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Douglas soars in Census

by Jeff Munson

Douglas County was not immune to Nevada’s population boom, according data released Wednesday by the United States Census Bureau.

Census figures show the county’s head count has increased by 49 percent, to 41,259 over 1990 figures.

This equates to a four percent annual growth rate through 1998 and is lower than what the state demographer had predicted, said Dan Holler, county manager for Douglas County.

“The figures take us back to what was projected in 1998,” Holler said. “The reality is the projections are too high and we are at a lower population base that what was predicted.”

Holler said the figure is about 2 percent lower than what the state demographer had predicted. The result, Holler said, is that the county has managed its growth well.

“The census shows us that our growth has been consistent, but not out of whack,” he said.

Compared to other regions in the state, Douglas County is in good standing for growth, which has been tempered by Clark County, that experienced an 85 percent increase during the past decade. Nevada’s resident population grew by nearly 800,000 – from 1,201,833 in 1990 to 1,998,257 in 2000.

In neighboring Carson City, the area’s population grew by 29 percent, from 40,443 to 52,457.

Holler said the census numbers will be factored into a state appropriation fund formula, which also takes into account assessed valuation and the consumer price index. It is not known what bracket Douglas County will fall in and what kind of revenue increase or decrease it will receive from the state.

Meanwhile in the unincorporated towns of Minden and Gardnerville, census figures match what town officials had predicted.

In the past 10 years, Minden’s population grew 96.8 percent, from 1,441 in 1990 to 2,836 in 2000.

“I’m not surprised,” said Minden Town Secretary Sheila Byington. “If you look at the our water customer base, we have 1,300 customers. Back in 1980 we had 350,” she said.

Local housing developments such as Winhaven, which started in 1986, is nearly built out, with more than 450 homes developed. The Westwood development, completed in the 1990s, added even more families to the area, she said

Byington predicts the town will continue to witness growth because of the area’s water supply.

“We have the available water and the pumping capacity to do it,” she said. “That is the biggest part of it. We have the water to allow for more of it.”

Neighboring Gardnerville saw a 54 percent increase in growth over 1990 figures. The population increased from 2,177 to 3,357.

Town Manager Jim Park said the Chichester development has had the single largest impact on the town’s infrastructure, accounting for more than 500 homes built. The development is about 60 percent built out, he said.

While the level of growth for Gardnerville was predicted, it has brought with it issues the town and neighboring Minden are both trying to cope with, mainly traffic congestion and roads.

“There is a real strain on the roads and there’s not a magic formula out there that says when you add 100 more people, there is a certain amount of money allotted for that,” Park said.

Douglas County is currently studying a five-year transportation plan, which includes provisions for roads and infrastructure improvements. At issue for the county is paying for road maintenance with a limited amount of money. County officials are weighing options, including whether to place a gas tax on the ballot and then split the revenue generated with towns that have roads that need repair, but not enough money to do it.

When managed well, growth can be an asset to a community and that’s what both towns are looking to accomplish, officials said.

Minden, for example, is currently preparing a master plan to prepare for growth. And Gardnerville is looking at ways to balance the desire for open space with more development.

“When managed in the proper fashion, growth is a good thing,” Park said. “You can’t change the fact that the area is going to grow. It is how you respond and how you maintain the cultural and historic aspects – the rooting of the town – to make the growth balanced and complementary.”