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Tri-State population on the rise

March 11, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Washington County lost 581 residents from 1997 to 1998, even though the overall population in the Tri-State area continued to increase, according to population estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

"It might be a point of concern if it was a long-term trend, but not a one-year estimate," Washington County Planning Director Robert Arch said.

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Washington County has grown between 0.5 percent and 1 percent annually for several years, Arch said.

According to Census Bureau estimates, Washington County's 1998 estimated population of 127,352 was almost 5 percent higher than in 1990. In 1997, the county's estimated population was 127,933.

Overall, the Tri-State area's 1998 population was estimated to be 582,607, an increase of 68,780 people over 1990 figures.

The Tri-State area includes Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland, Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania and Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan counties in West Virginia.

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"Washington County is enjoying great growth in so many areas," said Tom Riford, marketing director for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

As examples, he listed plans for an expansion at Valley Mall in Halfway and the new Centre at Hagerstown shopping center being built along Interstate 81.

Riford also said housing developments continue to be built in the county and the long-term population trend is for "nice and steady growth."

The only other Tri-State area county to show a population decline from 1997 to 1998 was Fulton County, Pa., a county of 14,498, which lost an estimated 24 residents, according to Census Bureau estimates.

Frederick County was the fastest-growing county in the Tri-State area.

An estimated 36,569 more people lived in Frederick County in 1998 than in 1990, with about 3,678 of those people coming to the county from 1997 to 1998.

Frederick County Planning Director Jim Shaw said the county is attracting increasing numbers of people from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, and adding jobs inside the county.

"From a planner's perspective it's good because it's what we projected, but we have a little more stress on the system," Shaw said.

Because of the quicker pace of growth, Frederick County is being forced to build more schools than other counties, Shaw said.

"Next will be the roads," he said.

Population growth in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties was steady again in 1998, continuing a trend that's been consistent since the 1980s, said Ken Green, executive director of the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council.

From 1997 to 1998, the population in the Eastern Panhandle counties increased between almost 1 percent to almost 3 percent, with the fastest growth occurring in Berkeley County, according to Census Bureau estimates.

In 1998 an estimated 70,970 people lived in Berkeley County. That is 1,882 more people than in 1997 and 11,717 more than in 1990.

Green said improvements to highways and commuter rail lines have drawn more people who work in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to the Eastern Panhandle.

The Census Bureau estimated the population of each county by taking the population as determined by the 1990 national census, adding the number of births, subtracting the number of deaths, and adding the number of international immigrants using information provided by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. The Census Bureau then added or subtracted the number of people who moved in or out of a county, using information provided by the Internal Revenue Service, Census Bureau Demographer Marc Perry said.

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