Census says Lawton population down, city officials beg to differ

Lawton_Lawton residents have heard many times that the Lawton-Fort Sill area is expected to grow because of new military missions at Fort Sill, but on Thursday a new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau estimates Comanche County's population actually has shrunk by about three-percent over the past eight years. The news came as a surprise for a lot of folks - including the Chamber of Commerce, city leaders, and local realtors. They say they don't believe it's true. According the Census Bureau the three-percent population drop is an estimate that factors in births, deaths, and migrations, compared years dating back to 2000. The chamber disagreed with the numbers in 2000 as well.

There's new construction, heavier traffic, and more retail stores, which some would say is a sign of population growth - not shrinkage - according to the Census Bureau. Lawton's City Manager says a study recently released by Oklahoma State University projects Lawton and Comanche County will grow by about 7% over the next three years. "We do know these numbers are going to change dramatically between now and when the actual census is taken, between now and next year," said Mitchell.

Some, including the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce, say they believe the census numbers were wrong in 2000, and if it is using incorrect numbers from that year, then maybe this year's estimate also is wrong. However, they say that with Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) there will be a more gradual increase as troops won't be in place until August of this year.

Mitchell says there has been another study by the Great Plains Technology Center projecting a significant population growth over the next few years, and that should reflect in the 2010 census.