Panel abandons fruitless redistricting attempt

Bangor Daily News (ME) - Wednesday, May 12, 1993
Author: Bruce Kyle Of the NEWS Staff: BANGOR DAILY NEWS (BANGOR, MAINE
The Knox County Commissioners on Tuesday wrote off a redistricting plan for the county Budget Committee as a numbers game that just won't add up. 

The county is required by state law to realign the eight committee districts to accommodate a population shift revealed by the 1990 census. Of nine committee members, two represent the large Rockland district. 

With a total county population of 36,310, each member ideally should represent 4,034 residents. State law allows a variance either way of 5 percent, about 200 people. The redistricting plan is due at the secretary of state's office by June 1. 

The current districts are: District 1, St. George and the islands; District 2, Owls Head and South Thomaston; District 3, Rockland; District 4, Camden; District 5, Hope and Rockport; District 6, Appleton, Union and Washington; District 7, Warren and Friendship; and District 8, Cushing and Thomaston. 

While most of the districts are close to the ideal, Camden's population of 5,060 is 25 percent higher than it should be, and the South Thomaston-Owls Head district, population 2,801, is 30 percent lower. 

Splitting off part of Camden into another district would allow additional shuffling of smaller towns into the South Thomaston-Owls Head district. However, there apparently is no way to divide Camden because the town does not have wards. 

Commissioner Elmer Savage and County Clerk Virginia Lindsey have spent hours pondering a way to equalize the two troublesome districts, "but we've drawn a blank," Savage said. "We have to stick with the same number of districts and the same number of members. It would be easy if we could add a district or do something with Camden, but there's just no way to do it." 

Lindsey said not only is there no means to divide Camden, "but we also cannot redistrict a member out of a job. It gets very complicated. We can't split Camden up, nobody knows what to do with it." 

Commissioner Mason Johnson said Savage and Lindsay had done their best and should not waste any more time on the fruitless project. "Why rack your brains over something we can't do? The math just doesn't work." 

With the state's deadline fast pproaching, the commissioners supported Chairman Gene Kenniston's suggestion that the county simply submit its existing plan as soon as possible to see what objections are raised. Savage said the Secretary of State's Office probably would devise a plan of its own if Knox County's is unacceptable. 

In his monthly report on the Knox County Airport, Airport Manager Gregory Grotton told the commissioners that two companies are interested in leasing land at the facility and constructing hangars. 

MBNA America Bank, the Delaware-based bank that is opening a customer service center next month in Camden, wants to lease 1.5 acres for a hangar for its two corporate jets. Omni Leasing Inc., which now rents out hangar space to aircraft owners on its own property next to the airport, want to lease 1 acre of county land for a new hangar. 

MBNA would pay more than $6,000 a year for its lease, and Omni would pay $4,100 for the smaller parcel. The lease fees are adjusted each year, based on inflation. Both companies want to start construction as soon as possible. 

While the commissioners were pleased at the prospect of an additional $10,000 in income, they were reluctant to approve the leases without the approval of the Airport Advisory Committee. 

Grotton said the two lease requests came to him only last week. In addition, he said, the 11-member committee has not been active recently, holding infrequent, poorly attended meetings. 

"I need to act on this right away, like today," Grotton said. "I have a chance to lease these parcels, and revenue is very important to the airport. This is a business, not just another conference at the courthouse. This gives the airport a chance to run in the black for the first time in years." 

Johnson said he "didn't realize the committee has gone into a relaxed mode. It's disappointing to hear they're not as active and interested as they used to be." The commissioners instructed Grotton to call a committee meeting immediately, to run the proposals by whichever members show up and to proceed with the leases unless strong objections were raised. 

The commissioners also accepted the resignation of James Nolan as chief deputy of the Knox County Sheriff's Department. Nolan is taking a position as chief of security for MBNA. 

Kenniston said that although the commissioners and the department "have traveled a rocky road at times, we appreciate your services. We know you worked very conscientiously to do the right things. Congratulations and good luck."