County population still shifting

Here we go again. Less than a year after Wright County was forced to redistrict because each district population had grown disproportionately through the 2000s, it appears the county’s uneven growth is continuing.
Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala presented the county board with the annual population estimates from the state demographer’s office, which are studied between census periods and, while far from official, it was these demographer’s numbers that foretold the county’s inevitability of redistricting. From 2000-2010, the county grew a whopping 39 percent. In Minnesota, only Scott County (45 percent) grew faster.
“The demographer’s numbers show that Wright County continues to grow,” Hiivala said. “In the 2010 census, our population was 124,700. The state demographer numbers for 2011 have our population at 126,033 – an increase of 1,333 people. It isn’t as large as we’ve seen in the past, but it is a continued growth trend.”
Considering that the average growth per year from 2000-2010 was more than 3,400 a year, the increases were modest, but remain important. No city or township in the county challenged its own population totals prior to the July 15 deadline, making them official for 2011 and the new state fiscal year cycle. The demographer estimated that each city and township grew in Wright County with the exception of Dayton (which remained at 54 residents in the county), but the importance of the figures, Hiivala pointed out, is that when the state funding pie is divided, those numbers act as the basis by which cities and townships are eligible for aid.
“In the years in between census years, the demographer numbers are the official numbers for cities and townships,” Hiivala said. “What makes that important is that when funding to cities and townships is done, it is based on population. These figures are taken very seriously and, while they say they’re estimates, when it comes to the state of Minnesota, they’re official.”
Under the new district rules, Wright County’s largest is District 1 (the cities of Annandale, Buffalo and South Haven and the townships of Albion, Buffalo, Chatham, Corinna and Southside) with 27,352 residents – an increase of 280.
Next is District 5 (the cities of Cokato, Delano, Howard Lake, Montrose and Waverly and the townships of Cokato, Franklin, French Lake, Marysville, Middleville, Stockholm, Victor and Woodland) with 26,044 residents – an increase of 320.
Then comes District 2 (the cities of Clearwater, Maple Lake and Monticello and the townships of Clearwater, Maple Lake, Monticello and Silver Creek) with a population of 25,651 – an increase of 228.
The smallest two districts were made the smallest for a reason – they are centered in the major growth areas. However, in the case of District 4, the growth estimated by the state demographer fell short of expectations. District 4 (the cities of Albertville, Hanover and Rockford, plus one precinct of St. Michael and the township of Rockford) was estimated to have grown by just 184 people – the smallest growth of any commissioner district, for a population estimate of 23,923.
District 5 experienced the largest growth, but, thanks to approved redistricting, it is subject to the most continuing growth. District 5 has just three local government units – the city of Otsego, a small sliver of Dayton and the larger of two St. Michael precincts – and its population estimate is 23,063.
Just one year into the new redistricting, the difference in size between the largest and smallest districts is almost 4,300 people – well within the standards, but setting the stage for future years to come.
“There were a lot of factors that went into redistricting,” Hiivala said. “One of them was to take into account that Wright County is going to continue to grow and that those areas that have grown the most would intentionally be made smaller than the more rural districts because the growth will be more pronounced there. Hopefully, it will be enough that we won’t have to do this all over again in 10 years.”