Census shows east-west divide in Franklin County

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Census shows east-west divide in Franklin County

Sun, 09/19/2021 - 4:01pm -- tim

by Michelle Monroe, Vermont Business Magazine Census data from Vermont’s fourth most populous county reflects ongoing population trends in Vermont and around the world – people leaving rural areas for more urbanized ones.

Communities on the western side of Franklin County, which benefit from proximity to Chittenden County, home to the state’s largest city and Vermont’s economic powerhouse, gained population. Those on the more rural eastern side lost.

Fairfax, which borders Chittenden County, had the biggest gain percentage wise, adding 729 people to bring its total population to 5,014, a 17 percent increase.

Neighboring Georgia, which also borders Chittenden County, added 330 people to bring its population to 4,845.

St Albans Town, which completely surrounds St Albans City, had the largest population increase, adding 989 people to bring its total population to 6,988, an increase of 16.5 percent. Much of the town’s growth has been in areas closest to the two-square-mile city.

The city showed a slight drop of 41 people, with its population now at 6,877. However, the census was conducted before 60 new apartments were completed in the downtown. They are now full.

Swanton, too, showed growth, as did Fairfield, historically a farming community and the state’s largest producer of maple syrup. Fletcher, like Fairfield, is a small town within commuting distance of Chittenden County. It added 69 people, bringing its population to 1,346.

The county’s remaining smaller communities generally lost population.

Berkshire led the way with a loss of 145 people, although this differs from the experience of its school in recent years. In 2010, Berkshire Elementary School had 171 students, by 2015 that number was 221.

Until this year, student enrollment at the PreK-8 school had remained around 220, with some fluctuations from year to year. School officials had previously indicated some of the increase was due to more farm workers and their families living on local farms.

The towns of Bakersfield, Franklin, Highgate, and Sheldon all lost between 40 and 70 people. Montgomery, which benefits from its proximity to Jay Peak, lost 17.

Despite being a small town on the county’s eastern edge, Richford gained 38 people, bringing its population to 2,346. The community was once an industrial town and still boasts a large number of attractive 19th century homes.

Because of its more affordable housing, many of those who work in factories on the county’s western towns of Georgia, St Albans and Swanton, live in Richford, commuting 45 minutes to work.

Richford also retains two industrial operations, Blue Seal Feeds, which makes animal feed, and Kaytec, Inc, a Canadian firm that makes vinyl siding.

Enosburgh, which straddles the county’s east-west divide, also had a modest population gain, adding 29 people to bring its total to 2,810.

One of the primary uses of the census is to assign representation in legislatures. For Vermont, which has only one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, that means changes to representation in the state house.

The Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI) has calculated that the change in the state’s population means each member of the Vermont House would ideally represent 4,287 people and each Senator 21,436.

Franklin County has two senators representing the Grand Isle County town of Alburgh and all of Franklin County except Richford and Montgomery which are part of the Essex-Orleans Senate district.

The Franklin County district now has 5,650 more residents than is ideal, according to VCGI, while the Essex-Orleans district is shy of the ideal by 4,359 residents.

On the House side, the biggest changes are to Franklin-1, a single seat district representing Georgia, and Franklin-2, a single seat district representing Fairfax. Both districts now exceed the recommended population for a single representative by more than 10 percent.

Franklin 3-1 is a two-person district encompassing all of St Albans City and a slice of the town. St Albans Town has another representative for the remainder of the town, in Franklin 3-2. Both districts now exceed the ideal size.

The only Franklin County House district now representing fewer people than the ideal is Franklin-7. Covering Enosburgh and Montgomery, it has fewer than 4,000 people.

TOWN

2020 POPULATION

CHANGE SINCE 2010

% CHANGE SINCE 2010

Bakersfield

1,273

-49

-3.7%

Berkshire

1,547

-145

-8.6%

Enosburgh

2,810

+29

+1%

Faifax

5,014

+729

+17%

Fairfield

2,044

+153

+8.3%

Fletcher

1,346

+69

+5.4%

Franklin

1,363

-42

-3%

Georgia

4,845

+330

+7.3%

Highgate

3,472

-63

-1.8%

Montgomery

1,184

-17

-1.4%

Richford

2,346

+38

+1.6%

St Albans City

6,877

-41

-0.6%

St Albans Town

6,988

+989

+16.5%

Sheldon

2,136

-54

-2.5%

Swanton

6,701

+274

+4.3%