New population estimates show St. C. narrowly maintaining city status

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — While some Ohio cities, such as Columbus, have increased in population, many others including St. Clairsville have declined.

According to the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Belmont County has decreased in population by an average annual rate of change of 0.05 percent. In 2017, Belmont County had a population of 67,956. The latest population estimates show Belmont County at 67,505 as of July 1, 2018, a decrease of 451 people from the year prior.

In fact, almost every township, village, and city in Belmont County decreased in population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The only one to increase was the village of Belmont, which went from an estimated population of 438 in 2017 to an estimated population of 440 in the latest census estimate in 2018.

St. Clairsville narrowly remains above the 5,000 threshold for city status, coming in at an estimated population of 5,012. That marks a decrease of 31 people from 2017’s estimated population of 5,043. The city has slowly declined since 2010, when the estimated population was 5,186. An average annual rate of change of negative 0.4 percent.

St. Clairsville Mayor Terry Pugh says that the news is unfortunate and that he hopes the population will not go any lower than it is currently estimated. If St. Clairsville falls below a population of 5,000, it will lose city status. Pugh said he was hoping the addition of the new Senior Suites area via annexation would bring in more residents and add to the city’s population, but that hasn’t quite happened just yet. He said he’s hoping with the proposed Dilles Bottom PTTGC-Daelim ethane cracker plant will become a reality and create more jobs and potentially bring in additional manufacturing, which in turn will bring in more residents.

Families grow up here, and whether it is higher education, because of weather, whatever the reason, young adults are not staying around here, Pugh said, but that might change with new plant and new jobs.

Mayor Pugh said there are very little vacant houses in the city of St. Clairsville, there are however, a multitude of rental properties. The big question the mayor has is whether or not the oil and gas workers are being counted in the census. He is hoping once the gas and oil industry becomes stabilized, there will be more permanent residents.

He hopes the figures turn around and increase in the upcoming year and plans to do everything in his power to ensure everyone is counted.

“We’ll try our best to stay at the magic number 5,000,” Mayor Pugh said.

Mayor Pugh said that Planning and Zoning Administrator Tom Murphy found that a street in St. Clairsville was not being included in the census in the previous year.

Murphy said that in previous years, the census failed to include a road in St. Clairsville. He has taken all the steps to rectify the mistake and hopes that everyone will be included and counted in the 2020 Census.

“These estimates are just that, they are not 100 percent accurate,” Murphy said.

He plans to look more closely at the 2020 Census for a more accurate count of residents and wants to urge residents to make sure they are counted in the upcoming census.

The only other remaining city in Belmont County, Martins Ferry, showed a negative 0.6 percent annual rate of change. The city is still well above the threshold of city status. The newest population estimates the city of Martins Ferry at 6,596 as opposed to the year prior estimate of 6,653, a drop of 57 people.

Martins Ferry Mayor Bob Krajnyak said that he thinks the estimates are fairly accurate, but hopes it is low.

One factor Krajnyak contributes to the decrease in population is the coal mines and steel mills closing down.

“We’ve been a relatively depressed area since the coal mines and steel mills started declining, and other than the Mingo plant opening back up, the steel mills are all pretty much shut down in this area. It’s just a matter of trying to find other industries to take over and the announcement of the cracker plant might be just that “ he said.

Like Pugh, Krajnyak hopes that with the development of the cracker plant jobs will be created, thus bringing more people to the area. He hopes that once the announcement of the cracker plant is made, it will attract additional manufactures and businesses to the area.

The number one factor that will bring people back to the area is jobs, Krajnyak said.

According to the Census Bureau, the village of Bellaire had a loss of 37 residents from July, 2017 to July, 2018. In 2010, the population was estimated at 4,196. In 2017, Bellaire had an estimated population of 4,101 and in the latest estimate, the village had a population of 4,064, a negative 0.6 percent average annual rate of change from 2010.

As of July 2018, the village of Bridgeport has also decreased in population. The village now has an estimated population of 1,751, a lose of 13 residents from the year prior. Like Bellaire, Bridgeport also has a negative average annual rate of change of 0.6 percent from 2010, when the village had a population of 1,839.

The village of Barnesville has an average annual rate of change of negative 0.5 percent since 2010, in which they had a population of 4,196. The latest population estimates the village at 4,039. In the year prior, it was estimated of having a population of 4,070.

Most of Belmont County has slowly decreased in population over the past ten years. Only time will tell if these numbers will continue to decline or if the possibility of new industry development, job opportunities, and gas and oil stability will aid in a steady rise in population.

The 2020 Census should tell the tale and provide a fairly accurate reading of estimated population.