PELL CITY -- It is back to the drawing board to establish new district lines after city officials voiced concerns with two proposed district maps.
The proposed voting district maps were presented Monday by Brett Isom, with the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, at a public hearing prior to the Pell City council meeting.
"My main concern is District 2," said Pell City resident J.T. Carter, who has served on the Pell City Board of Education and who ran against Councilman James McGowan for the District 2 seat on the council.
Carter said Water Tank Hill and the Pell City housing project were removed from District 2.
"They have always been in District 2," Carter said.
He said there are district line changes in the Shadydale community, which have people confused as to which district they are in with the changes.
The council began formal talks about redistricting for next year's municipal election after the 2010 U.S. Census showed a substantial increase in the city's population.
Isom said the city experienced 33 to 34 percent growth since the last census, which will also require a new form of government after the 2012 municipal elections in Pell City.
He said the minority totals in District 2 dropped below the 50 percent mark since the last redistricting. When District 2 was redistricted after the release of the 2000 U.S. Census, 56 percent of the population in District 2 was minorities. Currently, only about 47 percent of District 2 represents the minority vote.
In the proposed redistricting maps presented Monday, Isom was able to adjust district lines so District 2 would remain a minority district, with a minority vote of 51 percent.
Isom said ideally each district should have about 2,539 people, give or take a 5 percent deviation.
He said District 2 has a negative 10 to11 percent deviation in population with other districts, but he felt like the U.S. Department of Justice would approve either proposed district map, because the city was able to maintain the minority district.
Councilman Donnie Todd also voiced concerns about two communities that were removed from District 4, which he currently represents.
"I have a major issue with District 4," Todd said, adding he knows it is vital the city maintains a minority district.
District 4 saw the biggest increase in population and currently has 3,673 people living inside that district. In accordance with the two proposed maps presented Monday, the population count for District 4 was 2,664 to 2,696.
Todd said he does not want to see the Forest Hills community split up and the Autumn Trace community removed entirely from District 4.
He said there are two individuals who want to run for the District 4 council seat but both are removed from District 4 with the proposed district maps.
But Isom indicated that the District 4 population numbers had to decrease so it is within or close to the preferred 5 percent deviation mark.
"I think playing with the numbers, it's going to be either or," Isom told Todd.
He said planners can go back and take a look to see if those two communities could remain in District 4.
"My biggest concern are things Mr. Carter brought up," said Councilman Donnie Guinn.
He suggested that Isom look at a way to bring Water Tank Hill and the housing project back into District 2, and put Autumn Trace and Forest Hills back into District 4.
"The most important thing is protecting that district (2)," he said.
Isom told the council he could make adjustments, but he could not presume the U.S. Department of Justice would accept a new district map with population deviations of 10 to 15 to 20 percent.
Mayor Bill Hereford said it is important that the city stay within the 5 percent deviation in population for each district.
"This is all about one man, one vote," Hereford said.
Isom is expected to address the council about possible changes to the voting district map at next week's council work session, after the council tabled the matter at their Monday night council meeting.
City officials say the city is required to hold another public hearing, if there are additional changes to the proposed district map.
"Brett will go back to the drawing board," Hereford said.
Via The Daily Home