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Commissioners seeking reversal of redistricting

Charleston Daily Mail (WV) - Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Author: EVADNA BARTLETT FOR THE DAILY MAIL

WINFIELD - Putnam County commissioners are unhappy about the redistricting effort that took place following the 2000 Census. 

Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution seeking the "return" of almost 7,000 registered voters to the 14th delegate district. 

A bipartisan committee appointed by commissioners prepared the resolution that county clerk Brian Wood presented Tuesday. 

The action reflects discontent with the redistricting of the state following the 2000 census, as reflected in the resolution. 

At that time "a small portion of Putnam County was severed from the 14th District of the House of Delegates and was cast away to the 19th District, which overwhelmingly consists of voters in Lincoln, Boone and Logan counties," the resolution states. 

The affected voters, some of which are residents of Hurricane, have needs and interests differing from those in the other counties, officials and voters contend. 

The population of Putnam County, which is expected to top 55,000 in the new census report, supports having a more unified delegate district, Wood said. He anticipates a special legislative session in August for redistricting, although work on redrawing lines likely will begin when census results are released this month. 

Also Tuesday, Wood, other elected officials and agency directors discussed their budget proposals for the fiscal year beginning July 1. 

Requests total $17.8 million, up from $17.3 million budgeted for the current year, according to figures compiled by County Manager Brian Donat. He did not have the revenue estimate for the upcoming year. 

Commissioners scheduled a budget work session for 8 a.m. Sunday in the commission conference room. The session will be open to the public. 

Sheriff Mark Smith is seeking only about a $10,000 increase in his $2.9 million law enforcement budget to cover an additional deputy through December. 

But he is requesting about $82,000 more for the process servers and home confinement programs, bringing the total of those two to about $338,500. Process servers are currently driving 2004 vehicles with more than 140,000 miles each, he said. More effective monitoring equipment will enhance the home confinement program. 

Currently there are 36 violators on home confinement, and their fees bring in more than $70,000 annually, whereas jail fees for the same number would total more than $650,000 annually. 

The day reporting program, which also is aimed at keeping offenders out of jail, needs both staff and space, Director Jamey Hunt said. He seeks a 45 percent increase to $180,000 in county funds. 

Hunt, two officers, a secretary and two contractors currently staff the program, which is averaging 97 offenders. 

The numbers do not reflect recidivism, Hunt said. 

"It's a steady flow of new offenders," he said. "We have few repeats, maybe 10." 

There was good news from parks and recreation director Scott Williamson, who requested $400,718 and half the hotel/motel tax, as in the past. 

But he also told commissioners there is a possibility that the county won't have to replace its deteriorated swimming pool at the county park in Eleanor. 

"We are looking into the possibility of getting it lined," he said. The cost would be about $138,000 but it depends on the results of tests, already scheduled, of pipes "behind the concrete. Estimates last year to replace the pool ranged from $800,000 to more than $1 million. 

The parks program has made one payment on the mortgage since assuming ownership last fall of the former Museum in the Community, which defaulted on its debt, now at $464,000. 

The facility in Valley Park has been renamed The Commons, serving as a center for parks activities, weddings, receptions, a possible church lease and other programs. 

"It a beautiful building," Williamson said. But creates some problems because it was designed specifically as a museum, he said. 

In other business, commissioners approved 2-1, with Steve Andes dissenting, a contract not to exceed $22,000, with Terredon Corp. to prepare up to four applications for state water project loans. 

Andes has reservations about the costs, particularly prior to completing a budget. 

"I think we are putting the cart before the horse," he said.