- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota’s Meade County has made the U.S. Census Bureau’s Top 10 list of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, according to figures released Thursday.

The western South Dakota county’s population grew by 4.3 percent from July 1, 2012, to July 1, 2013, marking the eighth-highest percentage climb for counties with more than 10,000 residents.

Meade County added 1,132 residents to boost its population from 26,070 to 27,202. The Census Bureau says the increase included 955 new residents migrating to the county.

Meade’s county seat is Sturgis, but a lot of the population growth has been in the area around Piedmont, which sits between Sturgis and Rapid City, said Meade County Commission Chairman Alan Aker.

“The school district built a new school that was supposed to fill up over the next 20 years, and it’s full in just its second year of being open,” Aker said. “So something is happening.”

New construction has also continued in the town of Summerset, which was incorporated in 2005, and Box Elder has also seen a lot of growth, Aker said.

“A lot of people don’t realize that half of Box Elder is in Meade County and half is in Pennington, so there’s a lot of affordable housing out in that area of the county,” he said.

Sturgis, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Black Hills each summer for its annual motorcycle rally, continues to grow and add jobs, said Heidi Kruse, executive director of the Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce.

Kruse said the city is working to build more housing to keep up with the demand.

“I think there’s room for growth in Sturgis,” Kruse said. “We maybe don’t have the rooftops to accommodate it, but we’re working on it.”

Topping the U.S. Census Bureau’s national list is Williams County, N.D., in the Bakken oil patch, with a 10.7 percent increase from 2013.

South Dakota’s Lincoln County ranked 26th with 3.3 percent growth to 49,858 residents, continuing a trend that began in the 1990s. The county that’s home to the south side of Sioux Falls grew by 86 percent from 2000 to 2010, on top of 56 percent growth in the previous decade.

Also in the nation’s Top 100 for South Dakota are Minnehaha County, which grew by 2.4 percent to rank 71st, and Lawrence County, which came in at 86th with 2.2 percent growth.

Meade County’s growth could be affected by some anomalies. The Census Bureau missed entire blocks of the county in 2010, Aker said, and the new numbers could be picking up those residents. And the conversion of Ellsworth Air Force Base housing in Box Elder to regular community housing could be adding new residents missed in prior censuses, he said.

In Piedmont, the school district is looking at building a new middle school and the area will eventually need a high school, as students currently have to drive to Sturgis or Rapid City.

“It’s a real problem for the community because all our kids are driving quite a distance to do any activities,” he said. “We’re also not getting the community feeling you get from having a high school that’s local.”


Follow Dirk Lammers on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ddlammers

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