographical location.

The county, through the efforts of Commissioner Chairman Vincent Vicites and the Office of Planning, Zoning and Community Development, is undertaking a Count Question Resolution to challenge the population tallies of its municipalities.

Fayette will be reclassified as a Fifth-Class County on Jan. 1, 2002, after the 2000 Census marked the second census in a row the county failed to reach the targeted 150,000 residents needed for it to remain Fourth-Class.

Fayette County's official population tally was 148,644, approximately 1,356 short of the needed 150,000 residents.

'This is a serious matter,' said Vicites.

Vicites noted the county had a net gain of 3,700 households from 1989 to 2000, and by his calculations, gained 9,620 persons. Vicites said the county needs to find 1,356 residents and based on number crunching, the county is 4,600 persons to the good. He believes that residents fell through the cracks and were not counted.

'It's not going to be easy,' he said.

The Count Question Resolution targets misallocations of populations and looks for processing errors by the U.S. Census Bureau, such as postal addresses that do not correctly reflect geographical location. At the local level, officials believe there may be pockets of populations in townships and boroughs where residents were missed entirely or may have been counted as a resident of another county.

Vicites said an 80-person discrepancy was found in Belle Vernon Borough after the school district performed a check. In Menallen Township, an additional 50 to 100 residents were found in one area after not being counted.

It is these examples of discrepancies that Vicites wants to document in the CQR application. He said that if enough documentation from municipalities is included then it is possible the bureau will send a team in to review the population tallies.

Vicites cautioned that this process will not happen by the end of this year, and that the county will drop to a Fifth-Class County. However, if the needed 1,356 residents can be found, then the county's status could be changed to a Fourth-Class County.

Vicites also noted the county would reach the 150,000 population mark in 2002 when the state correctional institution is opened, but would have to wait 18 years until Fayette County can revert back to a Fourth-Class County.

The demotion to a Fifth-Class County will result in the combining of county row offices, namely the clerk of courts and prothonotary's offices, Vicites said, and it will hurt funding for entitlement communities.

Commissioner Ronald Nehls asked county residents who, for whatever reason, did not answer the 2000 Census request, to come forth and 'say I did not send in my request..that might be our answer.'

In other matters, the board is expected to:

  • Name William E. Piper, a transportation, planning, programming and management consultant, to work with the county during planning sessions with the state Department of Transportation. This concerns the county's 12-year plan for transportation projects. Piper, who recently retired from PennDOT with 35 years service, will be paid $60 an hour for a maximum of 10 hours.

  • Award bids for the general construction, plumbing, electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning for completion of the pre-engineered, minimum security prison building being constructed behind the courthouse complex.

  • Amend the salary contract with Patti Hall, public information director for the county tax reassessment project. Her weekly salary will increase to $117.50 per day from about $115 per day, to reflect her out-of-pocket expenses for insurance benefits.

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