Panhandle growing fast, Washington County slower

September 04, 2000

Panhandle growing fast, Washington County slower

By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer

Data from the 2000 U.S. Census will be released in phases, starting in December with state and District of Columbia populations, a U.S. Census official said last week.

Demographer Marc Perry said the state and D.C. numbers, by law, must be presented to the president by Jan. 1 so federal representation can be apportioned.


Earlier this year, the Census Bureau released an estimate of the 1999 populations compared to the 1990 levels, using information about births, death and migrations.

Populations in Frederick County and West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle boomed in the 1990s, while Washington County and southern Pennsylvania grew moderately.


On Wednesday, the Census Bureau released approximate 1999 profiles of the country's populace by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin.

Similar 2000 Census demographic information - pinpointed by state, county, city and town - must be compiled, by law, before April 1, 2001, Perry said.

Washington County's estimated 1999 total population was 127,791, according to census data. That is an increase of 5.3 percent over the 1990 level of 121,393.

The population was .2 percent higher than the 1998 level of 127,477, according to census estimates.

Washington County is the only county in the Tri-State area growing at a slower rate than its state. Maryland's 1999 population was up .8 percent over the previous year and 8.2 percent from 1990.

Population trends don't necessarily indicate economic well-being in Maryland, where home building is more regulated and more expensive than in other states, said Tim Troxell, assistant director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

Despite little population growth, Washington County is doing well, he said, pointing to 3,800 new jobs in the last two years.

However, the Economic Development Commission still monitors residential growth and hopes for at least some, since companies want to fill the new jobs, Troxell said.

"Some new neighborhoods" would help, he said.

In 1998, Washington County lost an estimated 581 residents from 1997, but Planning Director Robert Arch said that was an aberration due to the closing of the Fort Ritchie Army base.

The county is pleased with its constant, but manageable, expansion, Arch said.

Frederick County's growth has been prodigious in the 1990s. Its population was an estimated 190,869 last year, an increase of 27 percent in nine years.

Between 1998 and 1999, Frederick County went up 2.3 percent.

Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania experienced moderate gains over the decade. From 1990 to 1999, populations went up 6.4 percent in Franklin and 5.6 percent in Fulton.

Pennsylvania's population went up .9 percent over that time.

Franklin County devised a new comprehensive plan in July 1999. It looks ahead to 2020 and has been "a good guidance tool," said Phil Wolgemuth, a county planner.

Wolgemuth said there have been "no drastic shifts" in population, but that southeastern Franklin County is starting to feel westward migration from the Washington area.

In West Virginia, the three Eastern Panhandle counties continue to increase rapidly, while most other counties in the state are holding steady or losing people.

In nine years, Berkeley's population went up 22.9 percent, Jefferson's rose by 17.7 and Morgan's grew by 14.6.

The pace of building is even higher, said David Hartley, executive officer of the Eastern Panhandle Home Builders Association.

The number of single-family building permits issued in Berkeley County increased 37 percent from 1995 to 1999, he said, and the aggregate value of those homes went up 84 percent.

The association is seeing further increases in 2000, Hartley said.

Overall, West Virginia's population went up .7 percent between 1990 and 1999.

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