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Martinsburg mayor wants review of ward boundries

June 28, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Martinsburg Mayor George Karos has proposed the creation of a redistricting committee to review whether city ward lines need to be redrawn in light of the 2010 census population figures.

In a special meeting Wednesday, the City Council is expected to consider Karos’ appointment of himself, legal counsel Floyd M. “Kin” Sayre, City Recorder Gena Long and Council At-Large members Rodney Woods and Gregg Wachtel to the panel.

The special session begins at 5 p.m.

Karos said Monday that he was aware of a population imbalance among the wards, particularly for Ward 3, which includes hundreds of acres west of Interstate 81 that has been annexed into the city since 2000.

Karos said options for redrawing the political boundaries have yet to be discussed.

Divided equally, the population of each ward in the city would have about 3,445 residents based on the 2010 census population of 17,227. State law requires wards and other election districts to be as nearly equal in population as possible.

Wards 4 and 5, which include much of Martinsburg’s historic business district and neighboring east and northend neighborhoods, each have less than 2,500 residents, according to precinct-based census data released recently by Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan/Hampshire.

While Berkeley County’s population grew by more than 35 percent since 2000, Martinsburg’s eastside neighborhoods were part of a census tract that actually lost residents, dipping by nearly 1 percent, according to census data. Tract 9715 was the only area in the county to lose population since 2000, according to the data.

Ward 3, meanwhile, appears to have a population of more than 5,000 residents, according to the census-precinct data. The tally includes The Gallery, a relatively new residential development on the west side of Interstate 81, which is part of a census tract that grew by more than 50 percent, according to the agency’s online database.

Ward 2 has about 2,800 residents and Ward 1 has about 3,500, according to the data.

Given the figures, Councilman Roger Lewis, who represents Ward 4, said he thinks the lines will probably have to be redrawn.

“I’ve got a very spread out ward (now),” Lewis said of his boot-shaped political subdivision, which includes areas of the city’s east side where the population actually slightly decreased in the last decade, according to the data. As it is drawn now, Ward 4 has little more than 2,100 residents, according to the figures.

When asked if he favored the addition of a sixth ward, Lewis said he didn’t feel strongly about that possibility “one way or the other.”

“I don’t have a problem with it myself,” Lewis said. “People need representation.”

Among other items on today’s meeting agenda is reconsideration of Karos’ proposed reappointment of Stephen Cox to the Eastern West Virginia Airport Authority.

The council declined to vote on Cox’s reappointment earlier this month after Lewis made a motion to reappoint the Centra Bank executive to the authority’s board of directors.

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