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Commission size to remain at 25?

Members of the Washington County Redistricting Committee refused to even consider reducing the number of county commissioners on the board during a called meeting July 19 to determine the future size of the legislative body.
Commissioner Lee Chase made a motion to at least consider reducing the commission size. That motion was seconded by Commissioner Skip Oldham.
“I know there are folks who think we can get by on nine to 11 commissioners,” Chase said during discussion. “I’m not talking that large of a reduction.”
Chase said there is a perception among residents that the county structure is comparable to the city’s, and the commissioners are costing the county a lot of money.
“The reality is the city has a lot of staff people who make arrangements, and I think we would have to hire three or four more people,” Chase said. “But I ran on (the platform) that I would support a reduction.”
Commissioner Alpha Bridger said the public has a misconception of what commissioners do.
“If we cut down to one (in each district), it would be a full-time job, and some people would not feel represented,” she said.
Commissioner David Shanks argued that despite the “negative press,” the 25 commissioners are “the cheapest employees the county has.”
“I’m not hearing the general public say they want less of a voice in government, they want more,” he added.
Despite having made the second to the motion, Oldham said he would “lean toward” a potential reduction, but is “not generally in favor” of it.
Following discussions, Chase was the only committeee member to vote for the motion to consider a reduction in size.
Oldham said he doesn’t want the action to preclude reducing the number of commissioners if it would make sense once the committee is further into the process of adjusting the district boundaries.
County Attorney John Rambo said members can always revisit the issue.
Following a demonstration of the new software’s capabilities, Commissioner Roger Nave made a motion to allow Mike Rutherford, zoning administrator and technical lead for the Redistricting Committee, to work with his staff to prepare a map for the next meeting with proposed adjustments to reduce the current deviations.
Commissioner Ben Bowman seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.
Federal and state laws mandate reapportionment and redistricting every 10 years following the publication of the new population summary tables from the U.S. Census.
The process uses Census data to redraw the County Commission political boundaries to equalize the districts’ population and ensure members of the county legislative body represent equal numbers of residents.
Districts are required by law to be within 10 percent of equal population, which is defined by the number of residents rather than the number of registered voters.
The minimum number of commissioners per county is nine, and the maximum is 25. The minimum number of districts per county is three, with a maximum of 25.
Washington County now has the maximum-allowed 25 commissioners serving nine districts. Changes made during the 2011 process would go into effect during the 2014 election.
Rambo said the redistricting map approved by the county commission will be final.
The next meeting of the Redistricting Committee was scheduled to be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 26, in the Zoning Conference Room.