Calculating Fort Leonard Wood’s on-post population could be complex
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Oct. 16, 2009) — City officials in Saint Robert and Waynesville believe annexing the housing areas of Fort Leonard Wood would be a win-win situation that helps the cities attract new businesses while not requiring military personnel to pay more taxes or requiring the cities to provide more services to their new on-post residents.
However, calculating precisely how many people would actually be brought into the new city limits isn’t easy. The 2000 census reported that the installation had 13,666 residents in 2,639 housing units, a number that both military and civilian officials believe was a major undercount. Fort Leonard Wood estimates reported by the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce indicated that’s an undercount of at least 23 percent.
Fort Leonard Wood officials released estimates Friday morning of how many housing units are available in three main categories of on-post housing with a total of 21,250 available bedrooms in permanent party housing or beds in barracks for trainees.
According to post spokesman Mike Alley:
• In family housing, there are more than 6,500 bedrooms on post. However, some bedrooms may not be used, while others may have bunk beds and married couples.
• In single-solider housing, a daily average of 1,250 single servicemembers are permanently assigned to Fort Leonard Wood living on post.
• A daily average of 13,500 servicemembers are in training living on post. That includes basic and advanced training for both enlisted personnel and officers.
If that population were to be evenly divided between the two cities of Waynesville and St. Robert, it could add about 10,000 people to each city, giving each city a population of about 14,000. 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.
However, calculating exactly how many people will be at Fort Leonard Wood on the census date of April 1, 2010, isn’t easy, and won’t necessarily reflect the typical population of the installation at other times.
It’s also not yet clear how the 13,500 trainees will be counted, or if there will actually be that many trainees on post for the specific day of the census. The annual “summer surge” puts a higher number of trainees on Fort Leonard Wood during the summer months immediately after high school and college gradations when people come to the post for enlisted or officer training, but that summer surge will be just a few months after the census is taken.
In addition, one of Fort Leonard Wood’s major FORSCOM or Forces Command deployable units is expected to deploy before the end of this year and won’t be back by the time of the census.
A further complication at Fort Leonard Wood is that Balfour-Beatty Communities, the federal contractor responsible for managing and for upgrading Fort Leonard Wood’s on-post housing, is in the process of major renovation work that will substantially reduce the number of on-post housing units by tearing down older housing, renovating existing housing, or significantly changing housing by measures such as converting triplexes into duplexes. That won’t be an issue if servicemembers who move off-post due to construction get apartments elsewhere in the city limits of Waynesville or St. Robert, but if they get housing just outside the city limits in areas such as Hunters’ Point, Shalom Mountain, Northern Heights Estates, or Misty Mountain, they’ll be considered part of the population of the Waynesville R-VI School District but not of either the city of Waynesville or St. Robert.
Some problems aren’t unique to Fort Leonard Wood and are typical for all military installations; still others are typical of all “group quarters,” not only the military but also college campuses, prisons, and similar facilities.
According to information provided by the Census Bureau, their workers “undertake extensive operations to take in-person counts of people living in group quarters, such as college dormitories, military barracks, nursing homes and shelters, as well as those who have been displaced by natural disasters.”
For that reason, people receiving the 2010 census form will be cautioned in the introduction to the questions that they should not “count anyone living away either at college or in the Armed Forces” on the census date of April 1, 2010, and to “leave these people off your form, even if they will return to live here after they leave college, the nursing home, the military, jail, etc. Otherwise, they may be counted twice.” Those filling out the census forms will also be asked if the people living at that home on the census date “sometimes live or stay somewhere else” such as college housing, the military, a seasonal or second residence, for child custody, jail or prison, a nursing home, or for some other reason.
While deployments cause a decline in economic activity since servicemembers are not buying products and services and their families often leave the area to move back home with their parents, at least some of the deployed Fort Leonard Wood military personnel will be counted in the 2010 census. According to Census Bureau information forms, “2010 Census counts will include federal employees (military and civilian) and their dependents living overseas with them that can be assigned to a home state” because that data is provided by the various federal departments and agencies through administrative records.
Others living abroad as private citizens on April 1 won’t be counted, however. That could include military contractors working for private companies.