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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow POPULATION PROJECTIONS DRAW FIRE


By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Union County's population projection was challenged Monday night by a number of county residents and one local organization.

The challenges came during a county planning commission meeting, which also involved a formal request from the City of Island City to increase its population projection from 3 percent to 6 percent over the next 20 years.

The commissioners decided to delay debate and any decision until a special meeting May 13. The planning department will accept written testimony until May 6.

The Benkendorf Associates Corporation of Portland, hired by the county to prepare a projection, has estimated that the entire county will grow by 1 percent by 2020.

Most who testified Monday said the county's growth projections are too high and do not reflect past growth and reasonable employment expectations.

Island City Mayor Dale Delong said that although the city government has projected a 3,127 population by 2020, the city does not challenge the U.S. Census figures, which show a population of 916 in 2000.

Planning Commission member Dick McDaniel questioned an Island City planner's estimate of 3,127 population by 2020. He said that the increase does not reflect the base numbers shown by the Benkendorf and the Island City reports.

Oregon Rural Action submitted a letter stating that the Benkendorf methodology is "fatally flawed," and accusing the consultants of "cherry picking the largest current estimates."

"…(Benkendorf) is striving to artificially reflect the largest possible rate of growth," the paper states.

Mark Tipperman, a lawyer and rancher, also questioned the Eastern Oregon University enrollment projections estimated by the consultants, and he said "the 150 percent increased projected over the next 20 years is not based on good criteria."

"I call into question the entire population analysis by Benkendorf," he said.

Scientist Jim McIver, a researcher at the Pacific Northwest Research Station in La Grande, said that Benkendorf has "attempted to refute" the figures gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau, the state Employment Department and some statistics from Portland State University.

McIver said he projected that the county's annual growth rate should be .39 percent, using consistent methods or protocol.

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