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City set to conduct income survey

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The City of Brazil is asking some of its residents for help.

The city is working with the West Central Economic Development District to conduct a confidential and random income survey for the Community Development Block Grant Program.

The program, which is through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, awards grants to local governments for the creation of community development activities.

"The state has very strict guidelines we have to follow in order to qualify for the program," Mayor Ann Bradshaw said. "However, if we get what we need, it opens up a world of possibilities for the city."

The city must complete exactly 400 randomly selected household surveys in order to obtain the desired grant money.

"We provided (West Central Economic Development District) Grant Administrator Terry Jones with a list of all the city's residential water customers," Brazil Planning Administrator Michele Griffin said. "He then inserts the names into a computer program which creates a list of 400 households of which to begin the survey process."

Griffin also said they must try contacting each address three times before determining the household as unreachable. If the first set of surveys is completed and there are less than 400 responses, more households are randomly selected and the process continues until the number of responses is reached.

"The process is set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines," Jones said. "We have to get exactly 400 responses in a household income survey -- no more, no less."

Jones also said the process used to enable them to attempt to get as many responses as they wanted to in order to get more accurate results. However, some areas were only targeting the low-income portions of their population for their surveys, forcing the current guidelines to be created.

"Having a random survey prevents areas from making things seem worse than they really are in order to gain more grant money," he said.

At this point, Griffin has chosen to only mail out 100 of the two-page surveys to gauge the response.

"We did one in 2005 and ended up having to go door-to-door because we didn't get enough responses," Griffin said. "If we get a good response from the first 100, we will mail out the rest. However if we don't, we will start door-to-door surveys and possibly save the city money on postage."

At the forefront of the city's hopes for the grant is the potential replacement of the water tower, which was built in 1956 and, at the least, badly needs work.

"We would like to get a grant for the water tower, but that is not the main objective of the survey," Bradshaw said. "Completing the survey will allow us to apply for numerous grants which could help in the revitalization of the City of Brazil as a whole."

The city is also looking for volunteers in case the survey process does have to be done door-to-door. Surveys in this manner would also be done at night as many people are unavailable during the day because of work schedules.

Some of the other projects potential grants could be used for includes:

* Utilities work,

* Downtown revitalization, such as sidewalks and lighting,

* Historic preservation of buildings, and

* The building of senior/community centers and day cares.

"The grants have to be used on community-based programs and items," Jones said. "They cannot be used to restore a building for retail use or creation of a city/town hall."

The survey asks residents to identify the number of individuals in the household and to indicate whether the total income is above or below a predetermined amount for the number of inhabitants. It also asks for clarification of the race of each individual and a couple of details about the head of the household. All results remain confidential.

The city is hoping to have the survey process completed to apply for the grant program by the January deadline, but are thinking they won't be able to apply until Spring 2008.

"It is extremely crucial that residents who receive the survey complete and return it as soon as possible," Bradshaw said.

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