BALD KNOB Bald Knob Mayor Doyle Wallace is getting impatient.
It’s been more than six months since his office filed paperwork with the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Count Question Resolution Program, claiming the count of the small town’s population was short by around 200 residents.
“I’m anxious to get everyone counted,” Wallace said. “It wouldn’t have surprised me if we had lost 20 or even 60 people, but not 300.”
In 2000, census data showed the Bald Knob population at 3,210, but 2010 data showed a drop of more than 300 to 2,897.
When Wallace first heard the count after the 2010 census data was released more than a year ago, he was surprised. School enrollment and water bills within the city limits showed Bald Knob was down a few dozen people, but not more than 300, Wallace said.
“I’ve been talking to individuals, and there are several who just didn’t fill out their paperwork because of how it was written,” Wallace said.
In talking to Bald Knob residents on his daily morning coffee run, Wallace has spoken with around 14 people who ignored the paperwork, thinking it was an invasion of privacy.
“For each of those 14, you figure there are three or four in each of those families,” Wallace said.
Wallace also said that families living in apartment complexes may have been incorrectly counted.
The bureau accepts challenges only if it coded residents incorrectly or used the wrong boundaries when recording the population. Incorrect coding may include living quarters such as prisons, dormitories or apartment complexes that were mistakenly included, duplicated or excluded during processing. The Census Bureau does not collect additional data during a challenge.
As of Dec. 20, counts had been changed for the cities of Charleston, Chidester, Dermott, Gilmore, Harrisburg, Reed and Trumann as a result of Count Question Resolution challenges. Bald Knob currently has the only challenge still pending in the state. The bureau is accepting challenges from governmental organizations through June 1. The Census Bureau website states that it usually takes several months for a challenge to complete the review process.
A change in the official population has the potential to increase the amount of government funding available to Bald Knob. Wallace said it could mean a difference of $50 more per month, per person.
“You don’t have to be too smart to figure out what a difference that could make,” Wallace said. “A lot of little towns are looking at budget cuts. I’ve already had to let two of our part-time people at City Hall go.”
Regardless of whether his challenge is successful, Wallace already knows the city will need to better educate its residents before the next census takes place.
“The main thing I would have done is let them know how important it is financially,” Wallace said. “I know the government is wanting to know some other things you might not be comfortable with, but the main thing is, the population count can help our budget.”
After more than six months of waiting on the results, Wallace still asks his office staff nearly every day if they have heard back from the Census Bureau.
“All I do is ask them every day, ‘How are we doing?’” Wallace said. “I just want to find out who’s not getting counted.”
Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.