Durham, Newmarket, Dover agree to Census Return Challenge

By Michaela Christensen
On March 25, 2010

  • Town representatives from Durham, Newmarket and Dover agreed to a friendly competition to encourage participation in the 2010 Census. Michaela Christensen

A three-town challenge has been set between the neighboring communities of UNH to encourage local participation in the 2010 U.S. Census.

Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig, Newmarket Town Administrator Edward Wonjnowski and Dover City Manager Mike Joyal have agreed to a challenge to have the highest percentage of residents in their communities to mail back their 2010 Census response by the 5 p.m. April 16 deadline. The winning community wins a free fire truck cleaning.

The friendly competition, Selig's idea, states that the two losing city or town administrators will have to bring their suds and buckets to the winning community's fire station to wash one of the winner's fire trucks.

In anticipation of a win, Selig presented Wonjnowski and Joyal with small pink plastic buckets and some sponges at a press conference two weeks ago. Selig also brought two pairs of orange shorts to give to the other two town leaders. One pair of shorts had

"Newmarket" scrawled across the back, and the other had "Dover" written.

"We are adding some excitement to the experience with a city manager to city manager challenge, which to our knowledge is the first in the history of the Census," said Selig at the press conference.

Selig also said he is particularly interested in trying to get UNH students in the three communities involved. He pointed out that UNH students live in all three communities, and he hopes that their participation will ramp up the competition.    

Cynthia Copeland, from Strafford Regional Planning Commission, also encouraged UNH students to mail in the Census.

"Not only are you participating in the Census but you are creating a legacy," said Copeland.
The first U.S. Census was conducted in 1790. Census workers went door to door, took down the name of the head of the household and the number of people living there. A new census is undertaken every 10 years.

Leslie Vogt, from the U.S. Census Bureau, said that some of the poorest Census return rates are attributed to students who live off campus. She said she thinks this is because students think the Census is something their parents fill out for them at home.
Vogt said students living on campus will begin receiving the Census within the next few weeks. Resident assistants will distribute the forms.

How long does it take to fill out?

"We say 10 questions, 10 minutes," said Vogt.

The more people who mail in their Census response, the less door-to-door trips are required of Census workers. Selig pointed out that about $85 million is saved for every one percent increase in mail participation across the nation. All three community leaders are looking to improve upon their Census 2000 mail participation rates.

The data collected from the Census is used to determine how to allot more than $400 billion annually in federal funding. The data is also used to decide the number of seats each state receives in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as representation at the state and local levels.

Follow Michaela Christensen on Twitter at Twitter.com/TNHdurham

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