published Monday, April 18th, 2011

Census data questioned by South Pittsburg

By Ryan Lewis

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — The news from the U.S. Census Bureau that South Pittsburg’s population has dropped more than 300 over the past decade has city leaders questioning the accuracy of the count.

According to the census, the town’s population has dropped from 3,295 in 2000 to 2,992 in 2010.

South Pittsburg Mayor Mike Killian said the town may have lost some residents, but he doesn’t believe the numbers are right.

“The census says that we have lost population,” he said. “I know a mistake was made with the 2000 census. We’re not panicking about it, but we are going to go back and look at it ourselves with the resources that we have.”

In 2000, South Pittsburg got the same census population figure as in 1990, Killian said.

“From a statistical standpoint, that’s impossible,” he said. “I am certain that we did not keep the exact number of 3,295 in the last two censuses. [The new census] makes it look like we’ve lost around 300 people in the last 10 years, but I think we probably lost about half that.”

South Pittsburg resident David Abbott said he knows the 2010 census numbers are off by at least four.

“I live in a household of four, and I know we weren’t counted,” he said. “I called, and they said they’d have somebody come out [to my house], but we never saw them.”

Officials said there was a dramatic drop from 2000 in the number of hired census takers coming into City Hall to ask for directions or addresses.

“We can appeal [the numbers], but what we’re going to do first is gather information on our households,” Killian said. “We have the ability to get an almost exact number on our households, and so we’ll just do our own survey to see where we stand.”

City administrators plan to use the public housing and utilities departments to collect more accurate information, but Killian said he won’t be surprised if the town has lost some residents.

“It’s not that unusual given the economic situation that the cities are gaining population and the small towns are losing it,” he said. “We know jobs have a lot to do with that, but we feel like we’re doing what we need to do to hold our population.”

Contact Ryan Lewis at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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