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Martinsburg hosts redistricting hearing

July 21, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Only one Martinsburg resident spoke at a public meeting Thursday at City Hall to gather input on how the boundaries of the city's wards should be redrawn.

And he pushed for the addition of a sixth ward.

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

Officials have indicated adjustments to the ward boundaries need to be made because Ward 3 is overpopuated and Ward 5 is significantly underpopulated.  

Ward 3 encompasses the fast-growing and relatively new annexed areas west of Interstate 81 along with more established neighborhoods around War Memorial Park and City Hospital.

Ward 5 is comprised of older, east and north side neighborhoods, including areas east of North Queen Street and north of Tavern Road.

Ward 3 resident David Anderson told the council's special redistricting committee that he felt it would be easier to add a sixth ward and then make minor changes to the boundaries rather than redraw the lines for the city's current five wards.

Five council members are currently elected from their respective wards and two council members, in addition to the mayor, must win a citywide vote, to hold at-large seats.

Anderson said after the brief meeting that he resides close to the current boundary between Wards 3 and 4 and would like to stay in Ward 3, which is represented by Max Parkinson on council.

City Attorney Floyd M. "Kin" Sayre III said a second public meeting will be held to review a draft map of proposed ward boundary changes before the city council will vote on them.

Any ward changes would be put into effect prior to the next municipal election, which is scheduled for June 2012.

Anderson's suggestion of adding more ward seats would require changes to the city charter, Sayre said.

Proposed charter changes require the council to hold a public hearing on the issue in question and subsequent adoption of an ordinance, Sayre said.

If there is any objection to a proposed change to the charter at the initial public hearing, the issue would have to be decided by voters in an election, according to Sayre.

The process makes it particularly difficult to change the charter, Sayre noted.

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