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Putnam, Lincoln shifted to Huntington metro area

Charleston officials are concerned about the potential impact of a federal decision to move Lincoln and Putnam counties to the Huntington-Ashland, Ky., metropolitan statistical area.

The Charleston metro area's population dropped by about 77,000 residents to 227,000 as a result of the change.

Mayor Danny Jones told the Charleston Gazette ( ) that the change could make Charleston less attractive to new businesses or new residents.

"It can only help the western end of the state and hurt our part," Jones said. "Somebody that's looking at it from afar could be reluctant to move here."

The U.S. Office of Management Budget uses a set formula to draw boundaries for metropolitan statistical areas every 10 years following the census. The agency determined that Lincoln and Putnam counties have stronger commuting ties with Huntington than with Charleston.

"Without question we have strong ties to Putnam, so in that respect it's a bit disappointing," said Mark Ballard, president of the Charleston Area Alliance. "They used a pure data approach, and while I'm normally all about data, if you are on the ground here you know how tied together these communities are."

Putnam County had been part of the Charleston metro area since 1973. Lincoln County was added in 2003. The change, which was effective Feb. 28, leaves the Charleston metro area with Kanawha, Boone and Clay counties. The Huntington-Ashland metro area also includes Cabell and Wayne counties, two counties in Kentucky and one county in Ohio.

The designations provide a way to have standardized measurements of metropolitan areas' sizes and where they lie. They are only for statistical purposes, according to the OMB's website.

However, the federal Government Accountability Office compiled a list of 35 federal funding programs that rely on the metropolitan statistical area designations in some way when they were last changed a decade ago.

Most of these programs have no bearing on Charleston or use the designations in an obscure or inconsequential way.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Brian Sullivan said the changes would not affect Charleston's Community Development Block Grants because the funding formula uses the city's population, and not the entire metro area.

But Sullivan said automatic federal budget cuts reduced the city's grant for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.


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