A wave of disappointment flooded City Hall Tuesday after U.S. Census Bureau officials announced that Roswell failed to meet its 50,000 population goal, set out by residents hoping the city would become an entitlement community.
Multiple city officials said they were in a state of disbelief after learning that Roswellâ€™s official population is 48,366 residents, saying they planned to utilize any sort of appeal process that the Census Bureau may have and insisting that Roswellâ€™s population is well over 50,000.
The benchmark would make Roswell a metropolitan statistical area and would, among other benefits, make more federal funds available to the city.
The news came shortly after noon and hit hard, especially with officials who worked hard to make sure the city hit the mark. â€œIâ€™d like to sit down and cry.
I canâ€™t hardly believe it,â€ said Councilor Steve Henderson, after hearing the news. â€œWe worked extra hard on that and the city went out of its way to provide additional funding for its promotion. … This is a big, big disappointment.â€
The City Council appropriated about $40,000 to the Roswell Complete Count Committee, which used the revenue to help advertise and promote that all residents be counted this year.
The groupâ€™s chairwoman, Judy Armstrong, shared Hendersonâ€™s disappointment in the fact that if any sort of appeal isnâ€™t successful, the city will have to wait another 10 years for the next census to be taken.
â€œIt is what it is,â€ she said. â€œYou canâ€™t get too upset because thereâ€™s nothing that I can think of … that we didnâ€™t try to do.â€ Her comments were made during a press conference inside City Hall, where Mayor Del Jurney told reporters that thereâ€™s â€œnot a debateâ€ about it, Roswell hit the mark. â€œWe have 50,000 people in the city of Roswell,â€ he said.
â€œWeâ€™ve been here (since the last census count). Weâ€™ve seen the population grow.â€ Jurney said although he doesnâ€™t have proof of the population, he believes itâ€™s the case simple because he has seen growth in Roswell since 2000. Despite the recent data coming up short of 50,000, Jurney said the news doesnâ€™t change Roswellâ€™s incentive for growth. â€œItâ€™s not a detrimental thing,â€ he said. â€œIt doesnâ€™t set us back.â€
Michael Vickers, Roswellâ€™s city planner, confirmed that the news wonâ€™t be a setback and that the city will continue to move forward. â€œWeâ€™re still making efforts to grow and economic development certainly has not stopped,â€ Vickers said.
â€œAnd as far as national retailers go, we have the ability to draw in well over 100,000 people (from the surrounding areas) here.â€ Bob Donnell, executive director of the Roswell- Chaves County Economic Development Corp., agreed with Vickers â€” while adding that hitting 50,000 would have been very attractive in attempting to entice new companies to move to the area.
â€œItâ€™s a provable number that we could show to those companies … considering locating here because (it would demonstrate) considerable growth,â€ he said.
â€œOn the positive side, we will continue doing what we need to do to help attract and expand inside Roswell and Chaves County.â€ Other officials weighed in on the news after hearing that Roswellâ€™s growth from 2000 â€” when the population was recorded at 45,293 â€” was less than 7 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
â€œThat makes me sad,â€ said Councilor Jason Perry, who added, â€œthereâ€™s no doubt in my mindâ€ that more than 50,000 residents are currently living in the city. â€œI would certainly say that we take advantage of, not an appeal, but an additional vote count,â€ said Councilor Judy Stubbs.
â€œItâ€™s not necessarily an appeal, itâ€™s an opportunity to get additional people counted,â€ she said. Stubbs and other city officials, including Jurney and City Manager Larry Fry, said they planned to look into what options, if any, are available to make sure that all residents were counted in 2010.