5,000 missing: Found alive and well in Albemarle

Remember the 2000 census– the one that showed Charlottesville with a mysterious 5,000-person population spike? Well, those people have been found.

They're alive and living in Albemarle County.

Two years after shocking the public with obviously bogus numbers, the Census bureau has come clean and now admits it made a mistake.

"We believe that at least two mistakes were made," says City spokesperson Maurice Jones.

If the figures had been accurate, Charlottesville would have seen its population jump from 40,341 in 1990 to 45,049 in 2000– a 20 percent increase. Instead, it actually dropped during the decade– about .1 percent per year, according to UVA's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

"I was calling it a debacle, but it's been rectified," says Julia Martin, the Center's demographic expert. "It's all resolved now," she adds.

Resolution is key, because census data determines how much state and federal money– like cash for schools and the elderly– winds up in the locality. Population also shapes Congressional and other voting districts.

Part of the confusion, says Albemarle County spokesperson Lee Catlin, comes from a City-County boundary that zigs and zags right through some housing complexes (such as Copeley Hill) and even through some buildings (such as U-Hall).

Curiously, UVA's Central Grounds is considered Albemarle turf. Catlin says that comes from a long-time City concession to UVA. Despite numerous annexations, the City has allowed the Central Grounds to remain part of Albemarle County.

So here are the new and improved official numbers from the 2000 Census: Albemarle has 84,186 folks; Charlottesville has 40,099.