Archive for Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Census: City growing quickly

Tonganoxie ranks in fastest-growing cities in Kansas

July 16, 2003

Small Kansas towns nestled in the shadows of two major metropolitan areas -- Kansas City and Wichita -- are growing at break-neck paces.

And Tonganoxie is a strong contender in the race.

Following are selected Kansas cities, ranked in order of percentage change in population from April 1, 2000, the date of the last U.S. Census, to July 1, 2002. Cities outside of the area that had increases of more than 10 percent were included in this list, along with towns in the Tonganoxie area, regardless of their growth rate.

The cities' April 2000 population is listed, then July 2002 population, along with the population change and percentage change.

Goddard 2,037 2,640 603/29.6%

Spring Hill 2,727 3,357 630/23.1%

Tonganoxie 2,728 3,169 441/16.2%

Gardner 9,421 10,701 1,280/13.6%

Basehor 2,239 2,513 274/12.2%

Eudora 4,307 4,829 522/12.1%

Andover 6,980 7,750 770/11.0%

Kechi 1,038 1,143 105/10.1%

Edwardsville 4,146 4,439 293/7.1%

Baldwin City 3,401 3,579 178/5.2%

De Soto 4,564 4,736 172/3.8%

Lansing 9,210 9,526 316/3.4%

Lawrence 80,131 81,604 1,473/1.8%

Easton 368 373 5/1.4%

Linwood 374 377 3/0.8%

Bonner Springs 6,768 6,815 47/0.7%

Leavenworth 35,426 35,410 -16/0.0%

McLouth 868 861 -7 /-0.8%

According to U.S. Census figures released last Thursday, Tonganoxie is the third-fastest growing city in Kansas, behind Goddard in the Wichita area and Spring Hill, which is south of Olathe in suburban Kansas City.

Basehor and Eudora closely trailed Tonganoxie, coming in fifth and sixth among Kansas towns seeing growth.

According to the Census numbers, 3,169 residents lived in Tonganoxie as of July 1, 2002, compared with 2,728 counted in the 2002 census.

The Tonganoxie of today has few similarities of the Tonganoxie of J.W. Evans' childhood.

"It was a farm community," said Evans, whose family operates a real estate and insurance company in downtown Tonganoxie. "I'm taking you back 60 years, now. Saturday was a big day for the community years ago, with people on the streets, doing business with the grocery and farm stores.

"It's changed quite a bit, but I think it's for the better."

But like others in Tonganoxie, the 67-year-old Evans worries about the city's water supply, which will be necessary for additional residential and commercial uses.

"I hope we don't overgrow," Evans said. "We have quite a water problem in our community, and I don't think that's been addressed. I think our city fathers need to look at that very deeply."

When Evans served on the Tonganoxie City Council in the early 1960s, the city constructed a sewage treatment plant. Now, the city hopes to construct a new plant, which officials say will position Tonganoxie to handle anticipated increases in population and business.

Evans, a self-described promoter of the city, said it's easy to see why people would want to move to the community, which is positioned between Kansas City and Lawrence.

"Our school system is a big advantage for new people coming in," he said. "I think we have a friendly community. We have three building and loan banks, a grocery store. We have a lot to offer."

Apparently, many people agree with Evans' assessment, including local developers and builders.

According to City Administrator Shane Krull, the city issued 61 building permits in 1999; 65 permits in 2000 and 2001; and 94 in 2002.

"This year, we're at, through the end of June, 47," he said. "Our level of building activity would lend itself to the increase in population."

A general rule of thumb, Krull said, is that an average of 2.65 people live in each household.

But as Tonganoxie grows, so do the pressures on city government. Krull ticks off a laundry list: water, sewer, streets, storm water, emergency personnel.

"In every facet you can think of, increased population is putting strain," he said.

But Tonganoxie's recent growth rate -- which started with the widening of U.S. Highway 24-40 east of town from two lanes to four -- is manageable, Krull said.

For school Superintendent Richard Erickson, the most recent Census figures merely confirm what his schools have seen. The questions, of course, are whether growth will continue and how that will affect classrooms.

"In the school business," he said, "we look at numbers of students. It's sure nice to see that percentage increase and wishful thinking is that would be nice to see that continue. In the school business, it's a lot more positive situation to work with a growing student enrollment, rather than a declining student enrollment."

And while it would stand to reason that increases in the city's population would immediately translate into enrollment increases, that hasn't been the case in Tonganoxie.

"In six of the last 10 years, the district went through declining enrollment," Erickson said.

While district enrollment numbers in 2001 were up 25 from 2000, and were up again last school year by 49, Erickson couches his optimism.

"I think we can be cautiously optimistic," he said.

Next year, in fact, he and other school officials are predicting an enrollment increase of only 10 to 15 students.

"It's just so unpredictable," the superintendent said.

"There are lots and lots of variables."

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