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Enumclaw officials disagree with count - City Hall maintains popluation hasn't slipped as reported

By Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald

City of Enumclaw officials don't put much stock in figures released last week that show Enumclaw among those Washington cities dropping in population during the most recent count.

Counts made public by the state's Office of Financial Management, reflecting a 12-month period spanning the 2001-2002 calendar years, showed Enumclaw dropped less than 1 percent, to 11,140. Enumclaw certainly wasn't alone in showing declining figures, as the fellow south King County communities of Federal Way, Burien, Des Moines, SeaTac, Maple Valley and Tukwila also showed a population dip.

On the flip side, several cities not too far from Enumclaw were listed among the fastest-growing in the state. Topping the list was Issaquah, a once-quiet community that has boomed over the past couple of decades thanks to urban sprawl and annexation. Issaquah grew to 13,169 during the 2001-2002 time period, an increase of 7.6 percent. No. 2 on the growth list was the Pierce County community of Bonney Lake, which is spreading on both sides of state Route 410 and creeping toward Buckley. Bonney Lake's growth was pegged at 12,396, a jump of 7.3 percent. Covington also was in the top 10, with 4 percent growth.

Enumclaw officials emphasize the OFM numbers shouldn't be viewed as official census figures. "It's kind of fuzzy accounting," said Enumclaw City Administrator Mark Bauer, explaining the OFM uses a formula for estimating population, while the census does an actual head count.

"I don't take those numbers too seriously," said Les Johnson, Enumclaw's director of community development. "We know we grew in 2002," he said, adding 17 homes were built and occupied during the year.

Both Bauer and Johnson admit, however, Enumclaw's growth has largely been put on hold, due to a moratorium on utility connections that will exist until the city completes an upgrade of its sewage treatment plant. That plan is in the works and construction could be finished in three years.

"We fully expect to see a change in development activity, especially single-family homes," Johnson said, referring to the city's post-moratorium future. "Growth is inevitable, it's going to occur."

Both Bauer and Johnson state that Enumclaw is looking at the possibility of noticeable growth in the near future. A planned development on the east side of town, along the south side of state Route 410, has cleared most of its municipal hurdles and is now in its final review process. Developers had already been granted 42 utility connections.

According to last week's OFM numbers, other Plateau communities showed the following population counts: Buckley, 4,505; Carbonado, 655; South Prairie, 440; and Wilkeson, 420.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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