Archive for Thursday, June 22, 2006

Census: Basehor’s population surge continues

City grows nearly 47 percent since last official count; officials predict more to come

June 22, 2006

Basehor continues to bulge at the seams. And city officials see no reason it will stop growing anytime soon.

"I think it's going to continue just because of the number of plats that have been approved for residential," Mayor Chris Garcia said.

Population estimates released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau back up what Garcia already knows: Southern Leavenworth County -- and Basehor, in particular -- are growing at a steady clip.

The new Census numbers show Basehor has grown nearly 47 percent between the spring 2000 Census and July 2005.

The Census Bureau estimates Basehor's population was 3,287 last July.

That's up by 256 people from July 2004 and 1,049 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 Basehor, Tonganoxie and Lansing -- and rural areas surrounding those communities. By contrast, the county's largest city, Leavenworth, is seeing a population decline.

During the past several years, Leavenworth County Commissioner Dean 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," said Oroke, who has lived in southern Leavenworth County most of his life.

And in Basehor, the growth drumbeat likely won't quiet anytime soon.

The city's planning and zoning department reports 2,068 new homes are in the process of development and have received at least zoning approval.

Community services such as the Basehor Community Library and the post office have outgrown their buildings. A new post office will open Monday, and voters have approved construction money for a new library.

But one stumbling block to growth could be the city's sewage treatment plant's capacity.

"It's obviously a challenge to meet all the infrastructure," City Administrator Carl Slaugh said about Basehor's rapid growth. "The sanitary sewer is the number one goal we're looking at to accommodate that growth."

While there is still a long way to go in solving the city's soon-to-be sewer problem, there has been some progress made such as city council's approval of a sewer rate study. This study will help determine whether the city wants to expand the existing plant or build a new plant -- and how much the alternatives will cost.

"Gene (Myracle, city superintendent) has met with a couple of companies on the expansion," Garcia said. "The project will take 12 to 18 months to complete. It is a priority to start looking at it and see what direction we're going to go."

The Basehor-Linwood school district is also affected by the area's growth. Don Swartz, executive director of business and facilities for the district, said the district looks at the number of new houses that are completed and the number of occupied homes to estimate enrollment.

"We figure a little less than one-half of the occupied homes will have school-aged children," he said.

The district is running out of elementary space, Swartz said. And even though there has not been a bond issue passed since 1997, the district has not recently been talking about proposing a new one, he said.

"Do we know we need something? Yes," Swartz said. "Do we know when it will happen? No."

The big gauge for the district will be Sept. 20 when the districtwide count is conducted and those enrollment figures will be passed onto state officials to determine how much state funding Basehor-Linwood schools will receive. Although the number of students coming into the district is larger than the number of students leaving, Swartz said there is not yet a huge difference. However, this may change in the near future.

"We have to ask, is the move in going to start to obliterate the move out?" he said. "We're getting to the point where the growth is going to happen a lot faster I'm afraid."

-- Editor Caroline Trowbridge ( contributed to this story.

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