Klamath Falls - a tale of two cities

, Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Mon, July 21 2014 at 4:55 PM, Updated: Mon, July 21 2014 at 5:05 PM

Klamath Falls, Ore. - What is the population of Klamath Falls?  That simple question doesn't have a simple answer...but it could have a big impact on the future of Klamath Falls.

The population question is one that Charles 'Chip' Massie of the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce gets asked every day...

"Right now, in the city limits, a little over 20 thousand people.  If you include the south suburbs, we've got close to 42 thousand people."

Trey Senn of the Klamath County Economic Development Association points out that 'big box' retailers and medical providers look at an even bigger figure...

"If you're talking about our urban commercial development district, which is 4 counties in 2 states, it's about 130 thousand."

But for now, Klamath Falls is a city divided.  In general, Washburn Way serves as the dividing point between the south suburban area, and the city of Klamath Falls to the north.

Klamath Falls Mayor Todd Kellstrom says combining for a bigger population would result in bigger returns of some state, and federal taxes...

"Last time I checked was in the neighborhood of a couple million bucks."

Klamath County Commissioner Tom Mallams says combining the city and south suburbs could help to spark economic growth...

"Bend took a real big gamble.  They did that, and they reaped a lot of very substantial financial benefits for the city - and in turn for the county as well."

Mayor Kellstrom believes property taxes are the biggest obstacle to consolidation...

"Taxes.  People in the suburban paid, I think, 7 dollars and 44 cents - and most of our people pay 10 dollars."

Mallams know increasing the city's size is generally opposed in the south suburbs...

"I'm not saying I'm all for it - but I think we have to look at it."

But that's all they're doing right now, as there's currently no formal efforts to combine the city and county.

Klamath Falls is currently Oregon's 27th largest city in terms of population. 

Consolidation would make Klamath Falls the 14th largest city in the state.

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About the Author

Lyle Ahrens

KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's.  He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.

Lyle's job history is quite colorful.  He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand.  A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer.  In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.

Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience.  "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain.  Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".

When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.

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