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Census paints a bleak picture of Ohio Valley

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register file photo Demolition of old buildings has become a common sight in Ohio Valley communities that continue to see declines in population. This block in downtown Wheeling was flattened in 2012, the middle of a four-year period in which the city shrank by 696 people.
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register file photo
Demolition of old buildings has become a common sight in Ohio Valley communities that continue to see declines in population. This block in downtown Wheeling was flattened in 2012, the middle of a four-year period in which the city shrank by 696 people.

WHEELING, W.Va. — Since 2010, the city of Wheeling has lost an estimated 696 residents, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

During that same time period, Moundsville lost 427 residents, while Weirton lost 384. Steubenville has an estimated 356 fewer residents than in 2010.

According to the Census Bureau, Wheeling had 27,790 residents in 2014, a decline of 2.42 percent since the 2010 Census. The 2010 Census had the city with 28,486 residents, while the 2011 estimate came in at 28,297 residents; 2012, 28,220 residents; and 2013, 28,053.

 

At the 2000 Census, Wheeling had 31,477 residents. In 14 years, the city has lost 3,687 residents – nearly 12 percent of its population.

Wheeling Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey sees the numbers as the product of an aging population in which the death rate exceeds the birth rate, rather than people making the decision to leave the area as was the case during the 1970s and 1980s, when Wheeling lost almost 28 percent of its population.

“It’s not because people are packing their bags and moving to Columbus,” he said. “More people are going to heaven than are being put on earth, is the truth of the matter.”

Fahey said Wheeling has low crime and good schools – and, he believes, a job market on the rebound. It’s just a matter of getting the word out, he said.

“I feel very good about what’s happening. … Now the question comes to marketing ourselves for people to come here,” Fahey said.

Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie is quick to point out the annual estimates are no more than educated guesses. At the time of the 2010 Census, he said, the oil and gas industry was just beginning to take root in the area, and he believes it may be until the next official census in 2020 before it shows up in the population count.

“There’s no way for them to guess how many oil and gas workers have made permanent residence in the Ohio Valley,” McKenzie said of the Census Bureau.

In West Virginia, Charleston remains the only city with more than 50,000 residents, while Morgantown is now the state’s third-largest city.

Census estimates released Thursday show Charleston had 50,404 residents in 2014. That’s down about 1,000 from the 2010 Census. The estimates show Huntington remains the second-largest city at 48,807, losing about 330 residents since the 2010 Census.

Morgantown is the third largest at 31,073 residents. The home of West Virginia University has grown by 4.7 percent in four years.

Parkersburg has seen a population drop of about 500 residents since the 2010 Census and slipped to fourth at 30,981 residents.

In Ohio, Martins Ferry remained Belmont County’s largest city with an estimated 6,814 residents. The only other city in Belmont County is St. Clairsville, with an estimated 5,122 residents.

In Jefferson County, Steubenville remains the largest city with an estimated 18,303 residents.

Toronto, meanwhile, remains in danger of being demoted from city to village status in 2020, as its estimated population dropped to 4,911, down from 5,091 in 2010.

A municipality must have 5,000 people to be classified as a city in Ohio.

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