Social Circle questions census tally

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- Social Circle is asking for a recount.

Mayor Jim Burgess reported at the City Council meeting Tuesday that the 2010 U.S. Census shows around 4,200 people living in the city of Social Circle.

While that is a 26 percent increase over the 2000 census -- which reported a city population of 3,379 -- Burgess said he believes there are more people living in Social Circle.

"I think we have an undercount," he said.

Burgess said the U.S. Census Bureau reports the city has about 280 vacant homes.

"I know we have some, but I can't believe we have that many," the mayor said.

Councilman David Keener agreed.

He said he used voter registration lists when he was running for the District 3 council seat and he noticed about 40 percent of the registered voters in Social Circle listed post office boxes for their mailing addresses. Keener said it was his understanding the Census Bureau didn't mail forms to post office boxes, and instead expected those residents to pick up self-reporting forms from City Hall.

"I heard from some residents who did not want to do that," he said. "The Census Bureau was supposed to send walking representatives to count those people. It is my thought they missed quite a bit due to the post office issue."

Burgess said he believes the population of Social Circle could be over 5,000, which would be an important threshold since it could provide more leverage when applying for grants. It would also open the possibility for the city to move from the smaller Better Home Town program to the larger Main Street program.

Getting a firmer grasp on Social Circle's population could have legal ramifications, as well, the mayor said. A higher population could affect reapportionment of council districts. If it's not accurate, or at least within the standard deviation of 5 percent, "any citizen can sue us for violation of one man, one vote," he said.

With elections for the mayor and two council seats -- Districts 2 and 4 -- on the ballot this year, the time frame is tight, Burgess said.

Burgess asked for a committee of the council to work with the state Department of Community Affairs and the Georgia Municipal Association to apply for a recount. Keener said he would be willing to serve, but he was waiting to hear from the state Ethics Commission whether his involvement would constitute a conflict of interest.

"I am giving some thought to seeking the mayor's seat," Keener said. "If so, it's possible it would be a conflict of interest to do anything that could influence the vote count. I know it would be a conflict if I were seeking council re-election, but I'm not sure for mayor."

Keener clarified that he was not prepared to make an official announcement about a possible mayoral candidacy and that he was only considering it. No other candidates have announced intentions to run for mayor. It was agreed that City Manager Doug White and District 1 Councilwoman Traysa Price will work on the population recount. Keener would assist if possible.

In other news, the City Council approved an updated zoning map. City Clerk Susan Roper said this map replaces the one created in 1998 and has updated street names, zoning categories and boundaries.

The council also approved awarding a contract for $406,073 to Mid-South Builders Inc. to build a lift station and force main near Ga. Highway 11 and the Social Circle Bypass. Robert M. Anderson was awarded the contract to construct the 4,500-foot sewer line for $159,564. A grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration will fund 80 percent of the project. Revenue from refinancing city debt will be used for the balance.

Council members unanimously approved naming Robin Wood with Pinnacle Bank to fill the unexpired term of Louis Van Dyke on the Social Circle Downtown Development Authority. Van Dyke died in November.