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Athens mayor addresses Student Senate about 2020 census, broadband access

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Athens Mayor Steve Patterson addressed Student Senate on Wednesday about the importance of completing U.S. Census Bureau forms in 2020 to increase federal funding for Athens County.

Patterson lamented the “abysmal” census turnout in 2010, which he said resulted in less federal funding for the county. As the 2020 census nears, he hopes more people will fill it out this upcoming year.

“(For) every uncounted person, we lose $1800 a year, and that’s the national average,” Patterson said. “Athens County’s average is five to six times that. Why? Because we live in one of the most impoverished counties in the state of Ohio.” 

The mayor hopes Ohio University students can help the county’s  completion rate grow to at least 90% through participation in the decennial census. Athens County officials plan to encourage residents to complete the census, he said.

Patterson also spoke about the upcoming Richland Avenue tunnel project intended to protect pedestrians from vehicle traffic, according to The Athens NEWS

The project, when completed, will raise the gradient of the road to create a tunnel underneath, allowing pedestrians to safely cross the heavily-trafficked walkway without fear of being struck by a vehicle, according to The Athens NEWS. Patterson expressed concern for the safety of Ohio U students crossing Richland Avenue to West Green from Porter Hall.

“Two times in my tenure, I was in my office when I heard squealing wheels,” Patterson said in reference to his term as a professor of psychology at Ohio U.

He also referenced an incident in 2007 when an Ohio U graduate student was struck by a vehicle near the crossing.

“In an instant that life career path changed significantly,” Patterson said.

At a City Council meeting earlier in the summer, Andy Stone, director of city service-safety, described the long history of pedestrians being struck at this crosswalk, and included a reference to an instance from a 1968 news article, according to The Athens NEWS.

The project — which the city contracted to Rietschlin Construction Inc. — is slated to begin in March of 2020 and finish in September of the same year.

Patterson concluded his presentation by talking about his desire for high-speed and reliable broadband across Athens County. Students’ education can suffer due to a lack of strong internet connection, he said.

More than one-third of Athens County in 2016 did not have access to high-quality broadband internet, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Later in the meeting, Student Senate President Lydia Ramlo acknowledged three Ohio U students who have died since the beginning of fall semester.

“As Bobcats we are here for one another,” Ramlo said in an interview following the meeting. “We need to ensure we are taking care of each other as well as ourselves.”

Ohio U will hold a volunteer-led suicide prevention and awareness event on Sept. 24.

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