Rural Hendricks takes on Census Bureau over 2020 results

The more officials in the southwestern Minnesota city of Hendricks go over the numbers, the more the results from 2020 just don’t add up. They want a recount, not of the election but of the 2020 census results that residents of this rural city believe considerably shortchanged their community.

If anything, city leaders expected their population to have increased from the 2010 figure of 713. So they were stunned when the U.S. Census Bureau recently divulged that the city lost nearly 100 residents, with an official tally of just 616 citizens.

The outcome makes Hendricks an outlier in the rural area, according to the Marshall Independent.

Hendricks was the only community in Lincoln County to report a substantial population decline. Others were stable, as Ivanhoe, Lake Benton and Arco all had small increases. Tyler experienced a drop of only several people.

Hendricks City Administrator David Blees said he’s in the process of finding out what needs to be done for an official challenge to census results.

“It’s a complicated process,” Blees said. “There’s no way to just make a phone call and ask for the instructions. It will take months, maybe more than a year.”

It’s not only a matter of civic pride. The numbers may seem small in the context of a total of 331 million Americans in the federal agency’s final tabulation. But census results figure prominently into the city’s government funding formulas, planning and economic development projects.

Blees said Hendricks has continued to see strong economic activity in the past decade. There was a multi-million dollar renovation at the city hospital and clinic, as well as a sizable campground upgrade next to Lake Hendricks.

“We’re surprised by the census,” he said. “I can’t help thinking that somehow people got missed. Maybe they undercounted our snowbirds or maybe COVID affected the response level. We’d like to have it double checked.”

Another red flag jumped out at city leaders in the number of vacant housing units the census agency claimed exist in the city. If anything, Hendricks has a housing crunch like many other places in the state.

He’s especially surprised by a census estimate of 77 vacant houses in Hendricks, a figure that doesn’t seem possible based on his observations.

“That would equal almost a third of the town,” he said. “I can’t imagine it’s that high. I think we’d have noticed and tried to do something about it.”

In 2010, some 239 challenges were filed nationwide, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. Three local Minnesota governments ultimately managed to convince the feds they were undercounted. The greatest recalculation resulted in an additional 106 residents added to Washington County and 69 to the city of Isanti.

Despite the odds and unknowns of grappling with the federal bureaucracy, Mayor Julie Hogie insists the census bureau owes Hendricks an explanation and plans to get to the bottom of it.

She’s willing to invest some city staff time into challenging the census number because of what it could mean in terms of future prospects for economic expansion. Given results from around the Hendricks area, she said the city’s total appears to stand out as something that should be questioned.

“We’d like to at least have it reviewed,” Hogie said. “The numbers don’t seem to add up based on everything we’ve seen. It’s worth our time to find out whether or not it’s accurate.”