After spending some vacation time at the beach last week, Knightdale Town Manager Seth Lawless came back to a report that let him know more work was ahead.
While he was gone, the U.S. Census said Knightdale is the fastest growing town in the state.
According to the report, the town’s population increased by 24.5 percent to more than 10,000 between July 1, 2008 and July 1, 2009.
“Knightdale’s been growing at a pretty good clip for quite a while,” said Lawless. “In a previous report we were in the top 10. It’s nice to get some recognition for what’s been going on for several years.”
Lawless said the growth had boosted tax revenues at a time when it was especially needed.
“While budget times are difficult everywhere, but it has been not nearly as difficult here as in other places,” he said.
Lawless said water and sewer infrastructure is in place for future growth, but its fast pace is not a given. In fact, Knightdale's current population is less than the population projection of 13,998 for July 2010 that was made during water and sewer merger agreements with the city of Raleigh.
That means the town had to raise its water and sewer rates 15 percent this year to try to catch up on its debt to Raleigh.
“We expect to see continued development, but at what pace, it remains to be seen. That’s a little outside of our control. We are as ready as we can be,” he said.
He said the challenge is making sure the town doesn’t get too far out in front of or too far behind the service needs of the population.
A fire station in southwest Knightdale is a good example of that measured approach, he said. Two years ago, Knightdale was ready to build a $1.5 million fire station. “Even with the growth we have had, we found a better way to provide that service because there just weren’t as many rooftops in the southwest part of town that we thought there’d be by now,” he said.
The town contracted for fire services with the Eastern Wake Fire Department that serves rural Knightdale.
Lawless said the census report didn’t take the town by surprise. He said the town’s internal estimates showed an even greater population at 10,970 than the census report.
“They’ve been (the internal estimates) accurate previously,” he said. “It will be interesting to see the actual results of the (2010) census when they come in December or January.”