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County, two towns experience growth

July 11, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

For two years, the quiet towns of Keedysville and Smithsburg have listened and watched as new houses and townhomes are hammered onto their country horizons, a small development that has left a loud mark on the overall growth of Washington County.

According to the 2002 U.S. Census Bureau county population estimates released Thursday, Smithsburg and Keedysville, with populations that rose by 178 and 64 respectively since the 2000 Census, grew the most, while Williamsport and Hagerstown, with populations that dropped by 36 and 28 respectively, lost the most.

Washington County, with an estimated population of 134,246, has grown by 2,323 people since the 2000 Census, according to Census data.

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Census 2000 population statistics are the result of the head count the Census Bureau took using mailed surveys and door-to-door counts. The numbers take into account revisions made after officials in some towns appealed or questioned the Census results, Census Bureau spokesman Mike Bergman said.

The July 2002 population statistics are estimates Census officials developed using the Census 2000 population as a starting point, Bergman said.

He said since an official Census only is taken every 10 years, officials use documents such as birth and death certificates and tax returns to estimate populations between official Census years.

Smithsburg Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said her town, with an estimated population of 2,324, probably has grown by at least 100 more people since the 2002 estimate was taken.

She attributes the town's growth to the blossoming Whispering Hills and Mountain Shadows developments and said future subdivisions are in the works.

"The biggest thing is keeping up with the demands that more people bring," she said.

The town has had to increase employees for its police department and town office by more than a few people in the past couple of years, she said.

Keedysville Mayor Lee Brandenburg said the growth of his town, with an estimated population of 546, may be bringing more work into the town hall, but said the town has not needed to hire any more personnel to handle the 64 additional residents since 2000.

He said the Rockingham development, on schedule to add a total of 52 to 54 homes within the town proper, has been almost solely responsible for the town's recent growth.

"Things are happening in this part of the county. It's all growing," he said.

Brandenburg said within the next couple of years, another development is scheduled to be built on the town's south side.

He wants to maintain the small-town atmosphere, a task he says won't be that hard to manage since the town only is so big, a strategy with which Myers can relate.

"We're getting to the point where eventually we'll run out of ground," Myers said.

Williamsport Mayor John Slayman said despite the numbers the Census reveals, his town is not in the red.

He said the town's original 2000 Census, which reported that the town had 1,868 people, was off by at least 100, and was shocked to hear the bureau estimated the town had lost even more people in 2002.

"We lost a couple of homes, but we didn't lose the people," he said.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner isn't shaken by the city's loss of just more than two dozen people. He said some housing is being developed within the city limits and expects the residents of those homes to show up on the next Census.

"I'm glad it's no more than what it is. I think it's a good sign that we're not losing population in droves that are going out to the county," he said.

The county's overall growth

by 2,323 people is an almost 2 percent increase over the 2000 Census figures, which showed the county's population at 131,923. The increase is consistent with the county's yearly average of a 1 percent increase, said Tim Troxell, director of the Washington County Economic Development Commission.

More people are driving into the county to work rather than driving out of the county to work, a trend Troxell hopes will bring more people into the county to live.

Gary Rohrer, the county's director of public works, said he is watching the population on the roads grow, but said the county is trying to stop potential congestion problems before they occur, a task that has been made more difficult with the onset of recent highway funding cuts.

He said county officials have gained insight by tracking what good and bad moves growing Eastern Maryland counties have made in response to flourishing populations.

"(The Washington County Commissioners) are ensuring growth and development pays its way in terms of the impact it is having and will continue to have on the infrastructure," Rohrer said.

Census numbers are used to draw congressional and local election districts and to determine the distribution of government funding.

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