Highland Mayor Joe Michaelis announced Monday that the city will create a committee and several subcommittees ahead of the 2020 census in an effort to make sure every citizen is counted.
City officials are hoping early outreach program will help them confirm a population of 10,000 plus, which opens opportunities for new development and public revenues.
“We’re hoping to reach the 10,000 threshold,” said Highland Economic and Business Recruitment Coordinator Mallord Hubbard. “It seems arbitrary, but a five digit number will look good for the city.”
That number alone could act as a strong bait to more businesses coming to Highland.
Michaelis made the announcement at a meeting of the city council Monday night with a proclamation dedicating the city to the success of the upcoming census.
The 2010 census count for Highland was roughly 9,600. The census bureau later estimated that as of 2016 the city’s population had fallen by roughly 100 people, a trend the city hopes will have reversed by 2020.
High participation in the census is one-way city officials are hoping to boost the count above the five-figure threshold.
“The aim will be to bring together different stakeholders in the community and community leaders to raise awareness for the census,” Hubbard said. “We plan on using various resources to accomplish this goal, mainly the internet infrastructure we have in the city.”
The committee will be tasked with promoting census participation, explaining its necessity and benefits, helping senior citizens access and understand the online forms and more. Hubbard said religious leaders, school officials, retirement communities and more will be included in the preparation.
Hubbard said making sure residents fill out the census online also will be a focus. He said if a majority of the population fills out the census online, the city won’t have to hire temporary employees to go door-to-door in Highland.
“One of the primary goals during this census in this decade is to use the internet to fill out the various respondents for the census. That will be our primary goal, to make sure everyone does that online to prevent having to hire a number of people to go door-to-door.”
That can be especially tough with residents living on the edge of town and seniors, who Hubbard said may be the least likely to fill out an online form. He said the city will be offering portals in public places for residents who lack easy access to the internet to fill out the census.
A strong showing on the census is important to the city for several reasons mostly having to do with tax implications, Hubbard said. He added a bigger population on the 2020 census will attract more business to Highland as well.
“It impacts a number of things. There are tax implications as well as business implications,” Hubbard said. “When businesses look into coming to a city they look at the population.”
Reaching 10,000 people would be a benchmark, Hubbard said. It would be a number the city could use and advertise as an attraction to businesses. He said that paired with the city’s already business-friendly reputation, could mean even more growth in the future.
And while it may be arbitrary, Hubbard said, it will mean a lot to the city. So much so, he said, that its one of the main reasons so much attention is being put toward preparations.
Director of Finance, Kelly Korte, added if there is a substantial amount of growth the city will be closer to Home Rule, a legal standing that gives cities with more than 25,000 people more control over how they finance and run their communities.
“Every time we grow we get closer and closer to Home Rule,” Korte said.
The committees are still being developed as of now. Hubbard said more information would be available about the city’s census preparations later this month.
Other council action
The council Monday approved several new features to Highland Communication Services telephone services at no additional cost to customers. Also approved was an extension to an agreement with Vivicast Media, LLC and MLB Network to carry MLB Network for 45 cents per subscriber as well as an agreement that adds the Game Show Network and NBC-Universal.
A bid for the removal and replacement of the Weinheimer Community Center’s HVAC was awarded to Kalmer HVAC Services, LLC in the amount of $99,775. The center was closed down for several weeks due to unforeseen sewage issues in late December.
An additional bid for LED Street Light Fixtures from Graybar Electric Company, Jefferson City, MO, in the amount of $48,375 also was approved.
The council also approved a notice of municipal letting to replace of a sewer camera that helps the Water and Sewage Department determine and investigate the condition of many storms drains and other areas.