By NATHAN GREGORY
Golden Triangle Planning and Development District GIS manager Toby Sanford presented a third proposed redistricting plan to the Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday that would have more even voting population numbers in each ward. A public hearing will be held during the May 15 meeting where residents can provide suggestions and propose changes to the new plan.
Statistics from the 2010 census show Starkville's population at 23,888. That number divided evenly among seven districts would put a total population of 3,413 in each.
GTPDD's figures in the board's e-packet show a current total of 5,123 residents in Ward 1, 2,707 in Ward 2, 4,514 in Ward 3, 3,039 in Ward 4, 2,831 in Ward 5, 2,764 in Ward 6 and 2,910 in Ward 7.
If the changes in GTPDD's latest plan were to take effect, Ward 1 would see the biggest overall decrease in population from 5,123 to 3,535 total residents. Ward 2's population would increase to 3,384, Ward 3's would fall to 3,296 and Ward 4 would add 442 to make 3,481 total residents. Ward 5 would see an increase of 649 residents, making a total of 3,480. Ward 6 would have 3,309 residents, and Ward 7 would have 3,403.
The voting age population in Ward 1 would decrease from 4,223 to 2,844, while Ward 2's would jump from 2,120 to 2,739. Ward 3 would subtract 988 voting-age residents from its current 3,517 to make 2,529, while Ward 4 would see a slight increase from 2,917 to 3,220. Wards 5, 6 and 7 would each see increases, with Ward 5 changing from 2,344 to 2,972, Ward 6 adding 458 to 2,061 to make 2,519 and Ward 7 having 2,573 as opposed to the current 2,214.
Despite having the largest decrease of total residents, Ward 1 would still be the most populated.
Sanford said in restructuring the wards, it is mandatory is achieve less than a 10-percent deviation from the ideal number of 3,413 in each while keeping areas of similar interests in the same districts.
"This plan was created by working in different meetings with each alderman. Aldermen Perkins, Vaughn and Carver met with me, looked at it and said it was fine," Sanford said. "I think plan No. 3 is a good plan. It fits all our criteria, it gets us under the 10 percent and we're keeping areas of interest together."
Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey said at the meeting that the third plan shows a lot of progress on how the populations should be shifted to have more evenly populated voting districts.
"I do think this is a good start. Of all the plans we've seen so far, this is getting us closer to what we need," Corey said. "I do have some concern over the splitting of Ward 4 along University Drive."
One of the items Sanford will reconsider about the plan will be keeping intact the districting of the city's historic neighborhoods at the request of Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk.
"Obviously it's very much like solving a puzzle trying to get the numbers balanced," Sistrunk said Monday. "(The question is) whether or not we've met that desire to keep areas of common interest together. I want to be sure we've done all we can to keep those areas in the same ward, but it's not an easy proposition."
Sanford said he would have the results of those proposed changes ready in time for the hearing.
"(Keeping historic neighborhoods in the same ward) was not adopted in the criteria," Sanford said. "We can look at it but if trying to keep historic areas together results in a deviance of over 10 percent it would have to be scrapped."