Archive for Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Growth tracks at 21 percent

June 30, 2004

During the three years after the last federal census, Tonganoxie's grew at a whopping 21 percent, counting it among the fastest-growing cities in the state.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last week, Tonganoxie's population increased from 2,728 in April 2000 to 3,317 residents in July 2003.

And that's no surprise to two city officials.

City Administrator Shane Krull said city staff members have been tracking population increases. And Mayor Dave Taylor said Tonganoxie always has been a wonderful place to live. But it's just recently been discovered.

Tonganoxie, along with other cities around the Kansas City and Wichita metropolitan areas, is seeing growth, while other areas of Kansas experience continued population declines.

For Tonganoxie, it's a matter of location -- and an important intangible.

"The friendliness of the people and the openness of the people is a real plus," Taylor said.

The mayor said Tonganoxie is close to big-city amenities, but small enough that neighbors take care of neighbors. And he thinks the growth in Southern Leavenworth County is here to stay.

"I see it really accelerating," he said. "We really did well in a down time, but now things are really going."

Currently, Tonganoxie is constructing a new sewer plant, necessitated, in part, because of growth.

"That will serve our needs for the future," Taylor said.

He pointed out that the plant was outdated, as well as too small for the coming population.

Krull, like Taylor, sees no end to the growth. Developers are preparing land for development or building houses throughout the city.

"I think in the short-term, three to five years, we could continue on that same pace," Krull said.

With growth comes some concern about infrastructure. The sewer plant is well under way, and soon the city council should make a decision on contracting for additional water for Tonganoxie.

Krull said he's keeping an eye on stormwater drainage pipes, which are aging, as well as moving traffic through Tonganoxie, providing police and fire protection and additional opportunities for recreation.

As Tonganoxie grows, Taylor said he wants the city to help ensure young families can find affordable housing.

"I want to make sure that we don't leave the young people behind," he said. "It's nice to have big plush homes but you need affordable housing for the young people. They've been kept out of the loop for, I'd say, 15 years. That's one of my biggest worries. It really is. It's not the population growth. It's that the young people have an opportunity for a really good life."

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