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Martinsburg is fastest growing city in W.Va.

June 30, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A new U.S. Census Bureau report confirms something many people in Berkeley County have suspected for years.

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Martinsburg is the fastest growing city of 10,000 or more in West Virginia, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

The city grew by 6.9 percent between 1990 and 1998, adding 976 residents, according to the Census Bureau report.

Martinsburg was home to 15,049 residents in July 1998 and ranks 10th in the state in population. Martinsburg was one of only three of the state's 15 largest cities that grew in population in the 1990s.

The Berkeley County population grew from 65,254 in July 1994 to 70,970 in July 1998, making it the fastest growing county in West Virginia.

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The census numbers did not come as a surprise to Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin.

"Just look around at all the new commercial and residential development in the area and you can see we're growing. We just didn't know how much," Baldwin said.

While the stream of new residents into the area has brought new jobs and a wider tax base, Baldwin said there are problems that accompany that growth.

"We're already seeing traffic congestion and more demand on our water supply," he said.

Martinsburg has been working with the state and county to address those issues and take action to ensure continued growth, Baldwin said.

"These are good problems to have," he said.

With Berkeley County's proximity to the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area and the interstate highway system, Baldwin said he expects the area's population to continue its climb.

"As long as the land and services are available, the growth will continue," he said.

The census report was old news for Berkeley County Schools, according to district spokeswoman Mary Jo Brown.

Berkeley County has been adding between 300 and 400 new students to its school system each year for the past several years and has been opening new schools to accommodate the growth, Brown said.

"We see the county grow every year at registration," she said.

Berkeley County's neighbors in the Eastern Panhandle also experienced population increases, according to the census report.

Jefferson County grew from 38,850 residents in July 1994 to 41,368 in July 1998, and Morgan County grew from 12,933 residents to 13,640 over the same time span, the report said.

Charles Town continued its population slide, dropping from 3,047 residents in July 1994 to 2,943 residents in July 1998. Ranson dropped slightly, losing 14 residents over the four-year period for a population of 2,869 in July 1998.

Shepherdstown added more than 500 new residents, jumping from 1,176 in July 1994 to 1,697 in July 1998, according to the report.

Harpers Ferry dropped from 340 residents in July 1994 to 325 in July 1998, while Berkeley Springs lost three residents over the same time period and had 741 people in 1998.

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