News and Tribune

December 20, 2012

New Albany approves redistricting plan

Council splits on pool regulations, certified operator


NEW ALBANY — The New Albany City Council approved a redistricting measure on first and second readings Thursday, though the Floyd County Commissioners will still have to adjust the plan if it is approved on final reading.

No current council members would switch districts under the proposal, though it would split three precincts. Thus the commissioners would have to adjust the precinct lines due to the splits.

A redistricting plan submitted by At-large Councilman Kevin Zurschmiede was voted down earlier this month. Opponents of the proposal said it split more precincts than the version approved Thursday, and it moved more people into different districts.

The latest plan “doesn’t destroy or rearrange the lines as drastic as it has been in the past,” said Councilman Dan Coffey, the sponsor of the ordinance.

There’s about a 1.1 percent deviation in population numbers among the six districts under the plan, as Coffey said the proposal essentially moves people out of the two largest voting districts into the two smallest.

Municipalities have until Dec. 31 to approve a redistricting plan to conform to federal law, as they are required to redraw voter boundaries within two years of a U.S. Census.

The council has been sued in the past over redistricting, and the topic has at times created contentious debates among officials in New Albany.

After his proposal was voted down on Dec. 3, Zurschmiede vowed not to work on another plan because he said the council never seems satisfied with what is presented.

Zurschmiede along with Councilman Bob Caesar voted against the ordinance, though they did not comment on their reasons for opposing it.

Coffey requested a suspension of the rules to allow all three readings on the ordinance Thursday. However, the council had to unanimously approve the suspension of the rules, and Caesar voted against the request.

The actual ordinance was approved 6-2 on both ballots, as Council President Diane McCartin-Benedetti was absent.

Coffey said his plan — which like previous proposals was prepared with help from council attorney Matt Lorch — was designed to get the population numbers as even as possible without having the districts “chopped up” as much as preceding redistricting suggestions.

Floyd County Clerk Linda Moeller said the plan helps to even out population numbers in the districts, but that it “creates another issue” for the commissioners because of the precinct splits.

Splitting Precinct 9 could divide a school district which would be an issue that would have to be reviewed, Moeller said. She added it will be up to the county commissioners to determine if they can make the council’s redistricting plan work.

While municipalities have until the end of the year to approve a plan, the county will be able to examine it in 2013 as there’s no election. The council will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. on Dec. 27 to take the final ballot on the redistricting plan.

Split on pool regulations vote

The council voted 4-4 on first and second readings on an ordinance that would require all public facilities operating swimming pools to have a certified pool operator.

The ordinance also established certain authorities for the Floyd County Health Department as it pertains to the inspection and potential suspension of pool permits for operators, and that language caused division among the council members.

Coffey said the added authority is “overreaching” and would allow the Floyd County Health Department too much power when it comes to shutting down a pool.

Health department officials said it’s not their intention to suspend anyone’s permit for longer than it would take to address any contamination issues.

The ordinance has already been passed by the county commissioners, but city council members that voted against the measure on initial readings said they would prefer the legislation only establish the certified pool operator requirement.

If approved, places with public pools such as apartment complexes, schools and hotels would be required to have their own certified pool operators to ensure proper chemicals are used to fight off diseases and contamination.

Health department officials said dangerous bacteria can be spread in pools if the water hasn’t been properly treated. They estimated it costs between $125 to $250 for certification, and that training can typically be completed in one or two days.

Health department officials added that having a certified operator can also cut costs because some facilities use too many chemicals in their pools.