Plans to show new districts

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2001

Staff Writer

Next week, the mayors of Brundidge and Troy will officially present redistricting plans to city council members and the public.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Brundidge officials will hold a public hearing and those in the city of Troy will have a public hearing at 5 p.m. to give citizens a chance to review and offer input on the municipal district lines.

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Representatives of the South Central Alabama Development Commission have presented

plans for the Brundidge City Council and Troy City Council members to approve.

While one of the Brundidge plans stayed relatively the same, another had some shifts that had at least one council member upset.

Under the Census 2000 figures, Isabell Boyd will have to lose 143 people from District 5.

But, Boyd said "poor calculations" by census takers have forced her to go from having the largest (geographically) district to the smallest in physical size. She claims there was not a gain of 143 people in her district.

During one meeting with Brundidge City Council members, Rusty Hamm, a GIS specialist with the SCADC, took the total population ­ 2,341 ­ and divided by five (the number of districts) to come up with the goal of 468 residents of each district. The total deviation can only be 10 percent, meaning the maximum population in a single district would be 514.

Brundidge City Manager Britt Thomas said the plan on which the council has reached a consensus has a total deviation of 6.20 percent.

The plan being presented next week has Sherroll Tatom with 465 in District 1, Arthur Griffin with 449 in District 2, Vernon Jackson with 478 in District 3, 471 in Cynthia Pearson’s District 4 and Boyd with 478 residents in her district.

In creating the proposed districts, Hamm said he tried to stay as close to the current shapes of the districts as possible.

Brundidge Mayor Jimmy Ramage had until the middle of September to present a plan to the council. The council, then, had six months to consider it.

The districts must be pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department before qualifying for the next municipal election.

"We’ve spent a lot of time on this," Ramage said. "We plan to vote on Dec. 4 and get it in to the Justice Department."

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford has presented a redistricting plan and the council members must, now, make their final decision.

Under the law, the mayor has six months to present a plan to the council and Lunsford did that during the council’s regular meeting on Sept. 25.

"We had some pretty substantial changes," Lunsford said pointed to the map.

Prior to the Census 2000 figures being released, District 1, which is represented by José Henderson has a population of 2,145. District 2, represented by Charles Meeks has a total population of 3,220. Jason Reeves currently represents 1,995 people in District 3. John Witherington has 4,295 residents in District 4. District 5, which is represented by Wanda Moultry, has a population of 2,278.

Troy City Clerk Alton Starling said the "ideal" population per district was 2,787.

"District 4 had over 4,000 people in it," Starling said of the district represented by Johnny Witherington.

District 1 and 5 had 2,000, meaning there was a need to increase the population in those areas.

"Districts 3 and 2, basically had the numbers we needed," Starling said.

But, making the changes to the districts was not an easy task because there were several considerations to be made. Each council member had to live in that district.

The law states the minority totals can not be diluted. Districts have to be contiguous and as compacted as possible and the census blocks must remain intact.

All districts are based on population and the number of registered voters in that district has no bearing on changes.

"District 1 and 5 we had to expand," Starling said. "We started where the council members are living and moved outward.

"We kept the current districts as intact as we could."

However, Starling realizes some citizens will be upset when they discover they are no lover living in the same district.

"When they look at the map, they will understand why the lines moved like they did," Starling said of the general public.

Under the plan presented by Lunsford, Henderson has a total population of 2,719 ­ 669 whites and 2,050 minorities; Meeks’ district has 2,789 residents with 2,424 whites and 356 minorities; Reeves will have 2,848 living in District 3 with 2,246 of those being white and 602 minorities; Witherington will have 2,228 whites and 629 minorities for a total of 2,857; Moultry’s district has 2,081 minorities and 639 whites, totaling 2,720.

The deviation, which can not exceed plus or minus10 percent is 4.95 percent.

"So, we’re well within our margins," Starling said.

After the council gives its approval, that plan will be presented to the Justice Department for the final nod.

"We want to move on this as rapidly as we can, but we do have some time," Lunsford said.

Since the council was re-elected last year, it does not actually have to submit a plan to the Justice Department for some time.

The South Central Alabama Development Commission drew the maps at no cost either municipality.