Friday, August 19, 2016

TOP STORY >> Census shows mixed results

Leader staff writer

The population news presented at the Lonoke County Quorum Court during its Thursday meeting was mixed. Lonoke County’s overall population grew less than 1 percent from 2010 to 2015, and two of its four cities saw declines.

According to an Aug. 2 Metroplan report, Austin experienced the greatest percentage in growth, up 33.9 from 2010 through 2015, while Cabot grew by 2,111 residents during the same period. Cabot was listed as one of central Arkansas’ top cities experiencing an increase.

Austin grew by 691 people.

JP Henry Lang, a lifelong Cabot resident, said he’s seen the city’s population go from less than 2,000 in 1965 to its present population of about 25,887.

He said he wasn’t surprised by the Metroplan report. In fact, he said he predicts the growth will continue because of the proximity of the Air Force base at Jacksonville, and he said many Cabot residents work in Little Rock and North Little Rock.

“It’s a nice area,” he said.

Ward came in second in percentage growth, up by 20.9 percent or by 852 residents, while Lonoke’s population rose by only .8 percent, or by 32 people.

JP Bill Ryker of Lonoke is pleased and encouraged with his city’s growth.

Although small, he said it reverses past trends. In 2009, Lonoke had about 4,677 residents, but the population dropped until 2010 when it bottomed at 4,253 residents.

It’s now at 4,277.

Carlisle’s population fell by 16 and England’s by 53.

He said he hopes the new I-40 interchange and programs like Kick Start Lonoke will foster more growth.

Overall, Lonoke County grew by .9 percent during 2010 and 2015, and at a slower rate than between 1990 and 2010. The northern portion of the county is growing at a faster pace than the southern half, which remains an agricultural area, Ryker said.

Lonoke County Treasurer Patti Weathers presented the information from Metroplan to the justices of the peace.


Deborah Swayne Moore, Lonoke County Library System director, reported that most of its numbers increased since 2015. So far this year, she said circulation is up 30 percent over the same period last year.

She said the system’s four libraries are issuing more cards and renewing old ones at record rates so far this year. That number is up 50 percent over the same period in 2015, she said.

Also, she said 12,229 patrons participated in their 2016 Summer Reading Program at the Cabot Public Library, and that overall computer usage and total library visits climbed higher with each quarter in 2015.

For example, during the first quarter of 2015, about 38,112 visited the county’s libraries, while that number rose to 46,656 during the last quarter. Computer usage by patrons during the same period went from 6,623 to 7,649 log-ons.

The system has libraries in Lonoke, Carlisle, Cabot and England.

“The role of the library is changing, and we’re trying to let people know where we are and what services we offer,” Moore said. In particular, she said they are trying to engage more elementary age children through school field trips and other programs.

Moore also requested and received $25,000 from the quorum court to develop a five-year strategic plan for the library system that will run through 2022. The current plan expires at the end of 2017.

“We just started the process last week,” she said. It will include looking at various statistics such as “population growth and population trends, and where people live versus where they work and how that influences library usage.”

“It will not be a cookie-cutter plan, but we will look at the needs of each library,” she said.

“We want it to be unbiased,” so they will hire an outside firm to oversee the research and develop a comprehensive plan, Moore said.


The quorum court decided to begin the process of filling the vacancy left by JP Matt Sanders, who moved out of the county earlier this summer.

Resolution 2016-10 will allow Gov. Asa Hutchinson to appoint a replacement to fill the District 12 seat through the end of the year.

In November, Lonoke County voters will decide who will fill the seat for the next two years.

In other business:

JPs unanimously approved $10,000 for ammo and weapons for the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office.

JP Tim Odom was absent from the meeting Thursday.

The next Lonoke County Quorum Court meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15 at the Lonoke County Courthouse Annex at 210 N. Center St.