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Officials campaign for census responses

LAWRENCEVILLE - With half a year to go before 2010, officials are already beginning a campaign to get people to respond to the U.S. Census.

The tally, which takes place every 10 years, is important in the apportionment of legislative leaders and in bringing federal money to the county, but Gerson Vasquez of the Census Bureau said Gwinnett's residents could be hard to count.

"Where there is more diversity, it is more difficult to count," Vasquez told commissioners, pointing out that language barriers, apathy and mistrust could keep people from responding to surveyors.

Gwinnett has a large concentration of black, Asian and Hispanic residents, and Vasquez said response centers will be set up throughout the county to help reach people in multiple languages.

"We need to capture it because that is the only way we will continue to grow successfully," the long-time Gwinnett resident said, pointing out that the count will determine resources for schools, roads, public health, economic development and emergency preparedness. Even the number of vaccines available for the swine flu are determined by the Census, he said.

"It is so important we want to get an early start," County Administrator Jock Connell said.

The county is setting up a complete count committee of local leaders to reach as many people as possible.