Adams, Milton-Freewater see region’s most growth

Milton-Freewater, known by many for its frog statues around town, saw an increase of 220 people between 2009 and 2010.

Adams was the fastest-growing community in the region for the year ending July 1, 2010, and Milton-Freewater added the most people.

Adams gained 30 people during 2009-2010 to reach a population of 365 by July 1. That’s a growth rate of nearly 9 percent.

Gilberta Lieuallen, former recorder, treasurer and water clerk, said she was surprised when she received a letter from the Portland State University Population Research Center that said the community could do its own census. This year, PSU allowed any city smaller than 500 to conduct its own count.

“We took that option,” she said, adding that her numbers were “as close as I could get it at that time.”

Lieuallen said no new homes were built in Adams in the past year, which is a measure PSU uses in larger communities. But several of the families that have occupied homes in Adams are larger than they were the year before, and some vacant homes have been occupied.

“Some families are larger and they like to live in little towns,” she said.

PSU officials released the 2010 population estimates last week. Oregon cities and counties have a month to review and comment on the estimates. Once they become final, the state uses the figures to determine city and county shares of cigarette, liquor and fuel taxes.

Milton-Freewater had the greatest growth of all area communities, gaining 220, or nearly 3.5 percent. The city grew to 6,685 by July 1, PSU officials said.

City Manager Linda Hall attributes the community’s growth to realistic housing prices and lower-cost utilities.

“We haven’t had any huge, big, snazzy housing developments,” she said. “We’re the turtle in the race. We don’t move as fast as some of our neighboring cities, but we move steadily.”

Hall said housing costs haven’t grown in Milton-Freewater as fast as they have in neighboring Walla Walla, Wash.

“I think our affordable housing has helped us,” she said, adding that some people who work in Walla Walla have chosen to live in Milton-Freewater.

Hall also said the city’s low-cost utilities help, too. The city owns and operates all utilities except telephone and natural gas franchises.

Irrigon’s growth rate, at 1.6 percent, exceeded Hermiston and Pendleton’s. Irrigon gained 30 to reach 1,910 on July 1.

Hermiston continued to outgrow Pendleton, gaining 165 in the past year to reach 16,380, or a rate of just a smidgen more than 1 percent.

“That’s right where we thought we would be,” said City Manager Ed Brookshier.

He acknowledged the city’s growth was slower than in prior years, “but consistent with the new housing we’re adding.”

Umatilla, too, grew more than Pendleton, gaining 40 to hit 6,570 as of July 1. That includes about 1,800 inmates at Two Rivers Correctional Institution. The city’s growth rate was .6 of a percent.

Pendleton remains the region’s largest city. PSU estimated its population at 17,545 on July 1, up 30 (.17 of a percent) from the year before. That includes about 1,600 inmates at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution.

“It’s a steady increase the city is experiencing,” said City Manager Larry Lehman. “Until we get more housing available, it’s going to be hard to increase our population by any significant amount.”

Lehman said city officials expect the population to increase as more housing becomes available.

“We’re really looking at that now, trying to find out what is the drawback in housing,” he said. “We have a committee working on that.”

Boardman rounded out the region’s growing communities for the year. PSU researchers estimated it grew by five to 3,400 as of July 1, a change of .15 of a percent.

All other communities in Umatilla and Morrow counties stayed the same size. None lost population in the past year.

Morrow County grew faster than Umatilla County. PSU reported that Morrow County gained 55 people in the past year to reach 12,595 by July 1, a growth rate of .44 of a percent. Umatilla County gained 290 during the year, growing to 72,720, a rate of .4 of a percent.

Gilliam County’s population remained stable at 1,885.

Statewide, Oregon’s population grew 20,730 in the year ended July 1 to 3,844,195, PSU reported. That’s an increase of .5 of a percent.

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