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Council considers 7-member board

January 27, 2012

PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth Common Council heard a proposed ordinance on first reading at this week’s meeting concerning establishing a seven-member Common Council.
The proposal calls for four members elected from the districts and three elected at-large.
City Attorney Nelson Chipman called the ordinance “historic.”
The five-member Common Council will remain in effect until Dec. 31, 2015. At one minute past midnight Jan. 1, 2016, the Council increases to seven members. The current five-member Council has one member elected at-large and each of the other four elected from the Districts.
After the totals from the 2010 Census were determined, the population of the City of Plymouth increased to 10,033 — up from 9,840 10 years ago.
A population totals more than 10,000 makes it mandatory to move to a seven-member board. Speaking to the Council members, Chipman said, “You do have the option of establishing five council member districts plus two at-large seats, or remaining at four council member districts with three at-large seats.”
Chipman said that there were two reasons why the administration was recommending keeping the four districts. “The practical matter of soliciting or encouraging people to run for a council seat is not that easy and the three at-large seats may not require too much on the mandated redistricting.” he said, and explained that the idea of forming district lines is to have the population of each as equal as possible.
“In a perfect world, there would be 2,508 in three districts and 2,509 in one,” he said, adding that 10 years ago, the districts were primarily equal with District 1 at 2,535; District 2 at 2,479; District 3 at 2,502; and District 4 at 2,324.
Chipman said, “This is a constitutional issue, and we are required to make each district as equal possible. The courts say the variation from the highest population to the lowest population in the districts an be no more that 10 percent difference.”
He showed the current district map to the Council that reflects the four districts.
“We are going to have to touch it somewhat,” he said. “If you decide on five (Districts), we’d have to start all over. That would be a nightmare.”
The Marshall County Election board has been reviewing and shifting in some areas the districts and precincts lines over the last several months. The Election board indicated at their last meeting that they would not change precincts within Plymouth, if at all, until the City performs their re-districting.
Chipman said, “It’s an interesting process.”
He was involved in re-districting when he worked with the City of Elkhart and had been a part of the re-districting in Plymouth some 20 years ago.
“You may want to have time for the public to have a say on this,” he said, adding that perhaps the matter could be heard at three separate meetings.
After the meeting, Mayor Mark Senter and Chipman provided copies of the Indiana Code 36-4-6-4 that concerns such an ordinance. Included in that information was the following: “A city may adopt an ordinance under this subsection to divide the city into four districts that are composed of contiguous territory; are reasonably compact; do not cross precinct boundary lines, and contain, as nearly as possible, equal population.
The proposed ordinance must be heard on three readings before being adopted.”
The attorney said there were two reasons why the administration was recommending keeping the four districts: “The practical matter of soliciting or encouraging people to run for a council seat is not that easy and the three at-large seats may not require too much on the mandated redistricting.”
Chipman showed a map the census workers used when the counted the people and explained that necessary changes are currently being worked on, but can’t be completed until the Common Council approves Ordinance 2012-2030 establishing a seven-member Common Council consisting of four district members and three at-large.
The City Attorney suggested allowing the public the opportunity to discuss the seven-member council by passing the ordinance on second reading at its next meeting and following up with the third reading at its final meeting in February.

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