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MSA meeting, spearheaded by Tug Hill, aims to understand the designation

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A predicted Metropolitan Statistical Area designation for the Watertown urbanized area is expected to encompass both rural and urban areas, but may affect each differently.

A meeting facilitated by the Tug Hill Commission aims to shed light on how certain programs will change in the coming months.

At 7 p.m. Feb. 7 in the West Carthage Municipal Building, 61 High St., representatives from the state Department of Transportation, state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Office will explain how the services they provide will be affected, according to John K. Bartow Jr., executive director of the Tug Hill Commission.

Chief elected officials from the 18 municipalities within the area and members of the public have been invited.

The municipalities include the villages of Brownville, Dexter, Evans Mills and Glen Park, the towns of Brownville, Pamelia, Hounsfield and LeRay, and the city of Watertown.

Municipalities that fall within the Tug Hill Region and the urbanized area are the villages of Black River, Carthage, Deferiet, Herrings and West Carthage and the towns of Champion, Rutland, Watertown and Wilna.

Based upon what has happened in the past, the boundaries of the MSA likely will extend to the borders of Jefferson County, according to county Planning Director Donald R. Canfield.

Despite this nominal shift, Mr. Bartow said, he has been assured by the USDA Office of Rural Development that the funding model for rural communities won’t change. He said, however, that “it is conceivable that some federal funds that they were previously eligible for, they will no longer be eligible for.”

W. David Schermerhorn, USDA Rural Development acting state director, will be at the meeting to talk about how programs will be affected, said Candice L. Celestin, USDA public affairs specialist.

As one of 36 new urbanized areas announced in 2012, a computer formula determined the shape of the Watertown urbanized area based on a complex set of parameters, including the amount of paved surfaces, the proximity of an airport with more than 2,500 annual enplanements and a confusing means of linking outlying areas called “hops” and “jumps.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a “hop” provides a connection between two urban-area cores along a road connection of 0.5 of a mile or less. A “jump” does the same thing, but along a road connection greater than 0.5 of a mile, up to 2.5 miles.

Because of these hops and jumps, the Watertown urbanized area looks less like a concentrated mass of development and more like something from a microbiology class.

So while it may not necessarily occur to residents of LeRay, Carthage or Champion that they are living in an “urbanized area,” the U.S. Census Bureau says they are.

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