Census seeks volunteers at Sportsmen’s Show

Posted March 13, 2010, at 4:14 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Ten years ago, somewhere in Oxford County near the town of Fryeburg, a Maine resident was living in an unorganized township with no clear roads to his domicile.

We know the resident was there, U.S. Census employee David Slagger said Saturday, because that person responded to a questionnaire sent out in the last census.

The resident will be counted again as the 2010 Census gets under way this month. To do that, a census worker will have to take a 16-mile snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle ride into the woods and then snowshoe or hike another mile to find the resident.

That’s why Slagger manned a booth at this weekend’s 72nd annual Eastern Maine Sportsmen’s Show. The U.S. Census is looking to hire people who feel comfortable riding ATVs or snowmobiles to get to residents who live far from Maine’s towns and cities.

Everyone must be counted, Slagger said — even if the count takes a worker 17 miles into the woods of Oxford County.

“Here in Maine, our effort is to get at those places where we know you’re not going to be able to get in your car and drive there,” said Slagger, a U.S. Census partnership specialist in the Bangor office who works with what he described as hard-to-count populations, which traditionally have included native groups and college students. “So we figured, people that come to the Sportsmen’s Show might have ATVs or four-wheel drive [vehicles] and could possibly be interested in working for the Census Bureau.”

The Sportsmen’s Show, held this weekend, draws thousands of people each year to booths staffed by private companies, state agencies and nonprofit organizations, mostly related to activities such as hunting, fishing, boating and outdoor living. There also are demonstrations, instruction sessions and contests.

The show, sponsored by the Penobscot County Conservation Association, was held at the University of Maine field house, Memorial Gym and Wallace Pool.

Although he wasn’t working for the U.S. Census in 2000, Slagger said as many as 100 employees may have been out on ATVs and snowmobiles that year tracking residents.

Several people with off-road capabilities already had expressed interest in working for the 2010 census, Slagger said late Saturday morning.

Maine is the largest geographical area in the census’s Northeast region, which includes New York state, all of New England and Puerto Rico. The areas of Maine in which the U.S. Census believes it will need ATVers include northern Penobscot County and Aroostook County in addition to finding the resident and any others in Oxford and western counties.

Slagger said he thinks the 2010 Census will show a trend of people moving back to the areas around service centers such as Bangor, but there also is a movement away from those centers.

“People want to get away from people, so they’re moving out to these unorganized territories,” Slagger said. “Maine is really the last state in the Northeast that has that, where maybe a human being has never stepped foot, which is kind of cool.”

The census will hire 800-1,000 temporary employees in Aroostook, Piscataquis, Penobscot and Somerset counties, which are the areas covered by the Bangor office. Other counties, such as Washington and Hancock, are in the Augusta office.

To apply for employment, interested residents should call the toll-free jobs line, 866-861-2010, to find a center closest to them to apply.

Census employees are assigned to canvass the areas near where they live. Workers are paid and reimbursed for mileage, but are not reimbursed for other expenses.

Slagger said he actually had two purposes in attending the Sportsmen’s Show. In addition to finding ATV operators, the U.S. Census Bureau also is trying to raise awareness of the census on college campuses and among the general public.

“The federal funding is based on numbers,” he said. “Without a complete and full count, you’re not going to get a fair share of federal funds.”

Census forms will go out this month, Slagger said. Maine usually has a good response rate, with 78-80 percent of residents returning forms in 2000, he added.

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