Redistricting Work Begins

Published 4:28 pm Thursday, December 23, 2010

CUMBERLAND – According to Cumberland County Attorney Howard Estes, the County will begin moving forward with work relating to redistricting as a result of the 2010 Census that is set to officially wrap up at the end of this month. Due to the redistricting requirement, the County is now in search of members to volunteer their time to serve on a Committee that will conduct hands-on research in order to make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

“With that we need to form a committee for the redistricting and going back through past records there was an effort to try and get citizen input as much as possible. But I don't know what happened and there ended up being a need to fill spots and I thought I would give you a heads up on this now so that through the next month you all can start thinking about soliciting citizen input and participation in this process,” noted Estes about the need for the Committee to start working as soon as possible in the new year during December's Board of Supervisors meeting.

“…The districts, the makeup of the different precincts…all of those will be discussed and a recommendation will be made to the Board about the district boundary lines before it ever goes up to the state,” he continued.

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The final recommendation will also have to be sent to the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division for review, he said.

“I'm hoping we can move on this rather quickly,” he added about building a file of information that would have to accompany the recommendation to the Department of Justice for approval.

“We'll start getting information at the state level and down to the precinct level over the next couple of months,” advised Estes about the information that will trickle down from the 2010 Census results.

Because of the short working timeframe, the County needs to be ready to begin with the Committee as soon as possible.

“It will be done this year,” Estes noted about this also being an election year in Cumberland. “Of course it has to be done with DOJ approval and we have to have all of that in place by September 1 because that's when ballots start to be printed and that sort of thing.”

The last time the County went through this process, the Department of Justice initially declined the districting recommendation that was made by Cumberland and additional information had to be gathered and approved and finalized in October, according to Estes.

“That was not an election year but this year, it is,” he asserted. “That's why I'm worried. We have a lot of work to do.”

Estes is looking to have “the largest and most diverse” committee that can be put together, he described about the types of community members needed.

According to preliminary results issued by the Census Bureau this week, the 2010 Census report is indicating a 9.7 percent growth rate over the last decade to 308.7 million people in the United States.

“You want a good cross-section,” said Estes about the amount of people appointed o the Committee. “…I'd like to make sure that we have folks that are committed and dedicated to serve because it's not going to be slack work. It's going to be a working committee that's going to need to do a lot in a very short amount of time.”

According to Supervisor Bobby Oertel, District Five, candidates must declare if they are running for elections in June 2011.

“It's going to be tough but we don't have any choice,” said Estes about the time constraint.

For additional information related to Committee members needed, contact your district's Supervisor. The Board members are currently in the process of gathering names for the Committee.

There are currently five districts that divide the County.

The Fourth and Fifth Districts encompass the southern end, while the Third District is centered in the middle. District Two meets the Powhatan County line and the Cartersville area makes up the majority of District One.

School Road Issue

In other news, the County Attorney also clued the Supervisors in to a request that was brought to his attention by the County's Sheriff's Office during his monthly Board report.

“On School Road, the county schools use a golf cart to run equipment up to the fields and back to the school-water coolers and the like. And School Road is a public highway under state law,” noted Estes. “We do not have any provisions in our county ordinances permitting the use of golf carts on public highways, designated or undesignated.”

According to Estes, the use by the school system of traveling on School Road is a violation of state law.

“In order to clear this matter up,” he said, “I need some guidance from you all.”

Estes explained that the County has the right to designate specific roads for the use of golf carts.

“There is an exemption for local employees where they can go on the road up to 35 miles per hour,” noted Estes about the County's employees. “The problem is that I'm worried about it if it's too narrow then coaches or people who are not school employees using the golf cart on School Road.”

The ordinance could be approached “very narrow” or could be “more broad” which could require the County to designate additional roads in the future.

“I'm just looking for guidance from you all,” he requested. “Do you want me to just fix this immediate problem or do you want to look at it more globally and use it as an opportunity to provide a means of access on county roads?”

After discussion, the Supervisors decided that the County Attorney draft language in a draft ordinance that would fix the immediate problem on School Road.

“If you look at it from a broad standpoint, Mr. Estes, you now have a fair amount of golf carts and utility vehicles in use for poultry farmers on the highways of the County-all over the County,” advised Supervisor Elbert Womack, District Four.

“We may have a larger issue,” noted Estes about utility vehicles used by farmers in Cumberland on public highways.

“I was surprised at how complex this area is,” noted Estes about the state's codes related to golf carts and utility vehicles.

As a solution, Estes was tasked with the job of creating an ordinance that would address the School Road problem as it relates to the golf cart issue.

“I'd like at this particular moment to take care of the school issue…and keep it simple,” advised Supervisor Womack.

According to Estes, the ordinance and certain requirements related to the use of golf carts on School Road would be drafted for review. The proposed ordinance should be presented in January and set for a public hearing in February.

“I just want to let you know that it won't be just one code section,” noted Estes about the work needed to correct the golf cart issue.