Open House in Wakefield

Debbie Brown posts a sticky note in giving feedback on what she likes about Wakefield.                           (Ryan  D. Wilson/Dispatch)

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In gathering information for Wakefield’s new comprehensive plans, organizers presented data from the 2010 census and supplemental sources showing that what you think you know about Wakefield and the residents living there may not necessarily be true.

For example, you may think that most people living in Wakefield work at Junction City, Manhattan or Fort Riley. Those towns are on the board -- Manhattan is the second highest with 8.1 percent of working there, and Junction City and Fort Riley each have less than 5 percent. However, the town that people from Wakefield most travel to for jobs is Clay Center, which includes 29.3 percent of Wakefield residents working out of town. Around 338 people living in Wakefield work out of town.

The Census found that employers in Wakefield employ about 100 people and 6.5 of those jobs are held by people living in Wakefield. Most people working in  Wakefield come from out of town and the highest percentage -- 22.4 percent come from Clay Center, the Census said.

Incomes of residents are fairly strong -- with 25 percent in the $50,000 to 75,000 range, which is in line with the state average. Other income brackets including below 50,000 and to the 75,000 range to above that range are fairly close to 20 percent with exception to the lowest income bracket, which is below the poverty rate.  Since 2012 that bracket has dropped from 13 percent in 2012 to 6 percent in 2017.

The town has some other interesting trends -- a third of the homes are rentals while the rest are owner occupied. The town has an even mix of recently-built and older homes, and only 25 percent of the homes were built in 1937 or before.  That isn’t a surprise, considering Milford Lake forced part of the town to move and rebuild new homes in the 60’s and proximity to Fort Riley has motivated residents to consistently build new homes over the years to attract soldiers who either just moved there or are looking to retire out of the Army.

The town has a fairly even mix of different age groups, The highest percentage is in the 55 to 74, at 25.5 percent, which make sense considering Wakefield is known for attracting empty-nesters and couples getting ready to retire.  Only 11.2 percent of the town is 75 or older and three other age groups -- under 15, 15 to 34, and 25-56 each make up about 20 percent of the town.  

Those attending the open house, which had 20 to 25 people attend, were asked to write a few things about their town on sticky notes.

Those attending the open house said they like small-town feel of Wakefield and the people who live there, that it is quiet, near the lake and the “it takes a village” mentality when listing their favorite thing about Wakefield.

Among the things they said could be improved  or doesn’t work well include availability of jobs, how they welcome newcomers, providing a safe place for kids and teens and safety in general. They said they’d like to see more places to eat and hang out in town,  especially for teens.

 They are concerned about the possibility of the school closing, the effects a nearby rock quarry has on the town, the possibility of Fort Riley downsizing and “reckless” taxes. When asked about the future of the town, many expressed uncertainty or fear, particularly over people leaving for one reason or another.

Those attending the open house were also asked to fill out a survey, which among other things asked residents to rate the condition of city infrastructure, what the city should in invest in, rate access to things like health and wellness  and recreational opportunity and items related to future grown.

The city’s comprehensive plan is being written by the Flint Hills Regional Council, which plans to draft up a plan by March. Meetings with stake-holders and two more open houses will be held before that plan is drafted.

If you are resident of Wakefield and would like to know more about the plan or to fill out the survey, you can do so at