JUNCTION CITY — Junction City moved a step closer to upgrading from a fifth-class city to a fourth-class city Thursday.
The state Senate voted 34-2 to change the classifications of Junction City in Boyle County, Guthrie in Todd County and Greensburg in Green County from fifth-class cities to fourth-class cities.
“It was just a simple, ‘the cities want reclassification to fourth class,’ and there it went,” state Sen. Tom Buford said about the vote.
But he said the bill may not go over so easily in the House.
Fifth-class cities have a population of at least 1,000 residents, while fourth-class cities have a population of more than 3,000.
During previous attempts to upgrade Junction’s class, House members remained skeptical of whether Junction City truly had passed the 3,000-person mark.
Buford said the Senate did not discuss specific population numbers before Thursday’s vote, but at least three population estimates are available to House members.
An estimate of more than 3,200 residents comes from a count conducted by Junction City in 2008, and an estimate of 3,214 comes from the Census Bureau’s 2005-2009 American Community Survey results, which were released in January.
Preliminary Census data provided to the legislature by the federal government also places Junction’s population above 3,000, Buford said.
Junction City Mayor Jim Douglas hopes House members react appropriately to these numbers, so the city can access larger grants available for fourth-class cities.
“(The population) has been documented before, and they didn’t pay attention,” he said. “Maybe they will this year.”
Official city-level data from the 2010 Census is not yet available, so state Rep. Mike Harmon of Boyle County said the bill may again hit a roadblock in the House.
“I think most of the people I’ve talked to would probably like to see the actual Census data,” he said.
The General Assembly predicts the federal government will release Kentucky’s official Census data before the end of the regular session, but legislators may not be able to review the data before their last day in March, Harmon said.
He noted that the 2000 Census estimated Junction City’s population at about 2,200, which is far below the threshold for a fourth-class city.
“Junction City very well could have grown by 800 people in the last 10 years,” he said.
The governor most likely will call the General Assembly into special session this spring for redistricting based on the new Census population counts.
However, it’s unlikely that the House would vote on the reclassification bill at that time, Harmon said.
If the bill isn’t called to a vote before the regular session ends, Junction City may have to hope for better luck next year once again.
This is the fourth time the Senate has approved a bill containing Junction City’s upgrade.