ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The resident count was completed in 2020, but it was still a few months before area municipalities knew the results of the U.S. census.
Census data indicates that while Belmont County’s overall population has declined over the past decade, there are still two towns in the county and local leaders have said they see potential for recovery. It was feared that the county seat of St. Clairsville would lose its city status. In Ohio, a community must have 5,000 residents to be considered a city.
Early estimates put the population at just above the 5,000 threshold. But census data released in August put St. Clairsville’s population at 5,096. St. Clairsville Planning and Zoning Administrator Tom Murphy led the effort to encourage residents to participate in the count.
He said maintaining city status was key to securing funding for current and future projects in St. Clairsville, including renovating the water distribution system and establishing a connection to Belmont County. to buy water.
“St. Clairsville’s goal was to retain city status, and we did that,” Murphy said. “It was a decrease from 2010. There were 5,184 of us…however, with last year being the year of the pandemic and people being worried that someone would come to their door, I’m sure it had a bit embarrassed the county.
“And St. Clairsville has changed over the past 10 years,” He continued. “With the oil and gas industry, there was a lot of transient population…who weren’t permanent residents, staying in apartments, and as they were only there for a short time, they weren’t able to -be not as interested in completing the Census for St. Clairsville.
Murphy said that going forward, the city will continue to consider annexing unused properties around the company boundary and tapping utility lines into those areas for development, as well as developing vacant lots inside the city for both businesses and residences.
“The future is looking really good” St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce Director Wendy Anderson said, noting the lack of vacant buildings in the city. “We’re bringing more people to St. Clairsville, so they can see what a wonderful city it is.”
According to the census’s quick facts page, which includes information on municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more, Martins Ferry, the most populous town in Belmont County, also saw a decline from 6,915 to 6,260 residents.
“We hold on” Martins Ferry service manager Andy Sutak said. “We have lost people who have moved. I think all communities encourage people to move to outlying areas and townships.
The Reverend William Webster of Grace Presbyterian Church in Martins Ferry had chaired the county committee to promote cooperation in the census.
“Belmont County now ranks 36th out of 88 counties in the state. We have 66,497 residents, which represents a 5.5 (percent) decrease in population over the past 10 years,” said Webster.
The 2010 census put Belmont County’s population at 70,400 in 2010. Webster said the county lost 3,903 people in 10 years. Webster believes the decrease is due to more and better job opportunities elsewhere and people refusing to participate.
“I thought our population would decrease. We’ve seen so many people in our area who moved from here because of jobs and didn’t come back here because of jobs. I’m not surprised by the decrease in population – I’m surprised by the amount: 5% for the county isn’t bad.
County officials were not surprised by the reports.
“It’s great news that St. Clairsville will remain a city,” said commissioner Jerry Echemann. “The county as a whole, I’m not really surprised that we lost 5%. It is a trend that continues. I think at some point we will see this trend slow down and the pendulum will hopefully swing back the other way.
He said the Commissioners and Port Authority will continue to work to create local opportunities for business and development.
Martins Ferry in October received its proclamation from the state of Ohio that it officially remains a city. Mayor John Davies said the city received the letter from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose along with the Certificate of Proclamation that the 2020 federal census shows the city has a population of 6,260.
Davies said the city had lost about 1,000 people, but he thinks the latest census figure may be wrong.
“I believe we have more than that. I think with COVID, the pandemic, it slowed her down,” he said of the count. “We are still the largest city in Belmont County.”
LaRose’s letter states, “The official results of the 2020 federal census indicate that your municipality has a population of over 5,000 people. Accordingly, I am sending you a Proclamation of City Status, as required by Ohio Revised Code 703.06. »
The Census Fast Facts page can be viewed at censum.gov.