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Carter County Road Department crew member Rodney Pennington controls the sprayer during an experimental application of “Claycrete” on Clearview Drive in the fall of 2018. Judge Executive Mike Malone is urging county residents to respond to the census, so that the county can receive their fair share of road funds to work on further improvements.

If you only know one thing about filling out your census form, Carter County Judge Executive Mike Malone wants to be sure you know the impact it could have on road funding for the county.

Malone has been preaching the importance of responding to the census for months now, placing a special emphasis on how an accurate count of the county's citizens can impact both state and federal transportation dollars available to the county. He noted at a fiscal court meeting in February that the amount of transportation funding available to the county from federal and state sources comes to about $2,000 per person. With only 18 percent of the county's population estimated to have responded in the last census, that's a lot of money left on the table that the county could have used for improvements, such as road resurfacing. With many of the county's roads in a near constant state of disrepair, it's one of the issues that is most often brought before the fiscal court. It's also one of the issues they most often struggle to find sufficient funding for.

“We spent almost $1 million on paving last year, and it's almost like we didn't do anything,” Malone said in that February meeting.

While the county still hopes that a newly passed occupational tax will inject some much needed revenue into projects like road repairs, every dollar they can get from state and federal transportation funding sources will improve their ability to do more road work.

Census data can also impact funding available from FEMA during natural disasters.

In the past the county has used those funds to make repairs to roads impacted by slips and mudslides that happen during heavy rains associated with extreme weather events.

Communications from the census bureau note that information from the census can influence things like road funding, highway planning and construction, federal transit formula grants, formula grants for rural areas, community development grants, rural payment assistance payments, and water and waste disposal systems for rural communities. The census also impacts things like funding for emergency services, medical facilities, community mental health services, education, public transportation, and disabled veteran outreach services.

Those census communications also note that no personal identifying information is collected or maintained by the census, which seeks only to accurately count the number of citizens living in an area. They also note the multiple ways that citizens can reply to the census, including by mail, by telephone, or online at 2020census. gov. 2020 is the first year that the census can be completed online.

Contact the writer at jwells@journaltimes.com.

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