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Redistricting on aldermen agenda

August 7, 2012

The Starkville Board of Aldermen will consider adopting a new redistricting plan tonight at its meeting.
Two public hearings have been held on various plans drafted by Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, which was picked earlier this year to spearhead the process.

The proposed plan, labeled “Plan 4A” in the board’s e-packet, has standard deviation between the seven wards at 9.05 percent, meaning the wards have an equal enough population distribution for the plan to abide by the United States Department of Justice’s maximum variance of 10 percent.

Currently, Wards 1 and 3 have population totals well over the ideal number of 3,413 per ward.
Plan 4A would change the total population from 5,123 in Ward 1 to 3,589. That number still makes Ward 1 the most populated.

Ward 2 would have a total population of 3,384, while Ward 3 would see a dip from 4,514 to 3,296.
Ward 4 would have 3,573 people, with Ward 5 gaining nearly 600 people from its current population to add up to 3,417. The city’s two minority districts, Wards 6 and 7, would have populations of 3,280 and 3,349 under Plan 4A.

Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker would lose citizens in the Timber Cove and Sherwood Forest areas as part of the redistricting. Those areas would go to Ward 4, he said.

He said he believes Plan 4A is the most cohesive because it abides by federal standards while keeping together areas of common interest.

“I think of all the choices we had I think it keeps South Montgomery (Street) more continuous than any of them. I believe neighborhoods need to stay together. When you drive down South Montgomery, it’s more evident than not of what a neighborhood is. The neighborhoods in South Montgomery are extremely independent,” Parker said. “One previous plan divided Sherwood Forest up two ways. One of them divided Sherwood Forest up three ways. One of them divided Timber Cove up. Another divided up Pleasant Acres. Going into this process I never thought I would have to give up Pleasant Acres and Timber Cove.”

GTPDD geographic information system manager Toby Sanford said he believes the plan is the closest of the ones drafted to reaching the goals the board was hoping to achieve.

“I think 4A is a perfectly fine plan. It accomplishes everything the aldermen wanted,” Sanford said. “I don’t think we could have done much better without having redrawn the map completely and starting from scratch.”

The board will also discuss the current efficiency of the city’s sanitation department, which recently lost its director Sharon Boyd after she moved out of Starkville last month.

Parker is a member of the city’s sanitation committee and said the board will discuss the process of filling the vacancy and ways to improve efficiency.

“We’ve got a lot of applicants for that position so we’ll be discussing that (tonight) and what direction we need to be heading. In the meantime we sat down and looked at the efficiency of the department, how it was operating without a department head,” Parker said. “We noticed last year (Boyd) had to dip into her … enterprise ending fund balance to make her budget come out to be even. We just want to make sure the new department head doesn’t have to do that in the future.”

Parker said he hopes the board will recommendation to change garbage bag distribution processes because that would be one way to save anywhere from $50-60,000 for the department.

“One of the recommendations we will probably make is to change the way we distribute garbage bags … (and) maybe to do a garbage bag distribution at our fire stations,” Parker said. “We just feel like there’s a tremendous amount of money invested from the city’s standpoint. We’re trying to streamline that process. We feel like if we can get that approved then our budget is going to be pretty good.”

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