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Big Rapids Commissioners and Mayor discuss US Census dilemma

One of the first issues new Big Rapids Mayor Fred Guenther and the City Commission wanted to discuss was the recently published 2020 US Census which reported the city losing almost 3,000 residents from 2010-2020.


During a work session on Monday night, City Manager Mark Gifford told commissioners he feels the census results are inaccurate.


From a standpoint of knowing the community, we don't feel that these are solid numbers” Gifford said.


Gifford pointed to back in March of 2020 when students at Ferris State University were told by school officials not to come back to campus due to COVID-19 and the census day was April 1st. Gifford believes those two events culminated in the city having lower numbers in the census.


The City manager told the mayor and city commissioners he has looked into ways to correct the numbers. One way is to have the US Census Bureau do a special census which Big Rapids couldn't apply until June of 2023 and if approved, a recount wouldn't occur until March of 2024.


Back in 2017, the cost of a special recount by the US Census Bureau for a community the size of Big Rapids could cost around $150,000. City officials estimate Big Rapids could lose an estimated $400,000-$600,000 in federal funding per year over the next decade, if nothing is done. Gifford told commissioners that is the dilemma the city is in currently. City Attorney Eric Williams told the commission he has been in contact with a regional representative with the US Census Bureau and the city of Big Rapids is one of the first communities to be looked at for a special census.


Mayor Fred Guenther voiced his concern for the next three years worth of budgets because of this potential lack of funding. Gifford told the commission they have COVID stimulus funding and he's working with City Treasurer Aaron Kuhn and they could look at the loss of state revenue sharing as an eligible expense for stimulus funds which could be the next logical step moving forward.


We are going to have to be careful over the next two years, until we can get this remedied.” Gifford told the commission.


The Big Rapids City Commission meets again on Monday, Nov. 15th at 6:30pm at City Hall.

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