City of Lacombe council voted to spend $35,000 on a municipal census this year. Black Press file photo

Lacombe to do a head count this year

Most recent population numbers are three years old

Fast-growing Lacombe is going to do its first municipal census since 2014.

The last population count for Lacombe was done as part of the federal census, which is done every five years. The last was done in 2016 and pegged the population at 13,057.

The 2016 federal census showed that Lacombe had solid growth over the previous five years. Lacombe’s population was up 11.5 per cent from the 11,707 counted in 2011.

“One of the main reasons to complete a census is to have the most accurate and most current numbers to allow a municipality to maximize their gain from grant funding,” said Diane Piché, director of corporate services, told city council on Monday.

Lacombe receives about $210 in per capita grants. The population count would only have to grow by 167 people to cover the cost of the census, said Piché.

Additional grant money will not arrive until 2020 so council had to vote to set aside $35,000 in this year’s budget to do a census.

City staff are pretty sure the population has increased since the last census. There were 5,531 dwellings identified in a “desktop” count of houses, apartments, condos, multiplex and secondary suites.

An average of 2.7 people per household live in Lacombe based on population divided by dwellings in the last census.

Using that math, the population of Lacombe could be well over 14,000.

“That would be a significant increase in grant funding for the city,” she said.

Chief administrative officer Matthew Goudy said the city must provide the infrastructure necessary for its population so if the count is low the municipality is not getting all the money it should to maintain that infrastructure.

Lacombe plans to use census software, which allows for online census responses with traditional door-to-door head counts.

Airdrie has used the software and found 73 per cent success rate for the online census, which meant a lot less door knocking for enumerators.

Lacombe used the same software in 2014 and got a 30 per cent response. That number is expected to go up as more people go online regularly. April 2 will be the official census date and final numbers must be submitted to the province by Sept. 1.

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