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Accuracy counts

Press Photo by Ashley Martin Robin Schatz, a census worker, records address information on a GPS handheld computer in Dickinson on Tuesday.

United States Census Bureau workers have been knocking on doors all over North Dakota, including in Dickinson, for the last few days.

The official census count is nearly a year away but workers are walking the streets with GPS computers to verify and update addresses.

"It will go on probably until the beginning of June, so they'll be seeing us around," said Paula Koffler, a Dickinson census worker.

This is the first time GPS devices have been used, said Jared Ewy, media specialist at the Denver Regional Census Center.

"It's to make this the most complete and accurate census ever," Ewy said. "The address canvassing is simply taking inventory of every physical residential address in North Dakota."

He added no personal information will be recorded. Workers will knock on the door, but for address canvassing it is just a courtesy knock. If somebody answers they give them information on how important confidentiality is to the Census Bureau, Ewy said.

Canvas workers will be out for eight to 10 weeks visiting city and rural homes, Ewy said.

Stark Development Corporation will hire a local census coordinator in October, said Gaylon Baker, executive vice president.

"What this person would do is help us achieve the highest possible accuracy in the census count," Baker said. "Our proposal is to hire a part-time person for six months, provide them with office space and the travel, cost of supplies and all those things that they need."

Ewy and Baker said an inaccurate count could mean a loss of federal and state money.

Each person per year means $1,000 in federal tax money for local government.

"If you miss 1,000 people that's $1 million a year," Baker said. "It affects our ability to attract business, certainly, so we're very concerned about that."

He said about 60 percent of people in the area returned census information during the last count.

Hiring a coordinator will cost the Stark Development Corporation $14,000.

"The purpose of this person is to educate people up front as to the confidentiality of that information, make them comfortable with filling out the form and sending it in," Baker said.