County Wants More Study on Redistricting
The tricky business of redistricting county and school board residency boundaries has been deferred for further study.
The subject was on the agenda at a Moore County Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this month, but the board voted unanimously to table a decision.
Commissioner Tim Lea said he had no objection to tabling the matter until it could be discussed in greater depth. Lea said he added the subject to the agenda because it was raised during a special meeting in Seven Lakes.
Chris Koltyk, county GIS director, asked for the commissioners’ reactions to the maps his office had prepared using census population data and the latest mapping technology.
GIS — geospatial information services — provides computer-based mapping technology to assist multiple county agencies, from the tax department to the planning department.
Koltyk’s office prepared a set of five redistricting options for board scrutiny at a special meeting several weeks ago. Lea had offered a sixth option. The districts serve both the county commissioners and those school board members elected from districts, not at-large.
The League of Women Voters has encouraged the county to realign its residency districts because of broad disparity in population in some districts.
In Moore County, residency districts restrict candidates to the geographical area in which they reside. However, all county voters get to vote on candidates from all five districts. This differs from the ward system in which voters vote only for candidates within their own districts.
According to the 2010 census, Moore County’s population is 88,247. This translates into five districts of about 17,649 residents each. Because of development in certain areas of the county, the size of some districts has grown a great deal while other districts have become smaller.
Under the existing district lines, District 1, served by board Chairman Nick Picerno, exceeds the ideal number by 7,158 residents, while District 3, served by Commissioner Craig Kennedy, has 5,052 too few.
The computer-drawn maps were designed to correct such disparities. However, at least one map would place two commissioners in the same district, and others would cause confusion in school board district lines.
The commissioners discussed the matter briefly but the maps and the district lines were a little too complex for further discussion at a meeting that had already gone on for three hours.
The board also backed off from a decision on another residency issue, this one pertaining to requirements for key county employees.
Research done by County Attorney Misty Leland shows the county can continue to require certain employees to reside within the county as long as the policy is applied equitably. However, she said the county cannot have “unfettered discretion” when it comes to enforcing such a policy.
The matter was brought to the board’s attention by Kennedy, who questioned whether the present policy is fully legal when applied to all department heads.
Leland offered three options, including the one preferred by Kennedy that would apply the residency requirement to the manager and the assistant manager. Another option, supported by Lea, would allow the board, the manager, and department heads to identify the need for exceptions to meet the “need for effective and efficient delivery of public service.” A third option would be based on either the first or second options but would specify a set of requirements.
At present, the county policy requires the manager, the assistant manager and department heads to live in the county. Among the department heads, particular attention is paid to those whose jobs involve public safety, such as the emergency management director and the fire marshal.
Picerno questioned the need for such a stringent policy, which could possibly discourage the employment of a really good candidate for a job.
“I’d hate to lose a top flight person because we put more weight on residency than qualifications,” Picerno said.
The board decided to defer action until January.
Action was taken on one policy matter during the meeting. The commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a compensation policy for administering their own payments for services and expenses.
The policy, drafted by Human Resources Director Denise Brook, does not change the rate of compensation to board members but spells out the method of accounting for such payments.
Picerno, who sought the policy, had pointed out that the county has never had a specific policy on board compensation. Under the new policy, there should be no room for legal or tax questions. Board compensation is taxable as income.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at email@example.com.
More like this story