Small town is growing quickly
By: Eric Sandbulte, The Brookings Register
Aurora’s a different place than it was when Mayor Fred Weekes first moved to town 26 years ago. Driving around on a typical weekday afternoon, construction crews busily set up walls to the latest houses being built and people, some with dogs in tow, are out for a walk. This all represents momentum that the town has seen in recent years.
In fact, the town’s growing much faster than Weekes had thought possible.
“I’ve been mayor for 20 years now and I think when I got to be mayor, it was like 489 people,” he said.
That the town’s growing is evident even in what he carries with him. When he started as mayor, he kept seven keys to access city property that “controlled all the town.” The city had to go to a singular master key because the keys were getting too numerous.
The 2010 census puts Aurora’s population at 532; thanks to an engineer assessment done for a city project, the estimated population now is put at 700.
In 10 years, 125 new houses have been built in Aurora, with 53 acres of land developed since 2008, and another 58 under development now. For a bit of context, Weekes was used to only about seven housing permits in a typical year.
At the moment, there are two new developments allowing for Aurora’s continued growth: the various Milparc additions started by Al Kurtenbach and the Spilde Addition by Josh Spilde.
Weekes estimated that once fully developed, there could be as many as another 150 houses built in the Spilde addition, which is located in southwest Aurora.
To the north is the new Milparc North development, joining the neighboring Milparc Central and South additions. In addition to the houses to be built, another road will be added to alleviate traffic on Lovejoy Lane, and a lift station is being built.
Milparc North amounts to about 22 acres and 40 lots that Kurtenbach said he expects will be ready for offering late in the summer. “It’s my prediction that Milparc … is full in four years. I mean, it’s amazing right now,” Weekes said.
The people moving in are primarily young families enticed by good prices.
“They’re building good houses in that $189,000-200,000 range. I think the lots are running, I want to say, $25,000-$29,000, where with Brookings the lots are running $50,000-$60,000. So you’re automatically dropping half off the lot. $25,000 is a lot,” Weekes said.
And it’s close enough to major Brookings employers – Daktronics, Larson Manufacturing, 3M – that for many Aurora residents, it’s just as convenient a commute as it would be in parts of Brookings.
With new families coming in and Aurora children growing up and starting families of their own, there are lots of kids in town. So many, in fact, that there’s talk of starting an elementary school, something the town’s only starting to explore.
Weekes also hopes more families means more businesses will open, an exciting proposition. Already, residents have been thrilled for the opening of the first convenience store, the Aurora Quick Stop, that Aurora’s had in years.
More people also means more tax revenue, which “goes right back into the community,” Weekes said. It helps keep the budget balanced and helps cover maintenance projects throughout the town, such as chip sealing a road this year.
So far, infrastructure is able to keep up with the growing town, with the lagoon the sole exception. First built about seven years ago, the lagoon was intended to last 15-20 years. They even built it beyond what they thought they’d need based on engineer’s recommendations, but it’s not big enough to handle the town’s demand.
Sidewalks, too, might have to be addressed sometime in the future. As is, there is no requirement for developers to include them in their additions, though, and people don’t really use the ones that are in town, Weekes said.
Other infrastructure is doing fine, however, such as an electrical substation built three years ago or so. Even with the population swelling, the substation will be able to handle increasing demand.
“Most of our infrastructure in town is new. It wasn’t that many years ago we re-did a lot of the sewer system, our main sewer system through town,” Weekes said. “We’re OK there so long as we take care of it.”
Crime has also remained low and people are as neighborly as ever these days.
There’s an unmistakable confidence in the little town’s future, whether it’s developers’ continuous work or the mayor’s prediction of a population over 1,000 people in five years.
“We’re just a nice, friendly little town,” Weekes said. That hasn’t changed and, he hopes, never will.