U.S. Census: Washington County is 10th fastest-growing in Md.

Hagerstown maintains status as state's sixth-largest city

February 09, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |
By Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

Washington County grew 11.8 percent from 2000 to 2010, but was only the 10th fastest-growing county in Maryland, according to population figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Washington County had 147,430 residents in 2010, compared with 131,923 in 2000, according to census data.

Hagerstown grew 8.1 percent, remaining the sixth-largest city in Maryland, with 39,662 residents, according to a census chart of the most populous counties and cities. The Hub City's 2000 population was 36,687.

The data provided the first look at local numbers in Maryland from the 2010 census. It included population figures by race and Hispanic or Latino origin, as well as the number of homes occupied or vacant.

The most populous cities were Baltimore, Frederick, Rockville, Gaithersburg and Bowie, respectively, with Rockville leaping over Gaithersburg and Bowie since the 2000 census.

The fastest growing counties were both in Southern Maryland — St. Mary's County grew 22 percent, and Charles County grew 21.6 percent — followed by Frederick County, with 19.5 percent growth.

Neighboring Allegany County grew only 0.2 percent, and the population of its county seat, Cumberland, declined by 3.1 percent.

Counting inmates

The 10-year population figures are used to redraw boundary lines for election districts. But Maryland legislators passed a law last year requiring the numbers to be adjusted to count inmates based on where they lived before they were sent to prison, said Andrew Ratner, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Planning.

The state planning department, the Maryland Division of Correction and the Maryland Department of Legislative Services have been working since last summer to obtain addresses for inmates who were in Maryland prisons last spring, Ratner said.

Ratner said the revised population figures are expected to be available to the public in mid-March. Prisoners whose last known address was in Maryland will be counted at that address, rather than the prison address, Ratner said.

Prisoners whose last known addresses were out of state won't be counted for redistricting, according to an e-mail from Ratner. Prisoners who were homeless or whose last known address cannot be verified will be counted at the prison's address for redistricting purposes, he said.

On April 1, 2010, the inmate population at the three state prisons south of Hagerstown was 6,125, according to an e-mail from Erin Julius, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The decennial census no longer includes a long-form questionnaire, so information such as income is released annually through the American Community Survey, census spokesman Tom Edwards said.

This summer, 2010 census information about age, gender, household size, and whether people own or rent their home, as well as the relationship of people within households, will be released, Edwards said.

Growth inevitable

Washington County Commissioners Vice President John Barr, who co-chaired a committee that encouraged county residents to participate in the 2010 census, said he had guessed the county's new population would be around 148,000 people.

With the county's proximity to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, growth was inevitable, Barr said.

Michael Thompson, the county director of planning and community development, said the growth rate was a little faster than expected. Historically, the county's annual average growth rate is 0.7 percent, so Thompson said he was expecting around 7 percent to 8 percent growth for the county.

The 2010 census participation rate for Washington County was 75 percent and 72 percent for Hagerstown, according to the Census Bureau's website at

In addition to redistricting, census figures are important for states, counties and cities in qualifying for federal dollars.

"It equates to about $842 per citizen per year in federal money," Barr said.

Those federal dollars relate to emergency services, medical assistance, the Head Start program, Section 8 housing, federal highway dollars and grants such as Community Development Block Grants, Barr said.

Hagerstown's 8.1 percent in growth is "very good news," said Michelle Burker, the city's acting finance director.

The population figures, along with household income information, can help with the city's bond rating, because it shows how the city's tax base has grown, Burker said. The city's tax base indicates how well the city can pay off debt.

Thompson said population figures also show where growth has occurred and help project where future growth could happen.

That will aid in determining where there might be a need for more utility capacity such as water and sewer services, Thompson said.

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