Census tracks city growth at 38 percent
City increases by 1,046 since 2000
Without leaving his driveway, Leavenworth County Commissioner Dean Oroke can tell the Tonganoxie area is growing.
In fact, the area's growth has made it difficult at times for Oroke to pull onto U.S. Highway 24-40 from his drive south of town.
And as he sits in the stands at his grandchildren's softball games, Oroke further realizes that southern Leaven-worth County -- where he's lived more than 55 years, since he was 5 -- has changed dramatically in the past several years.
"I might know one or two families of 12 or 15," Oroke said.
Population estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau back up what Oroke already knows: Southern Leavenworth County is growing at a steady clip.
The new Census numbers show Tonganoxie has grown 38 percent between the spring 2000 Census and July 2005.
The Census Bureau estimates Tonganoxie's population was 3,774 last July. That's up by 175 people from July 2004 and 1,046 above the official count in 2000.
Late each June, the bureau releases population estimates for the previous year.
And Leavenworth County's growth rate since 2000 is tracking at about 6.5 percent, fueled mostly by growth in Tonganoxie, Basehor and Lansing -- and rural areas surrounding those communities. By contrast, the county's largest city, Leavenworth, is seeing a population decline.
Here's a look at how Tonganoxie's population has changed since the 2000 census, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. The estimates for the previous year are released annually at the end of June.
¢ 2000 census: 2,728
¢ 2001 estimate: 3,016 up 288
¢ 2002 estimate: 3,187 up 171
¢ 2003 estimate: 3,337 up 150
¢ 2004 estimate: 3,599 up 262
¢ 2005 estimate: 3,774 up 175
The increase of 1,046 people shown in the 2005 estimate from the 2000 census represents an increase of 38.3 percent.
During the past several years, Oroke noted, several factors have played into the area's growth: the widening of 24-40 between Tonganoxie and Kansas City from two lanes to four; construction of the Kansas Speedway and ancillary commercial development; and skyrocketing land costs in the Johnson and Douglas counties.
"We really have the best of all worlds because we're in a central location," Oroke said. "The airport is 25 to 30 minutes away. Football and baseball are 30 minutes away. Eating is now 15 minutes away."
And he and Tonganoxie City Administrator Mike Yanez said a planned turnpike interchange three miles south of Tonganoxie should spur more growth.
"I think we are positioned as well as any city in this region," Yanez said. "We have a progressive political attitude toward growth. The builders are constructing homes that are in the most attractive part of the market -- the $150,000 to $250,000 price range -- and out on the horizon is the turnpike interchange. A lot of heads are looking in this direction."
It's up to Tonganoxie school Superintendent Richard Erickson to count heads in classrooms. And during the past four years, he's counted more students than the year before.
He anticipates that when he makes the official enrollment report to the state in September, Tonganoxie will see another increase.
"This coming year, we'll be in that 40- to 60-student increase," he said.
But the ever-cautious Erickson has taken note of another school district -- Auburn-Washburn, southwest of Topeka -- which has seen population increases, but no school enrollment increases.
"Who's moving in? It's just hard to predict that," he said.
The district currently is constructing a new middle school, to help take pressure off the overcrowded elementary school. It's possible, Erickson said, that enrollment increases in the future could necessitate additions to the middle school, which is slated to open in January.
Any expansion of recreation space -- such as the new gymnasium at the middle school -- is welcomed by Gayle Parker, director of the Tonganoxie Recreation Commission. Parker noted that population increases have driven the commission to offer more and a wider variety of programs.
"There's a demand out there," he said. "And people are moving here, and wherever they're moving from, maybe from the city, that's what they're used to. ... I see only good things ahead and a lot of opportunities. There are going to be a lot of growing pains. We've got growing pains right now because we're breaking at the seams for outdoor facilities."
While Tonganoxie and Basehor have seen similar population increases in the past few years, Basehor officials are concerned.
Here's a look at population changes in area cities:
¢ Leavenworth: 35,420 in 2000; 35,213 in 2005 estimate; change: down 207
¢ Lansing: 9,199 in 2000; 10,214 in 2005 estimate; change: up 1,015
¢ Tonganoxie: 2,728 in 2000; 3,774 in 2005 estimate; change: up 1,046
¢ Basehor: 2,238 in 2000; 3,287 in 2005 estimate; change: up 1,049
¢ Linwood: 374 in 2000; 382 in 2005 estimate; change: up 8
¢ Easton: 362 in 2000; 357 in 2005 estimate; change: down 5
¢ Lawrence: 80,098 in 2000; 81,816 in 2005 estimate; change: up 1,718
¢ Eudora: 4,307 in 2000; 5,284 in 2005 estimate; change: up 977
¢ Bonner Springs: 6,768 in 2000; 6,942 in 2005 estimate; change: up 174
¢ McLouth: 868 in 2000; 849 in 2005 estimate; change: down 19
"It's obviously a challenge to meet all the infrastructure," Basehor City Administrator Carl Slaugh said about the city's rapid growth. "The sanitary sewer is the number one goal we're looking at to accommodate that growth."
In contrast, Tonganoxie completed a new sewage treatment plant recently that's running at about 50 percent capacity. And while Erickson is anticipating the after-Christmas opening of a new middle school, the Basehor-Linwood school district has turned down numerous bond issues since 1997.
"Do we know we need something? Yes," said Don Swartz, Basehor-Linwood school official. "Do we know when it will happen? No."
-- Reporter Lara Hastings (email@example.com) contributed to this story.
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