By NATHAN GREGORY
The city of Starkville has received five requests for qualification submissions from firms interested in assisting with the process of redistricting.
Four of the submissions are from firms in Mississippi. They are: Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada, PLLC based in Ridgeland; Slaughter & Associates, PLLC based in Oxford; Holland & Rigby Political Redistricting Consulting based in Madison; and Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, Inc. based in Starkville.
The other submission came from ARCBridge Consulting & Training Inc., based in Herndon, Va.
Butler Snow’s experience includes serving as counsel to several counties in Mississippi in redistricting matters. Counties include Amite, Hancock, Jackson, Panola and Rankin counties, among others. The firm has also served as special counsel to the Mississippi Joint Legislative Committee on Reapportionment during the last four redistricting cycles, advising the committee on both congressional and state legislative redistricting efforts.
Slaughter & Associates’ experience includes database preparation for Geographic Information Systems, redistricting of voting districts, preparation for zoning ordinances and zoning maps, and U.S. Dept. of Justice pre-clearance submissions.
Holland & Rigby has most recently done redistricting for several counties in Mississippi. Its 2010 census clients include the counties of Adams, Covington, Lincoln, Walthall and Yazoo, among others. The firm has also developed city ward plans for Belzoni, Charleston and Gloster, among others.
ARCBridge Consulting & Training has experience providing redistricting assistance to a range of clients including cities, counties, fire and police districts. The firm recently completed consulting for Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, Mo.
Price ranges for services vary considerably for each candidate. Butler Snow’s listed fee for services is approximately $25,000, while the estimate for Slaughter & Associates’ services varies from $15,000 to $19,500. Holland & Rigby’s rate is $150 per hour while GTPDD gives an estimate of $5,600. The estimate for consulting from ARCBridge would be $16,500.
Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas said picking the correct firm to offer guidance in redistricting continues to involve a great deal of discussion among the board.
“One of the big issues we’ll have at hand in making a selection is the amount of expertise we want in this project. There’s such a cross-section of business types and group types that have sent in proposals. We’re going to have our work cut out in selecting one, which is good,” Dumas said. “It is more important to have legal expertise than someone who can draw pretty maps.”
Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman said while price is, as always, a relevant factor in the selection process, several other aspects of equal importance exist.
“There are numerous factors worthy of consideration,” Wiseman said, “including the amount of experience a group has in redistricting, where that experience is, how relevant experience is in terms of redistricting here, knowledge of the area and references.”
Dumas said from a professional service standpoint the board opted for an RFQ as opposed to a request for proposal, which means there is more interest in qualifications.
“I’m more concerned with quality of product and qualifications of team than product alone,” Dumas said. “Redistricting is not a process where you try to get the cheapest deal. If cost alone is factor for other board members, we need to do it in house because we have people who can do it.”
While city employees are not currently involved, Dumas said they should have a part in the process and he’s uncertain as to how much more time the board will spend on making a decision.
“I think there’s a way city staff could be involved. We pay them to do a job and there’s a way we could use them,” he said. “I have no idea where we stand, but my personal opinion is we need more of the legal expertise than the map drawing expertise. I have no idea where my colleagues fall on that.”
Wiseman said he hopes the board can reach an agreement at its Jan. 17 meeting.
“They’ll consider it again next meeting, and I hope they’ll be in position to make a decision then,” he said.
In other matters at Tuesday’s meeting, the board:
- Voted unanimously to uphold the decision of the administrative hearing officer and authorize City Attorney Chris Latimer to take advantage of all fine collection processes allowed under the law to remove property at 307 West Main St.
- Voted 6-0 (with Carver absent) to approve the Starkville Fire Department claims docket
- Heard a report from Chief Administrative Officer Lynn Spruill regarding the status of the Yellow Dot Program
- Moved the consideration of calling for public hearing on the adoption of a condominium ordinance and amending Starkville Code of Ordinances to include handling of such projects to the consent agenda
- Moved five personnel requests to the consent agenda
- Introduced new city water maintenance employees Terry Curry and Anthony Davis
- Introduced new street department employees Calvin Bell and Adreial Hickman
- Introduced new electric department employee Shasta Plunkett.