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Adding on-post residents still won’t push population over Rolla or Lebanon
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Oct. 15, 2009) — While Waynesville and Saint Robert officials said Wednesday they expect annexing Fort Leonard Wood’s on-post housing areas will help attract new development by substantially boosting their Census 2010 population statistics, post officials aren’t yet able to give solid estimates of how many more people would actually be added to the two cities by the proposed annexation.

However, it’s very unlikely that even the highest estimates of increased population would bring the populations of either Waynesville or St. Robert up to the level of Lebanon or Rolla, the closest cities on the I-44 corridor.

Waynesville’s population in the last federal census for the year 2000 was 3,507 and St. Robert’s population was 2,760; the estimated combined population for both cities had grown to 7,217 in 2007, according to the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce. Fort Leonard Wood’s 2000 census population was 13,666, but civilian and military officials believe that number represented an undercount of at least 23 percent.

By comparison, Lebanon’s population was 12,155 in the 2000 census with a projected 2009 population of 12,295, according to the county’s economic development organization, America’s Heartland Economic Partnership. Rolla had a population of 16,367 in the 2000 census and an estimated population of 17,817 in 2008, according to the Rolla Regional Economic Commission.

Measuring population statistics on a military installation isn’t easy and presents special challenges that aren’t issues with a civilian community. A major deployment can take hundreds or even thousands of soldiers and family members out of the area for more than a year at a time, causing a serious downward spike in the economic life of the surrounding region. In addition, at a training installation like Fort Leonard Wood, the number of trainees can surge significantly upward at different times of the year, especially in the summer months when many future soldiers enter basic training after high school graduation.

That means the “snapshot” of Fort Leonard Wood’s population on the census date of April 1, 2010, is likely to be lower than what it would be a few months later, and could be substantially different from earlier or later dates depending on deployments and other factors.

Fort Leonard Wood spokesman Mike Alley said Thursday that key personnel who have statistical information on Fort Leonard Wood’s population were out of their offices due to illness and could not provide requested data.

Alley said housing for Fort Leonard Wood residents can be divided into three main categories: servicemembers in training, single servicemembers, and family housing. The number of on-post housing units has been changing due to ongoing renovations of housing by Balfour-Beatty Communities and new construction of single soldier apartment-style housing.

Alley said the post currently has 1,252 single soldier permanent party housing units and space for 13,500 servicemembers in training, including basic trainees and advanced training on both the enlisted and officer levels.

It’s not clear how many bedrooms are currently available for family housing on Fort Leonard Wood, and it’s even less clear how many of those bedrooms will be available or in use when the census is taken next April.

“We are converting some housing and it will change our numbers. Some triplexes are becoming duplexes, etc,” Alley said. “We don't know exactly how many will be out of remodeling/conversion in April either.”

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