ROCKWELL CITY - The 2010 census dealt Rockwell City a heavy blow in the form of a 24.5 percent population drop.
That amounts to 555 people, and residents of the Calhoun County city were left wondering how that many folks could have left their town in the 10 years since the last census. Mayor Phil Heinlen noted that there aren't any more houses for sale than usual.
Heinlen and others quickly seized upon one fact: the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City houses about 500 inmates. City, state and federal officials are now trying to figure out if the inmates weren't counted or were improperly listed in some other community.
''A loss of 50 to 70 citizens would have been somewhat palatable considering the trend in rural Iowa,'' Heinlen said. ''Our initial reaction, due to the loss number being relative to the number of clients at NCCF, was that the clients apparently were not counted in our census figure.''
The population drop, if it's correct, will hit the municipal bank accounts. Heinlen said the city will lose $50,000 in Road Use Tax money because it is distributed by the state according to population. That drop would occur in the fiscal year that begins July 1, he added. That Road Use Tax money is the city's share of gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees. It pays for taking care of the city's streets.
State Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, said he has contacted U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Ames, to learn the procedures for challenging a census count.
''I'm not accepting that we've had a reduction of that much,'' Beall said. ''That really hit them.''
Heinlen said the city can file an appeal of the census results on June 1. He said city officials haven't decided to file such an appeal, but added ''we're prepared to do that.''
Fred Scaletta, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections, referred questions about the census to the office of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz.
Stephanie Launder, a spokeswoman for Schultz, said inmates of the North Central Correctional Facility are to be counted as Rockwell City residents.
Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org