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Forsyth County population up 4 percent

Officials say boom has positives, negatives



FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — It’s said and discussed all the time: Forsyth County’s population is growing rapidly. And now there are statistics to confirm it.

According to recent data by the U.S. Census Bureau, the county’s population rose 4.03 percent last year from 212,438 in 2015, to 221,009 in 2016. That’s a nearly 26 percent increase from 2010 when the Forsyth population was estimated at 175,511.

Forsyth Board of Commissioners Chairman Todd Levent said the county has a lot of things in place that are attractive to people.

“There are articles throughout the nation that tell people this is one of the best places to live and raise a family,” Levent said. “That in itself attracts people wanting to live here. With our schools, amazing parks systems and public safety, it’s a great place to live.”

Along with that growth come growing pains or as Levent calls it, “solvable challenges,” including roads and overcrowded schools.

“We are getting the roads to accommodate all the additional traffic,” Levent said. “We have a lot of things in place that are already in the works to resolve those issues, including the transportation bond that citizens passed in 2014, SPLOST dollars and our phenomenal relationship with the state and Georgia Department of Transportation. The transportation bond had $81 million that we gave to (GDOT) when they didn’t have a good funding source. Now they do, and they appreciated our help and are now helping us out in return.”

The school system also is impacted by the rise in population but is “doing a wonderful job” keeping up with the inflation, Levent said.

“They have their challenges with the growth by making sure there are enough seats and that classes are not overcrowded,” Levent said. “They’ve got a new elementary and middle school that opened last year, and will be opening the new Denmark High School this fall.”

But whether the growth will be good or bad is in the eye of the beholder, Levent said.

“You have to have some growth for your economy,” Levent said. “Otherwise people leave because there are no jobs. You have to try to find that balance. The better balance might be 2.5 — 3 percent. But we also have a growth in our commercial business, which is good and helps balance the tax digests and keeps us from having to raise the millage rate.”

Either up or down, the population will directly affect many parts of the community.

“Obviously, growth creates all kinds of challenges, but so does lack of growth,” Levent said. “When we go to commissioner conventions, we talk to ones across the state who don’t have enough money to replace 15-year-old police cars, and we have state-of-the-art equipment for ours. There are two sides to the spectrum and you have to decide which balance you like in life and the way you choose to live.”

In 2016, Forsyth was ranked by the Census the 11th fastest-growing county out of the 100 fastest-growing U.S. counties with 10,000 or more residents.

Long County, south of Savannah and near Jesup, took the top spot for the state. It saw a rise of 27.7 percent from 2010-16, with a population estimate of 18,437 in 2016, up 3.98 percent from 2015-16.

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