Population changes forcing Leavenworth County Commissioners to draw new districts
Leavenworth County Commissioners on Monday began to consider how to re-draw the three commission districts to fit a county population moving southward.
Commissioners said they would welcome input from county residents as they decide during the next few weeks how to adjust the districts to match figures from the 2010 Census, which showed a 6 percent population decline in the northernmost 1st District and a 28 percent increase in the southernmost 3rd District.
County Clerk Janet Klasinski presented the commissioners Monday several possible district alignments prepared with the help of the county's GIS department. All five of the proposed district boundaries would shrink the 3rd District, which contains Tonganoxie and Basehor and is currently represented by commissioner John Flower.
All three commissioners said they favored Klasinski's Proposal 1, which would set the 3rd District as all territory south of Dempsey Road. The 3rd District currently also includes much of Delaware Township, which surrounds Lansing.
The Proposal 1 map, Klasinski said, would make the district boundaries fairly straight and simple, which would ease confusion among voters.
“This not only makes sense for my office, but it also makes a lot of sense for voters out there,” Klasinski said.
Commissioner Clyde Graeber agreed that the Proposal 1 boundaries kept things simple.
“To me, that looks like it’s more compact, each of the districts,” Graeber said. “You've got the population pretty well divided, almost in an even way. I think it would be easier for the voters to know where their precinct is with a map of that type.”
According to 2010 Census figures, the Proposal 1 boundaries would leave the 3rd District with a population of 22,925, while the 2nd District population would be 22,907 and the 1st District population 21,820.
Klasinski said state statute dictated that the commission districts should be “as compact and equal in population as possible.”
All but one of Klasinski's five proposals would give the 3rd District the same northern boundary of Dempsey Road. One, Proposal 4, would shrink the 3rd District even more, moving the portion of Stranger Township — between Tonganoxie and Basehor — north of U.S. Highway 24-40 into the 2nd District, currently represented by Graeber. That would allow for expected population growth in the southern part of the county, GIS director Jeff Culbertson said.
Flower said that as the county's population continues to grow and change, the county may need to consider adding two commissioners to better represent all the areas of the county, increasing the board to five members.
“It may be that as we grow, that's something we're going to have to embrace and look at,” Flower said.
Increasing the number of commissioners would require a countywide vote, Klasinski said.
All of the proposed commission district maps are available on the GIS section of the county's website, leavenworthcounty.org. The commissioners said they would welcome comments from residents. Klasinski said the redistricting process should be complete within a few weeks to allow for early filings for the 2012 election, when the 2nd and 3rd District commission seats will be up for election.
• The commission also approved its 2012 budget as previously published, by a 3-0 vote. The budget raises the county's mill levy by a bit more than 2.4 mills, to 35.513 mills total.