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News
U.S. Census response deadline coming in two weeks

Residents who still need to complete the 2020 U.S. Census have two weeks to finish the once-in-a-decade headcount.

After extending the census deadline to Oct. 31, the U.S. Census Bureau recently shortened that deadline to Sept. 30, cutting a month out of the remaining time everyone has to fill out the census.

With this deadline looming, government officials in counties across Georgia are pushing for an increase in this year’s final census count amid hurdles posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and poor internet access in some areas.

As of Tuesday, roughly 85% of households across the state had completed the 2020 census either on their own or after census takers visited them in a door-to-door canvassing effort. However, that effort has been complicated by social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In Douglas County, 66.8% of the county’s residents have responded, including 58.7% online, according to U.S. Census data. This is higher than the 62.6% response rate during the 2010 census.

In Douglasville, the response rate is 63% so far, with 56.9% online. The 2010 response rate in Douglasville was 60.6%.

Residents in Villa Rica have a 67.4% response rate.

“This has been the longest census ever,” said Theresa Campbell, assistant city clerk for the City of Villa Rica. “Originally, it was supposed to be over on April 15, but (the U.S. Census Bureau) has extended (the deadline) several times. We are still trying to get people to fill it out.”

The census is important to Douglasville and Villa Rica, as well as all the other municipalities because of the millions of federal funding that is available to cities based on their population.

Roughly $1.5 trillion will be available for states to tap into depending on the size of their census-determined populations, according to research from George Washington University.

The 2010 census provided $15.88 billion to Georgia based on a count of 9.6 million people statewide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau website. Each Georgian that participated in the headcount brought $1,639.10 to the state.

This year, it has been estimated that each person in Douglas County entitles the county to somewhere north of $3,000 in funding; each person in Carroll County is worth $2,300 in federal funds.

Key programs that are funded largely on census data include Federal Medical Assistance Programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare Part B, highway planning and construction, the Pell Grant program, and more.

With so much at stake, and the deadline drawing near, local governments are making a final push to ensure there is as complete a count as possible.

Overall, 43 Georgia counties have increased their self-response rates since the 2010 census. But others, including Carroll and Douglas counties, are lagging when it comes to getting responses in.

The purpose of the census is to determine how states are apportioned seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. But in the 230 years since the first population count was conducted, the census has assumed more importance.

Like other states, Georgia uses census data to draw district maps for both the state House and Senate. Census counts are also the basis for how county commission districts are drawn, and how city council wards for towns like Villa Rica, Douglasville, and Carrollton are mapped.

During the 2010 census, nearly one-quarter of the population of both Carroll and Douglas counties was not counted, meaning that each county lost millions of dollars over the past decade for social, health, and other services.

Both Douglas and Carroll counties have made it a point of getting the word out about the census.

Campbell said there is one census tract in Villa Rica that has been called a “low response area.” This tract includes the city’s downtown and Mirror Lake community located on the Douglas County side of the city.

She added there has a been a social media push on the City of Villa Rica’s Facebook page, and booths have been set up at the Ingles grocery store and the city’s recent Gold Rush festival to inform residents of the survey.

Children under the age of five and people who are currently renting their home are two demographic areas have been a challenge for Campbell and her committee.

Those between the ages of birth and four years old are most likely to be undercounted, according to an Urban Institute study. As many as 46,400 such children in Georgia could be missed by the census, the study says.

The Urban Institute is a Washington, D.C., based think-tank that also estimates up to 177,000 Georgians may not be counted in 2020.

“We have tried to target multiple different areas because this is only done once every 10 years,” Campbell said. “Some people have never filled it out before and their parents did last time, so we went into attacking those areas.”


News
Local couple launches mobile food delivery service

Ron and Tanya Byrd had always envisioned owning a mobile food delivery service.

The Douglasville couple already had a transportation service in operation.

With the coronavirus pandemic bringing about shelter-in-place orders from the governor, it seemed like the perfect time.

However, the couple had to quarantine after contracting the virus.

Once recovered, the Byrd’s launched Douglas Mobile Waiters, an all-in-one food delivery service.

“It has been a blessing,” Ron said.

Unlike the larger mobile food services, the Douglas Mobile Waiters only charge 10% rather 30-35% that some of the other services charge.

“We want the local businesses to remain profitable,” Ron said. “We are family owned, and we want to provide personable customer service.”

The couple say they are a faith-based business that gives back to the community. The Byrds volunteer at The Pantry.

In January, the couple beginning test its service but had to put it on hold after getting sick. They were able to get it up-and-running in

June.

“One of our biggest pet peeves is bad customer service,” Tanya said. “We are very hands-on. We try to do business the right way. We haven’t had any major issues. If any problem occurs, we want to be able to deal with it.”

Ron said their contactless delivery includes calling the client before they leave the premises to insure that they

have received their food.

They say they have received a lot of positive feedback from vendors and customers.

“We love to shop locally, and we want to support the community,” Ron said. “The restaurants that we deal with

love it. We have gotten a lot of positive feedback.”

Said Tanya: “We are

building those relationships

in the community. We look

within the community to give back.”

For more information on Douglas Mobile Waiters Inc., contact them at 678-756-9603 or visit www.douglasmobilewaiters.com. Follow them on Facebook at Douglas Mobile Waiters.


News
Two injured in Tuesday accident on Highway 78; crash earlier this month leaves one dead

A crash at Highway 78 and Bright Star Road in Douglasville on Tuesday left one person being Life Flighted to a metro Atlanta hospital and traffic snarled during rush hour.

The accident was at least the second serious crash along Highway 78 in Douglas County in less than two weeks.

Another crash on the east side of the county on Sept. 4 left one person dead and two others injured.

The accident Tuesday happened around 3:45 p.m. when a vehicle driven by a person headed westbound on Highway 78 tried to turn left onto Bright Star and was hit by a vehicle traveling eastbound on Highway 78, Douglasville Police Maj. J.R. Davidson said.

One of the drivers was taken to an Atlanta-area hospital by Life Flight and another was taken to a local hospital by ambulance, Davidson said. Davidson said neither person’s injuries were life threatening.

Davidson said a second accident happened after Douglasville officers arrived on the scene Tuesday. That accident, Davidson, said was a fender bender likely caused by rubberneckers.

The second accident “made it look like a really big wreck with a bunch of cars,” Davidson said.

Davidson said he didn’t have stats immediately available Wednesday about the number of accidents at that intersection. But he said with Highway 78 being a major thoroughfare, people drive at higher speeds which leads to some wrecks that are worse than those on surface streets.

The accident involving a fatality earlier this month along Highway 78 on the east side of the county took place at 12:37 p.m. on Sept. 4 at Thornton Road and Highway 78 and involved four vehicles, according to the Georgia State Patrol.

A Ford Econoline van driven by Santos Molina, 50, of Austell, was traveling southbound in the left turn lane attempting to go east on Highway 78 on a flashing yellow arrow signal, according to the crash report from the State Patrol.

Molina failed to yield while turning left, according to the report.

A construction vehicle driven by Ephraim Wyche, 71, of Atlanta, who was going north on Thornton Road, struck the right side of Molina’s van at the intersection, according to the report.

After the impact both vehicles crossed the gore and struck the pedestrian crosswalk signal, according to the report.

The report shows two other vehicles were in the westbound Highway 78 turn lanes attempting to turn right to go north on Thornton Road — a GMC Sierra and a Hyundai Elantra. The vehicles driven by Molina and Wyche hit the front of the Sierra and pushed it into the Elantra, according to the report.

Ever Alverez, 31, of Austell, who was a passenger in Molina’s van, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the report. Molina was taken to a hospital by Life Flight. And Wyche was taken to a nearby hospital by ambulance.

The State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team (SCRT), the Motor Carrier Compliance Division and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the accident.


News
BOC OKs earlier Sunday alcohol sales; move comes one week after city council allows 11 a.m. purchases

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to allow sales of retail packaged alcohol 90 minutes earlier on Sundays.

The county ordinance change takes effect starting this Sunday, Sept. 20, according to county Planning and Zoning Manager Ron Roberts.

That means folks visiting convenience stores, grocery stores, package stores and other retailers located in unincorporated Douglas County can pick up beer, wine and other adult beverages Sundays beginning at 11 a.m.

The Douglasville City Council adopted a similar ordinance change last week and stores within the city limits were able to sell packaged alcohol at 11 a.m. on Sundays as of this past Sunday, Sept. 13.

Previously, residents who wanted to purchase alcoholic drinks at grocery stores, convenience stores and other outlets had to wait until 12:30 p.m. on Sundays.

Restaurants in Douglasville and Douglas County have been able to sell alcoholic drinks starting at 11 a.m. since 2018, when voters approved the “Brunch Bill.”

The moves by the city and county come after Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB 879 into law. That legislation allows cities and counties that both already had Sunday package sales approved by voters and already had 11 a.m. on-premise sales to change the time citizens can purchase alcoholic beverages at stores.

Until 2011, retail package sales of alcohol were prohibited in Georgia on Sundays.

Douglasville and Douglas County voters approved referendums allowing Sunday package sales in 2012. Sunday on-premise alcohol sales was also approved by Douglas County voters in 2012, which Douglasville voters approved in the late 1990s.