Ayishih Bellew, local office manager for Census 2010, assured Rotary Club of St. John members numerous times that census workers were required to keep information on census forms private.
"We’re asking you to trust census employees," Bellew said at a meeting Friday at the Westin Resort and Villas.
But members still had doubts after she told them that the person who picks up the census form at their home must look at the information to make sure the form is filled out correctly.
"They’re likely to be picked up by someone I know," Sharon Coldren said, referring to St. John’s small size.
Census 2010 tries to have census workers pick up forms in neighborhoods other than their own, Bellew said.
The form asks how much the people in the house earn, among other personal questions.
Coldren suggested that for the next census in 2020, the Census Bureau provide a sealable envelope for returning the form to keep the information confidential.
If they had privacy concerns, people could fill out the form using a first initial and a last name or just their initials, Bellew said.
"And we can’t force you to answer questions," she said.
The large number of vacation villas on St. John pose challenges for Census 2010. Bellew said that census takers are supposed to visit every house in order to determine if the occupants are full-time residents. If they don’t find anyone at the house, they leave a note with a number to call to set a time when the census taker will return for the form.
If they find vacationers at the villa, Bellew said census takers will ask them to answer questions such as the number of bedrooms.
People who live in the territory for six months and one day should consider themselves residents of the Virgin Islands, Bellew said.
Rotarian Meredith Small pointed out that the full-time residents at Maho Bay Camps haven’t received any forms. Bellew told her they could pick them up at the Census 2010 office at the Marketplace shopping center. The hours are noon to 9 p.m.
When the 2000 Census was done, Bellew said that data showed that the median price of a home in Cruz Bay was $256,818. In the Coral Bay area, it was $196,500.