By Alyssa Schnugg
Despite the hard work by members of the Redistricting Committee, with guidance from Three Rivers Planning and Development, Oxford’s Chief Operating Officer Bart Robinson suggested hiring outside help to complete the city’s voting ward map.
The proposed map was up before the Oxford Board of Aldermen Tuesday for a public meeting and possible vote.
A committee was formed earlier this year to help draw up new voting wards due to the 11 square miles of new city land annexed last year. The committee was comprised of two members from each ward and it worked with Three Rivers to help establish the new map and ward boundaries.
Throughout the process, the primary challenge was defining six wards with no more than a 10 percent variance in the population. The average population is 3,700. However, Robinson said the committee could not get the variance below 13 percent.
Wards 2 is 6.89 percent below the mean and Ward 5 is 6.35 above the mean.
Robinson said the committee worked diligently on the map to get the variance in population to 10 percent but were unable to accomplish getting the numbers down in the two wards without offsetting other wards.
“The tricky part is you have to deal with 2010 Census numbers,” Robinson said.
City Attorney Pope Mallette said the committee was up against a difficult task.
“We are nine years out from the last redistricting,” he said. “We have just completed an annexation that is the largest annexation in the history of the city … We just think it needs one more look before we ask you all to vote on it because we think 12 or 13 percent (deviation in population) is just farther out than we would like it.”
Mayor Robyn Tannehill said once the U.S. Census is complete in 2021, the city will have to go through this process all over again.
“We tried to do it with the help of Three Rivers and not spend taxpayers’ money,” she said. “Now we’ll have to pay someone to do it and then do it all over again in 2021 and that’s the frustrating part.”
The board agreed to allow Robinson to seek out a consultant to assist with the redistricting map and return July 16 with proposals.