Thursday, February 9, 2012
County looks at new lines
By SUE WATSON
With a new board of supervisors seated and the 2010 Census data in hand, Marshall County has been working to develop a plan that meets U.S. Department of Justice guidelines for reapportionment of supervisor districts and constable districts.
The matter of timeliness and public information on how the process is being handled was brought up before the board recently by Regina Walker of supervisor District 5.
“Where are the supervisors in drawing a plan?” she asked. “Are you going to meet a deadline? We have a lot of senior citizens in Marshall County. We don’t like change, but we do have to change in order to progress. Are we going to get notification?”
Board attorney Kent Smith said he and county engineer Larry Britt have been working to get the Census data into the computer – using a U.S. Justice Department approved software package to draft up proposed new districts.
He said the population in each of the districts must meet certain guildelines in terms of both numbers and the racial balance in the districts. District 3, supervisor Keith Taylor’s district, and District 5, supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett’s district, represent the high and the low in terms of population, he said.
Populations must be adjusted within limits of 10 percent deviation of the voting age population, 5 percent above or 5 percent below the mean, for each district in terms of numbers of eligible voters. A redistricting plan can be challenged even if the deviation falls within the limits set by Congress.
Smith said the county has two proposals to preserve minority balance in districts as Justice requires. Supervisors have not seen the proposals, he said, but they will once proposals are completed. Then there will be a public hearing on the redistricting plan before the plan is sent to Justice for approval, he said. The plan should be approved in time for the 2012 elections, he said.
One plan would work differences out by adjusting figures in District 5 and District 3 and the other plan would work the differences out by adjusting boundaries in District 1 and District 4, he said. The plans should be ready by spring, he said.
Supervisor Charles Terry asked if Justice has a timeline for completion of the plan.
Smith said no specific date is set but law requires the plan to be done in a reasonable time and to accommodate local elections.
“As long as we submit a packet, there is no drop-dead date,” Smith said.
Terry asked if the public would have input before the plan comes before the board of supervisors.
“Yes,” Smith said.
The county began in October and November last year to develop proposals but did not submit a plan last year. Supervisors waited until the new board was sworn in this year before firming up the plan, he said.
Next the board discussed fishing at Duck Pond. Supervisor Eddie Dixon said it may be overfished because the fish coming out are very small. The pond had been restocked, supervisors said, and perhaps the fish had not grown to maturity.
Dixon asked the board to consider putting size of catch and other stipulations like Mississippi Wildlife, Game and Fish does.
“And sometimes you may need fish to come out,” said Terry, indicating the fish may be over populated and competing for resources. You may need to limit crappie and not bass.”
“Or short list and allow only males,” Bennett said.
Dixon said a study of the pond would likely answer questions.
County administrator Larry Hall said the pond was stocked with grass carp and is being monitored somewhat.
“We may need to stop fishing for a while,” he said.
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