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Black Belt losing population

Pine Apple may be the state’s fastest growing town, and Huntsville its city with the most new residents, but the U.S. Census Bureau’s release of its population estimates this week – the most recent indications of growth since the 2000 census – paints a different picture in the western half of the Black Belt.

Of the 15 incorporated areas in Marengo, Hale, Greene, Perry and Sumter counties, just three showed any signs of growth, and only tiny Emelle with its 31 inhabitants remained steady between 2000 and the recently released July 1, 2003 estimates.

Forkland’s population increased by 3, up to 632 residents 2000’s 629. It had suffered a loss two-person loss in

between 2001 and 2002 however.

Marion was another high point in the region, also posting a three-person increase between 2000 and 2003. According to Census data, a spike there occurred in 2002 when 3,531 people were reported living there.

In extreme northern Hale County, Moundville, just 13 miles south of Tuscaloosa on Alabama Highway 69 posted a modest gain of nearly 200 residents in the three-year time span of the government’s report. Census figures reveal that in 2000, 1,809 people lived in Moundville, compared with the most recent figures of 1,997 – the result of four years of steady growth.

But in the region’s major cities of Demopolis, York, Livingston, Linden, Greensboro and Uniontown, the data indicates a slow, but steady decline in numbers.

The 2000 census reported 7,540 residents in Demopolis, compared to 2003, when 7,372, a decrease of 213 souls, or about 3 percent of the population.

Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell doesn’t put a lot of stock in population estimates, particularly after a hotly contested 2000 Census nationwide.

“My personal opinion is that (estimates) are not reliable at all, particularly because the Census was 10 percent off from our projections,” he said.

The city can project its population from water meter customers, home starts and residences.

“New homes have been build, houses are hard to find in the community and rental property is relatively non-existant so I feel like there’s not been any loss of population and my personal opinion is that it would be the other way – a gain since the 2000 Census,” he said.

Caldwell backs up his stance by pointing to new housing starts in the city. New construction requires a permit from city hall and the city can easily track the numbers.

“New home construction has not dropped in Demopolis,” he said. “In fact, we get one or two new home permits requested every month and sometimes three or four, so it sounds to me like there would be an increase in population rather than a decrease,” he said.

Livingston was the region’s next largest looser, posting a net loss of 194 residents over the same period, from 3,297 in 2000 to 3,103 in 2003. Livingston was closely followed by York, which lost 157 residents to a 2,697 level, down from 2000’s 2,854.

Greensboro’s population stands at 2,644, down 87 from the 2000 Census with Uniontown closely kniping at its heels.

Uniontown saw a decrease of 81 residents since the 2000 Census, leaving its population at 1,555.

Back in Marengo County, Linden lost 50 people to a 2,374-person level and the Greene County Seat Eutaw saw population totals drop off 31 to 1,844 residents.

Cuba dropped 21 people to 342. Boligee lost five residents to a current population of 364, while Newbern’s population decreased by two to 229.