WARREN, Pa. – The declining population of Warren County is on the minds of the Warren City Council.
John Wortman, Council-Vice President, raised the issue during Monday’s meeting, with recent Census data showing a 7.7 drop in population over the last 10 years to 38,587, the lowest county population since the 1890 Census.
“Warren County’s population has not increased in 50 years,” Wortman said. “We as a government agency must try to mitigate this pattern from continuing. This should be a top priority for elected officials and municipal leaders. Doing nothing and not trying new ideas is unacceptable. Quite frankly, this is the most important issue for us.”
Added Mayor Maurice Cashman: “The best way (to increase population) is through economic development. Unfortunately, I think they have found it’s hard to attract people into rural areas for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop working at it. Every rural community that I know of is looking for solutions.”
Wortman and Councilman Greg Fraser raised the issue of a lack of internet access throughout the county as a reason for the population drop.
“I’m speculating, but I think part of the reason the (population) drop in the city is less than the county is internet accessibility,” Wortman said.
“I would like to see an analysis,” Fraser said. “One of the fundamentals has got to be internet access. We need world-class broadband or internet access.”
Wortman also keyed in on identifying the demographics as a key issue.
“Once you identify the demographic that is leaving, you can address it,” Wortman said.
Added Fraser: “Is it senior citizens leaving or dying? Is it college-aged people who don’t think they can realize their potential here? I think that would be useful information in developing policy.”
Cashman admitted that it is a less than ideal situation.
“It’s a difficult situation in a rural area,” Cashman said. “Those of us who live here love it here.”