I once suggested Hillsborough should get its own groundhog, along the lines of Punxsutawney Phil, or Milltown Mel. Now, with the release of the US Federal Census data, I'm thinking it would make better sense for our town mascot to be a snail.
During the past decade, Hillsborough's population increased just 4.6%. Not only is that the lowest percentage increase in a century, but the 1,669 residents added between 2000 and 2010 were the fewest since our town's first post-war population boom of the 1940s, when residents increased 46% from 2,645 in 1940 to 3,875 in 1950.
It was just four years ago, during the charter study to recommend a new form of government for the town, that some proponents of the mayor-council form of government cited Hillsborough's increasing population as one of the reasons we needed a "larger, more complex" form of government. We often heard Hillsborough's population estimated to be 40,000 or near 40,000. In fact, at the current rate of growth, it would take another full decade for Hillsborough to increase its population from the current 38,303 to 40,000.
How is this possible? Aren't houses going up everywhere, aren't the schools bursting with kids? No and no. Residents who have moved here during the past two decades sometimes have the mistaken notion that we have been in the midst of a building boom. Old-timers know the real boom was in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, with population increases each decade of 96%, 46%, 72%, and 51% respectively. The last big wave of residential development was in the 90s, when 8,000 newcomers moved in for an increase of just 27%. And as for the schools - there are about the same number of students in 2011 as there were in 2001, with projections for a slight downward trend over the next several years.
Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted an early spring, but I'm predicting 10 more years of slow stable snail's pace growth in Hillsborough.