Money in the middle

Thursday, June 6, 2002

Gordonville and Allenville are best and worst for median incomes in the county.

By Mark Bliss ~ Southeast Missourian

Terry Irwin doesn't need census statistics to know he's living the good life. Irwin lives in a 4-year-old home with a well-landscaped yard on a street of upscale homes in Gordonville, Mo.

"It's almost like Mayberry," said Irwin, referring to the make-believe television town on the "Andy Griffith Show."

Gordonville, population 425, had a median household income of $53,125 in 1999, the highest of all incorporated cities in Cape Girardeau County, according to newly released 2000 census data. The figure for Gordonville is $15,191 higher than the median income statewide.

Allenville, with a population of 104 in the southwest part of the county, had the lowest in the county at $19,583 or $33,542 lower than in Gordonville.

The median income in Allenville declined slightly from the $20,208 figure reported in the 1990 census. It was the only incorporated city in the four-county area of Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Perry and Scott counties to register a decline in income, census records show.

Median household income was $32,452 in the city of Cape Girardeau and $40,412 in Jackson in 1999.

The median household income in Cape Girardeau County as a whole stood at $36,458 in 1999, higher than Scott and Bollinger counties but slightly lower than Perry County, which had a median income of $36,632.

In the middle

The median household income is the middle figure among all who reported their 1999 incomes to the Census Bureau in 2000.

State demographer Ryan Burson said the median is a better measure of income than calculating an average. A few wealthy households can skew income statistics, greatly boosting an average, he said.

Burson said median income figures are used in distributing state and federal funding in various programs.

Cape Girardeau and Jackson chamber of commerce officials say the data also reflects the economic health of an area. They say their cities and the county as a whole are in good shape financially.

The median income in Cape Girardeau County climbed by nearly $12,000 over the past decade.

John Mehner, president of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, said that's nearly a 50 percent jump. "I would say that is headed in the right direction," he said.

Statewide, median household income jumped $11,572 from $26,362 in the 1990 census to $37,934 in the 2000 Census.

Mehner said he isn't surprised that Cape Girardeau city had a lower median income than Gordonville and even Jackson. "Cape has a much higher percentage of low income families and college students who are heads of households," he said.

Burson agreed that Southeast Missouri State University students are a factor. "The median value is pulled down a little bit by the students," he said.

As for Gordonville, median income has grown by nearly $21,000 over the past 10 years, aided by new residents like Irwin and his wife, Donna.

Irwin, a counselor at Chaffee High School, enjoys living in Gordonville. He likes the fact his home in the Shady Brook neighborhood is on a paved street of fine homes but his back yard borders farmland. His wife is a third-grade teacher at a Jackson school. Gordonville isn't too far from either job, said Irwin. The couple have been living in the house for about a year.

Irwin said Gordonville has small-town appeal while being close to the commercial hubs of Cape Girardeau and Jackson for everything from work to shopping.

"We're only four miles from Wal-Mart," he said while taking a break from yard work on Wednesday.

Gordonville residents have city water and soon will have city sewers. Even cable television has reached the small town about five miles west of Cape Girardeau.

Sandy Yount, who runs the Gordonville post office, lives in rural Wayne County but understands why Gordonville has grown by about 80 people over the last decade.

"It's all the city comforts without living in town," she said.

Gordonville has several businesses, including a car dealership, a heating and cooling company and a western wear and saddle company.

Sleepy Allenville

It's a metropolis compared to the sleepy town of Allenville, where gravel streets and mobile homes are common. The Diversion Channel town has only one business, an upholstery shop. Many of its residents are elderly on fixed incomes.

"Most of the people are retired here," said Phil Thompson, who runs the upholstery shop and serves as superintendent of the water system that serves Allenville and the nearby town of Whitewater. An ordained Baptist minister, Thompson also finds time to mow neighbors' yards when needed.

"I was born in this little town," said Thompson, who has spent 49 of his 50 years living in the village.

The town has only three stop signs. Residents have to travel to Delta or Chaffee to stock up on food, get gas or purchase other supplies.

"We've been crucified for having a rough-looking town," he said. "But if you drive the back streets of Chaffee, Jackson or Cape Girardeau, you will see the same thing."

Allenville should be taken at face value, as a blue-collar town, said resident Imogene Mansker.

"We don't go dressing up around here," she said.

Allenville doesn't rate high when it comes to the census data. But Thompson can't imagine living elsewhere. "Most people take pride in their homes," he said.

Mansker retired to Allenville 22 years ago. She likes her mobile home, with its wooden front porch and flower-filled front yard. A goldfish pond with a fountain is situated next to the deck. She's attached ceramic squirrels to a wooden utility pole in her yard.

Flooding along the Diversion Channel periodically cuts off access to the town. The latest flood last month turned Allenville into an island for a few days.

But Mansker doesn't mind the isolation. She likes working in her yard.

"It's still kind of nice," she said. "Nobody bothers you."

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