NWCCOG claims errors counting second homes
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Northwest Colorado Council of Governments (NWCCOG) discovered while working on a second home study that more homes exist in Summit County than were recorded in the 2000 census.The organization needed to know how many second homes exist for the study, and found the information didn’t exist. NWCCOG subsequently learned that 67 percent of homes in the county are owned by nonlocals.The study was conducted to measure social and economic effects of second homes on the region.NWCCOG worked with the county Assessor’s Office to determine the percentage and found some disparities between the U.S. Census Bureau data and the assessor’s. The census uses a geospatial system, which measures geographic location of natural or constructed features, called TIGER, to account for homes in an area. The system works well in flatland areas where the streets are on a grid system, but according to Gary Severson, NWCCOG executive director, it’s not as effective in mountainous regions. NWCCOG compared the census data with the county assessor’s and found that the assessor’s was more accurate, accounting for more homes in the area. The TIGER system had undercounted the number of homes and residents in the region. NWCCOG challenged the number of dwelling units recorded in the census on behalf on Grand, Eagle, Pitkin and Summit counties.A number of assertions made by NWCCOG were accepted by the Census Bureau, but they did not change the 2000 population count.As a result of the challenge, the Census Bureau is changing its geospatial systems in order to achieve a more accurate reading.State demographer Jim Westkott accepted NWCCOG’s data and is using it in the state’s population count. Westkott estimates population between census years.”What looked like a rejection of our data by the Census Bureau was the fact that the population count remained unchanged,” Severson said.Examples of the errors included condos in Vail being counted as hotels and half of the mobile homes in Avon not being counted at all.”It’s hard to get census workers in our area at the time they take the census in May,” Severson said. “People just aren’t in town.”Severson and NWCCOG were able to get the census moved to March but still found it difficult to find local workers.”It just doesn’t pay as much as being a lift operator,” Severson said.Workers were brought in from other counties due to the inability to hire enough locals to conduct the census.However, NWCCOG sees positive changes in the future for the census as a result of their efforts.”Things should be better for 2010,” Severson said.Jennifer Huffman can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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