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story.lead_photo.caption Annette Pate (left), Justice of the Peace and head of Columbia County’s census committee, informs the Quorum Court on Monday of the impact a census count can have on the area. - Photo by J.D. Bailey

The Columbia County Quorum Court on Monday approved a grant application on behalf of the local Sheriff’s Office that would significantly enhance the technology used by the department and its patrol units.

The grant, which will be applied through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Arkansas Community Assistance Grant Program, will go toward the purchase of Crimestar software and data transfer. The total amount value of the grant is $82,570.

The Crimestar program would put records and background reports at the fingertips of Columbia County patrol deputies. The tech gives officers the ability to quickly check driver and personal backgrounds from within their units instead of relaying in the information to a dispatcher, then having the information recirculated back to them.

Currently, Magnolia and State Police officers use similar, mobile technology, but the Sheriff’s patrol units do not contain such features.

The grant application was passed unanimously Monday night by the Quorum Court. The group also passed a resolution approving the rural community aid grant application for the Free Hope Civic League. The grant amount equals $5,000 for capital improvements at the Free Hope Civic Center.

The funds, according to a letter sent to the county by Charles Jackson, president of the Free Hope Civic League, would go toward remodeling the front and back doors, interior painting, and remodeling of the kitchen at the Columbia Rd. 38 center.

When the meeting concluded, Annette Pate, Columbia County Justice of the Peace and head of the county’s 2020 census effort, discussed the importance of the upcoming count. She stated that federal funding is tied to the county’s population count, meaning the lower the count, the less funding the local government could be eligible for.

The county cannot actually enroll people in the census count, but it can assist residents. Pate noted that the idea of setting up computers at the West Side Annex building at Boundary Street could be one way to help.

“That’s a great thing,” she said.

Pate also indicated that the public library may help as well.

“We’ve got to get the word out,” she added. “…This is the largest boots-on-the-ground effort we’ve had.”

April 1, 2020, is the official census count day. The federal count takes place every 10 years. The figures collected determine such factors as congressional representation and districts as well as federal funding to states.

“It affects everything,” Pate said.

The county’s primary effort now is to raise awareness of the upcoming count. Pate added that where a person is residing on April 1 is where they should be counted. To help in the awareness effort, a booth will be set up at next week’s Columbia County Fair, where door prizes will be given away.

According to census information that Pate cited on Monday, each person not counted could make for a loss of $2,441 in funds per year.

“It’s very, very important,” she added.

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