Address glitch scares Census

Vendor incorrectly addresses Census mass mailing, but bureau officials say mistake won't affect outcome of 2000 count

Tony Allighen, the government projects coordinator for a Wisconsin graphics

company, called it a vendor's nightmare.

When he first learned that his company, Freedom Graphics of Milton, Wis.,

had put the wrong address on 125 million pieces of mail for the Census Bureau — a $5.9 million contract for the company — he said he wanted to find a

gun. Then he wanted to hide.

But at a press conference today, Census officials said they discovered

the problem in time to alert the U.S. Postal Service that there is an extra

number in front of every address. The Census Bureau, for the first time,

is sending people a letter notifying them to expect a Census form in March

and explaining how to request forms in other languages.

"Let me stress [that] the census questionnaires are addressed correctly,

and this incident does not affect the production, mailing or delivery of

any census mail. The printing of the advance letter is an operation independent

of the printing of census questionnaires," said Census Bureau Director Kenneth

Prewitt.

Freedom Graphics has had many government contracts since 1986, including

work for the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.

And there has never been a problem, according to Allighen.

"We're still investigating how it happened," Allighen said.

Prewitt described the problem as "cosmetic, not operational."

"In no way does it put Census 2000 at risk," Prewitt said.

Nevertheless, Prewitt acknowledged that the census is a big project and

that there may be systems obstacles ahead for the decennial count. However,

a final data scanning test for the census at four centers turned up no problems,

he said.

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