By TIM HORAN
The City of Abilene will have only one seat on the Dickinson County Commission in the future.
That was the consensus of the commission, following a public hearing on two proposed maps presented to realign the districts at its regular meeting Thursday.
One proposal would move one precinct, of Abilene into District 3. The other assigned all of Abilene to District 2with outlining Grant Township residents in District 3.
Kansas state law requires commissioners to review the districts’ populations and sizes each year and redistrict as needed. While the judicial system has not required Dickinson County to redistrict, the commissioners have been looking at new boundaries.
Without new districts, the current map could be considered unequal. District 1 has 5,911 people and 404 square miles; District 2 has 7,821 people and 36 square miles; and District 3 has 6,022 people and 411 square miles. The population difference between District 2 and District 1 is close to 2,000 (1,910).
The new boundaries map listed as Option 1 moves Buckeye into District 2 and the west Abilene voting district into District 3. Townships Garfield and Newbern join District 1. The greatest population discrepancy is 139, between District 2 and District 1.
Option 2 leaves the city of Abilene intact as District 2 but moves rural Grant Township into District 3. The greatest population discrepancy there is 384, again between District 2 and District 1.
Only three people attended the public hearing, one being Bob Diehl of Chapman who has been vocal about a past plan, and Beth Wade, a member of the Herington City Commission. Both spoke out in favor of Option 2.
A proposal presented before then-commissioners Sheila Biggs, LaVerne Myers and Joe Nold would have divided up Abilene into the three districts. It died for a lack of a second.
Several members of the rural community spoke out against that plan which, in theory, would have allowed all three commissioners to reside in Abilene or outside of Abilene. The current Option 1 would have, in theory, allowed two commissioners to reside in Abilene or all three outside.
At the Thursday meeting, the commissioners asked County Attorney Doug Thompson to draft a resolution to approve at the next meeting Option 2, which would assure at least one, and only one, commissioner would reside in the county’s largest city, Abilene.
“When you break it down to urban and rural, I would have the most urban when you add in Herington, Enterprise, Hope, Woodbine and Carlton,” said Chairman Myers. “I have the largest land mass, too.”
“I think the formation of these two options, a lot of it had to do with the response that people had made at previous meetings of the previous options,” said Lynn Peterson. “I think there was an attempt to listen to those concerns. The other piece was to even things up populationwise.”
Sherry Massey, GIS coordinator, who helped provide the maps based on county census numbers, said that of the comments posted on the counties’ web page, Option 2 was the most favored.
“I want to thank you guys for studying this,” said Diehl. “I was very upset (with an earlier plan) where agriculture was not represented. I would like to adopt Option 2. I think we need to work together and I think you guys have done a great job working it out.”
“With Option 2 you would definitely know where the commissioners are coming from,” Myers said. “We know that one would come from the city of Abilene.”
“I appreciate what you did at the last meeting by tabling it and giving it more time to look it over,” Wade said. “I do believe that each district should have its own representative. I know we (Herington) are a small town in that district but I feel we do have a voice.”
“I do hope that, in the future, that all commissioners are looking out for the entire county,” Myers said. “We’re basically trying to satisfy the state statutes.”
One of the issues was the size of the areas which the state laws refer to as “compact.”
Craig Chamberlin said the statute states the districts have to be balanced.
“My opinion is that it has to be balanced by population,” he said. “The one that was voted down was based on population and land mass. People were not in favor of it.”
Asked after the meeting if Option 2 would satisfy the “compact” clause in the state law, Thompson agreed that he thought it would.
“I get asked ‘can I serve this big a district?’ and my answer is yes,” Myers said. “Communications are so much better. We have better ways to communicate with people, making it easier to correspond. And if it is necessary for me to drive to Herington, I’ll drive to Herington. As a kid I spent a lot of my days at Herington. I am a country person and I drive 15 miles to get to this meeting. Herington is only 25 miles away.”
“If someone would call me and say I have a concern at Carlton or any of the areas, I certainly would be willing to listen,” Peterson said. “Any of the commissioners would be glad to respond on any of the issues. We have districts but all of us have a county-side viewpoint and look at what’s best for the county.”