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For some areas, Census figures could be critical for state funding

February 12, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Census data, including population figures, are important for cities, counties and states to get federal funding, local government officials say. It also turns out they could be critical for getting state funding when it comes to unincorporated areas such as Downsville, Chewsville and Maugansville.
By Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

Census data, including population figures, are important for cities, counties and states to get federal funding, local government officials say.

It also turns out they could be critical for getting state funding when it comes to unincorporated areas such as Downsville, Chewsville and Maugansville.

Back in the 1990s, state officials pushed an effort for counties to designate "priority funding areas," said Michael Thompson, Washington County's director of planning and community development.

The message to local governments was if an area was outside a priority funding area, it probably wasn't going to get state funding, Thompson said.

For example, one reason the county might ask the state for money for one of those areas would be for a septic system issue, he said.

So county officials asked the U.S. Census Bureau to include its priority funding areas, most of which are unincorporated areas such as rural villages, in its release of population data, Thompson said.

The 2000 census included 25 of the priority funding areas, including the municipalities. But 2010 census data lists population figures for 61 of them.

That's almost all of the priority funding areas the county requested, according to a map of the areas available on the county planning department's website.

The list includes areas such as Bagtown, Jugtown, Charlton and Mercersville.

More familiar areas, in addition to the county's nine municipalities, are Halfway, Robinwood, Mount Aetna, St. James and Sandy Hook.

St. James, Fountainhead-Orchard Hills, Robinwood, Maugansville and the Wilson-Conococheague area each experienced growth of at least 21 percent.

St. James, south of Hagerstown, experienced a 78 percent increase, growing from 1,657 residents in 2000 to 2,953 in 2010, according to census data.

As of Thursday, Thompson didn't know whether the boundaries census officials used to determine population in the unincorporated areas were the same ones the county requested, although there was cooperation between the two groups.

He said it's possible the St. James area could include the Westfields development off Sharpsburg Pike.

During the 2000s, a lot of housing was built up in the Robinwood Drive area, leading to 46 percent growth in the Robinwood area. The number of residents increased from 4,731 in 2000 to 6,918 in 2010.

Fountainhead-Orchard Hills, north of Hagrstown, grew by 47 percent and Maugansville, northwest of the city, by 34 percent.

Three developments, including Seneca Ridge and Twin Ridge, contributed to the jump in Maugansville, Thompson said. The population increased from 2,295 in 2000 to 3,071 in 2010, according to census data.

Growth along Long Meadow Road helped the Fountainhead-Orchard Hills area population increase, he said. Population there increased from 3,844 people to 5,666, census figures show.

Some areas that faced population declines were Mount Aetna east of Hagerstown and San Mar near Boonsboro.

San Mar had 384 residents in 2010 compared with 515 in 2000, according to figures.

Mount Aetna's population decreased from 838 residents in 2000 to 561 in 2010, a 33 percent drop, according to census figures.

 Mount Aetna had 286 occupied housing units in 2000, compared with 202 in 2010, the figures indicate. But it wasn't known whether the area's boundaries had changed from 2000 to 2010.

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