GAS, a community of almost 530 residents located between Iola and LaHarpe, is another Allen County community borne of the discovery of abundant natural gas just before the turn of the 20th century. 1907 saw the peak of the natural gas boom, with nine smelters operating in Gas. Gas produced 60% of the United States Zinc and 40% of the world’s Zinc. 2,300 men were employed by the industry with an annual payroll of $1,500,000; the largest of any community in Allen County. Gas was not inexhaustible however and the supply diminished quickly. By 1910 the boom was over; six of nine smelters were closed, only one of three brick plants remained and one of the cement plants had closed.

In recent years Gas has emerged as a community determined to grow, with recent annexations and new housing development contributing significantly to the community’s tax base and population. On its surface, Gas appears to be primarily a bedroom community for neighboring Iola, but in fact the community has a strong sense of identity and spirit of independence that drives its civic affairs.

Gas’ population has risen and fallen at a dramatically different rate than most other Allen County communities. Consistent with every single town in Allen County, Gas’ population has fallen since 2000, but not as rapidly as its neighbors. Furthermore, this drop in population followed an increase of over 10% in the 1990s. With its population of 527 (2009) Gas has overtaken Moran (pop. 521) as Allen County’s fourth largest city.

Gas population

Source: US Census Bureau

Given its recent growth in population and land area, the addition of attractive quality of life amenities and the construction of new homes to increase the community’s tax base, Gas’ prospects appear to be stronger than most Allen County communities of its size.

HEALTH
Detailed health statistics do not exist for Gas. That said, by virtue of its location, its proximity to fast food, and having a less homogenous population than towns like Elsmore or Savonburg we estimate that the health conditions of Gas residents are similar to those of the county and surrounding area as a whole (as determined by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment). A lack of physical activity, obesity and cigarette smoking are all contributing factors that lead to poorer overall health conditions among residents. Furthermore, the availability and prevalence of fast food within easy access to Gas is a dietary factor that can further contribute to reduced health conditions among Gas residents.

HEALTHCARE
Gas has no stand-alone medical, chiropractic, dental or optometry clinic of any kind. However, comprehensive medical services in all of these areas are easily accessed in nearby Iola, three miles west of Gas.

For senior citizens and others with limitations that restrict their mobility these medical clinics are still out of reach. Transportation to healthcare remains a major challenge not only within Gas, but for communities throughout Allen County.

PARKS AND RECREATION
One of Gas’ most prominent features is Fees Park, which was constructed in 2005 on land donated by the Fees family to the city of Gas. This spacious park, which boasts some of the newest and most attractive playground equipment in the county, picnic tables and a rubberized walking track, is a frequent destination for families from Gas as well as those driving through the community on US-54.

Gas also has a playground space at the Crossroads Learning Center (the former Gas Elementary) in the northern part of the community, which provides another option for children and families. Sidewalks are relatively rare in Gas, which unfortunately forces walkers to use the street when walking for recreation or to specific destinations.

The city of Gas has no organized recreation department, but the community’s proximity to Iola and LaHarpe gives recreational options that aren’t available in the community itself.

HOUSING
2008 data provided by ESRI show 336 housing units in Gas, which represents an increase of 3.3%, since the year 2000. The average home value in 2008 is $99,991, an increase of 21% since 2000. Though the Census Bureau found that 38 homes in Gas in the year 2009 were built prior to 1939, the community has one of the newest and most habitable housing stocks in Allen County, with more than 50% of units having been constructed since 1970.

The availability of good quality affordable housing is critical to the well-being of any community. Gas is fortunate to have a better overall housing stock than nearly any community in Allen County, a fact which provides the community an opportunity to, at a minimum, maintain its population around existing levels.

BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
Gas has several retail establishments, including a restaurant and convenience store that generate revenue for the community. There are no large scale employers in Gas, which means that the vast majority of residents travel to nearby Iola for employment.

CHALLENGES
Gas is better off than most Allen County communities, but it faces a challenge that is unique in Allen County: the challenge of managing growth. The city’s aging infrastructure will require more and more resources to be maintained at existing levels, while annexing new properties that generate new tax revenue will also require maintenance and the delivery of new city services. Managing a sensible growth policy that does not overly burden existing residents will be important to Gas in the coming years.

Gas also faces the challenge of being tied heavily to Iola’s economic fortunes. The ripple effects of economic conditions in Iola are serious for Gas. This leaves the community somewhat at the mercy of its larger neighbor’s fortunes, which has served the town well in recent years but which is not a good long-term approach to community sustainability. Developing a larger jobs base within Gas itself can help to lessen this dependence.

OPPORTUNITIES
Thanks to its proximity to the Allen County Country Club and an abundance of beautiful topography around its city limits, Gas and the surrounding area has become an attractive location for new home construction. These new rooftops improve not only the community’s tax base, but also increase the community’s population. Achieving a “critical mass” of new home development provides Gas the opportunity to position itself as the place for residential construction in this part of the county.

Gas’ physical attractiveness also presents opportunities for the community to grow. The quality of life amenities in and around the city—a first-class public park, nice playground equipment, a country club—provide the type of amenities that have been consistently shown to attract new residents and businesses. Gas has an opportunity to position itself as a community that offers a higher standard of living than other communities if it chooses to leverage its existing assets and construct new ones.

Gas’ fortunes are bright, which is rare for most communities of 530 people in rural Kansas. With continued investment in itself, and a smart approach to growth, the sky is the limit for Gas.

Gas At a Glance
Population (2009)527
Median Age (2000)37.5
Residents with HS degree or higher83.15%
Median Household Income (1999)$45,375
Residents Under 5 years (2000)5.9%
Residents 18 years and older73.4%
Residents Aged 65 or older12.9%

Additional community data: BestPlaces.net, City-Data.com