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Leaders vote against reducing size of commission once again

A last-ditch effort to reduce the size of the Washington County Commission failed in a 20-to-5 vote during last week’s meeting.
The ongoing debate regarding the number of commissioners resurfaced while the board was considering the Redistricting Committee’s recommendation to approve the final maps for certification and filing. The 2012 redistricting plan includes 25 commissioners serving 10 districts.
“If we were not to approve (the resolution), what would happen?” Commissioner Mitch Meredith asked.
Meredith said several constituents had approached him in the last few weeks and asked about the number of commissioners.
“Is there any way the commission size could be reduced in the next 10 years?” Meredith asked.
County Attorney John Rambo said he could research whether an exception exists, but the county would likely have to go through another redistricting to reduce the number of commissioners.
“Then I’m not voting for it because of the size,” Meredith said of the redistricting plan.
The number of commissioners was one of the first decisions the Redistricting Committee had to make when the process began last spring.
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.
Reapportionment is the distribution of the county legislative body so that its members represent equal populations. The redistricting process uses the Census data to adjust or redraw the county commission political boundaries to equalize the districts’ populations.
Commission Chair Greg Matherly was elected head of the Redistricting Committee during its first meeting on May 19, 2011. Also serving on the committee are Ben Bowman, Alpha Bridger, Lee Chase, Mark Ferguson, Richard Matherly, Roger Nave, Skip Oldham, David Shanks and Gearld Sparks.
By law, 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.
During their Aug. 30, 2011, meeting, Redistricting Committee members voted to recommend the Washington County Commission remain at its maximum-allowed 25 members.
Constituents wanting more representation, not less, and commissioners being “the cheapest employees the county has” were among the reasons for recommending no reduction in the number.
Though not a member of the committee, Meredith raised his objections during early meetings and spoke out again when the redistricting plan was presented to the full commission during the Nov. 28, 2011, meeting.
“I’ve had a lot of calls, and the public seems to want a smaller commission,” he said. “I’m disappointed the committee didn’t even consider reducing the number, and I can’t vote for it.”
Joining Meredith’s side during the November meeting were Commissioners Pete Speropulos, David Tomita, Ethan Flynn, Ken Lyon, Joe Grandy, Mike Ford and Mark Larkey.
Commissioners standing with Meredith during the June meeting and voting against certifying the redistricting maps — and, in all likelihood, locking in the commission size at 25 for at least the next decade — were Speropulos, Tomita, Lyon and Grandy.