Public meeting in works on Franklin redistricting proposal

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldApril 17, 2013 

Thousands of Franklin County residents could vote for a different commissioner in the next election if a proposed redistricting map goes through.

At their Wednesday meeting, the Board of County Commissioners decided to hold a public hearing in the coming weeks to let people review the map, which moves several voting precincts in the Pasco area to different districts. They will then vote on whether to approve the proposal.

Under the proposed map, commission Chairman Rick Miller will see the most new residents in his district in the western part of Franklin County, with the largest change coming around Tri-Cities Airport. Miller will pick up four precincts there from Commissioner Bob Koch's eastern district.

Miller also picks up one precinct from Commissioner Brad Peck's district. That precinct includes the area west of Road 68, including Gesa Stadium. Peck picks up one precinct along the Columbia River from Koch's district.

In all, Miller's district would gain 3,830 residents compared with the current map, which was approved four years ago. Peck's would add 766 residents and Koch's would lose 4,596.

The county complied with a requirement to have a redistricting plan in place within eight months of the release of U.S. Census figures, Peck said, but because the state prohibits redistricting more than once every four years, the county can only now implement the plan.

Commissioners are still finalizing a date for the hearing, Miller said.

"Anybody that wants to protest or speak in favor of it can use that hearing for that," he said.

Under the proposed map, Peck's district would have 26,495 people, Miller's would have 25,929 and Koch's would have 25,739.

"Ideally, you would like to have the exact same number of (people), but you have to be within a 10 percent variance," said election administrator Diana Killian.

In addition to the commission redistricting, the board also discussed plans to move some voters in the area of the unincorporated "doughnut hole" that was annexed by Pasco in January to voting precincts within the city. Killian said 948 registered voters will be moved into the city council district of Councilwoman Rebecca Francik.

Also Wednesday:

w Commissioners unanimously approved asking staff to send a letter to the city of Pasco asking to remove a stipulation made when the city donated the Franklin County Historical Museum to the county. While they said they have no intention or desire to use the 102-year-old former Carnegie Library building for anything other than a museum, commissioners also want to avoid paying upkeep on the building unless they totally control it.

"If they are unwilling, they can take it back and take over upkeep on it," Peck said.

Miller said that with the Franklin County Historical Society making additions to the museum, commissioners are concerned about future costs.

"It's costing us quite a bit of money to maintain it," he said.

w Commissioners unanimously approved spending $126 per ton to buy around 300 tons of magnesium chloride from Roadwise Inc. of Tacoma. The material is mixed with water and placed in the surface of the county's gravel roads. Public works director Matt Mahoney said the solution saves the county money by preventing ruts and keeping the roads from having to be graded for up to a year.

The funds approved Wednesday will go toward using magnesium chloride on 7.1 miles of the almost 500 miles of county-maintained gravel roads, Mahoney said. The county determines which roads to use it on based on truck traffic and terrain.

Mahoney wanted to use magnesium chloride on 15 miles of gravel road, but budget constraints caused him to cut back by more than half.

"We're looking to do what we can to cut costs and still be able to maintain the service level the public wants," he said.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com

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