OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego County Legislature has begun looking at whether to redistrict. It’s an option that could reduce the number of county legislators in the future.
The county’s redistricting committee held its first meeting Tuesday night. The committee is made up of legislators Dan Chalifoux (chair), Amy Tresidder and Fred Beardsley.
A handful of other legislatures and department heads also attended the informational meeting.
Representation on the county legislature is set forth by the Municipal Home Rule Law – “shall be apportioned providing for substantially equal weight in population of local government in the allocation of representatives….”
It is done using figures from the previous census. The last reapportionment was done in 2000.
“The latest census data that the county has received shows a change in population of 122,377 in the 2000 census to 122,109 in the 2010 census,” according to Richard Mitchell, county attorney.
The numbers, however, can change, said Dave Turner, director of the county’s Community Development, Tourism and Planning Department. He suggested the committee set a specific date for its planning purposes and use whatever the number is at that time as their final figure.
“You should be mindful not to create unnecessary election districts,” Mitchell warned the committee, adding each election district would have an associated cost to it.
Election commissioner Don Wart noted that if, by redistricting, the legislature eliminated an election district, it would mean a savings of $9,000 a year or $90,000 over the 10 years until the redistricting issue came up again.
“Any place we can make those significant changes in the way those lines are drawn could save the county a lot of money by reducing the number of districts that we have,” he said.
Five of the county’s 25 districts have exceeded the population average by more than 5 percent, according to Turner.
Those districts are in Mexico, Palermo, Central Square, Phoenix and Oswego Town, he added.
Districts below the population average by more than 5 percent include a district in Mexico, Scriba, a district in the city of Oswego, Hannibal, and two districts in the city of Fulton.
The trouble is, not all of these districts border each other, he pointed out.
“It’s not as easy as just moving a line,” he said. “It’s not as easy as saying, ‘We’ll, move this line over here a little bit and that will fix that, and move this line over here and that will fix that.’”
“There really has to be some major changes to the whole ship in order to make all of them balance out the way the population is currently distributed,” he told the committee.
Could an entire district just be taken out, asked Barry Leemann, chair of the legislature. Absolutely, Turner replied.
“We could probably balance things by taking out an entire district,” he said
The county’s population really hasn’t changed to a great degree, Chalifoux pointed out. The only that has changed is some of the populations within some of the districts, he said, adding, “I think that can be worked out. It’s not going to be easy, but we have to take a look at it and see what we can do.”
“We’ll meet again, probably in about three weeks, so we have time to put something together in writing to present to the chairman,” Chalifoux said. “We’re going to take a hard look at everything. I have no predetermined idea on what we are going to do yet.”