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Census shows town grew, city shrunk

If the planned merger of the City and Town of Batavia reaches its goal of "One Batavia," it will be a smaller city and larger town, according to the 2010 U.S. Census figures.

The city, whose population peaked in 1960 at 18,219, is now 15,465, a loss of 15 percent. Meanwhile, the town's population in the latest census is 6,809, an increase of 960 residents, or 15 percent, in the decade. Thirty years ago, the town's count was about 5,400.

The survey shows that 11 of Genesee County's 19 villages and towns showed a drop in population, most less than 1 percent. The only other significant gain came in the Village of Alexander, which grew nearly 6 percent to top 500 residents.

Batavia lost its three major industries in a 20-year period that began when Massey-Ferguson closed in 1958. Doehler-Jarvis, then a division of National Lead, and Sylvania Products shut down in the late 1970s.

Meanwhile, the town has grown not only in population but in retail space. The Towns Centre at Batavia -- anchored by Target and Lowe's, with a Walmart across the street -- has 16 shops and services and is one of three strip malls adjacent to the city's northwest border.

The town has no real property tax, but residents pay for sewer, water and fire districts. The city has a property tax plus fees for water and sewer.

The proposed merger, already under study for two years, is viewed with suspicion by many town residents who fear they will inherit the city's problems, including debts. However, that is not true, and annual savings through consolidation of services could reach $1 million in a "One Batavia," proponents say.

A Consolidated Charter Task Force with eight city and town residents will soon begin work on a charter that would erase the borders of a town that surrounds the city. A vote is scheduled for November 2012 and must be approved by a majority in both municipalities.

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