City leaders again are recommending that local elected officials challenge the Census Bureau's estimates that Douglas County population growth is stagnant or slightly declining.
City Manager David Corliss alerted city commissioners Thursday that city planners are recommending that Lawrence challenge the most recent Census population numbers, which showed the city's population declined by a little less than 1 percent in 2006.
That is far less than the city's historical growth rate of 2 percent to 2.5 percent per year, but it marks the second year in a row that the Census has released estimates showing the city's population growth as stagnant.
Corliss said during a commission meeting Thursday that the city's analysis of building permit and utility data indicates that the city's population has not declined. But he also said city numbers acknowledge there has been a slowdown in past growth rates. He added that a challenge isn't an attempt to mask challenges the city is facing in the economic development arena.
"I just want people to know that challenging the Census data is not our economic development effort," Corliss said. "We just want to make sure that we have the right numbers for federal funding purposes."
The city receives community development block grant money and other federal funds based, in part, on the city's population.
Commissioners did not take any action Thursday. Corliss alerted commissioners that the item is expected to be on their agenda for the Tuesday evening meeting.
The issue came up as commissioners were discussing what items to include on a list of issues to discuss with federal legislators as part of a trip in October to Washington, D.C.
Mayor Sue Hack, Vice Mayor Mike Dever and Corliss are scheduled to travel Oct. 21 through Oct. 23 to Washington to meet with the state's legislative delegation. County Commissioner Bob Johnson and representatives from the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, Kansas University and the Lawrence school district also are likely to go on the trip, Corliss said.
This is the second consecutive year a Lawrence delegation has traveled to Washington to lobby legislators.
"I know sometimes there are questions about the value of these types of trips, but I'm a firm believer that the face time really does pay off," Hack said.
Corliss said cost estimates aren't yet available for the trip. He said the city will be paying airline and lodging expenses for the city delegation. The other organizations will cover their own expenses.
Last year, all five city commissioners went on the trip, but Corliss said it was determined that probably wasn't needed this year.
Corliss will be compiling a full list of issues for the city delegation to discuss with legislators. Among issues commissioners expressed interest in Thursday:
¢ Funding for major road projects, such as an interchange for Bob Billings Parkway and the South Lawrence Trafficway, and improvements on Kansas Highway 10 that would make entering and exiting East Hills Business Park safer.
¢ Continued funding for the Lawrence Public Transit System. Corliss said commissioners probably should be prepared to talk with legislators about a possible merger of the city transit system with the KU transit system.
¢ Updating legislators on the community's efforts to capitalize on the area's Civil War history through a recently granted National Heritage Area designation.
¢ Discussion of silting problems at Clinton Lake and other federal reservoirs. The city takes a significant amount of drinking water from Clinton Lake.