Commissioners review preliminary district reapportionment

Madison County commissioner district lines are getting re-drawn and on Tuesday commissioners looked over a draft map of the new districts.

Commissioners met with information technology director Karen Brown and Patrick Dougherty to review a preliminary proposal for district reapportionment. Dougherty, who works for JHS, Inc. in Helena, joined the meeting via telephone. The county has contracted with JHS, Inc. as a consultant on the redistricting process.

The goal in re-apportioning the districts is to make them as compact and equal in population as possible, Dougherty said. He used spatial software to draw up the district boundaries based upon 2010 census information. The previous commission districts were based off of the 2000 census.

Commissioner Dan Happel noted that the draft proposal did not account for the vast diversity of topography in Madison County, notably the Gravelly Mountain Range running through the middle of the county.

“The demographics don’t work with the geography,” Happel said.

Commissioner Jim Hart requested to meet in person before the county’s Dec. 4 deadline in order to share perspectives on why changing the lines to another area might be more feasible. The proposed lines create concerns about several issues such as road districts. The draft proposal also failed to consider population centers throughout the county.

“Doing something on a map is different from seeing the actual geography of the county,” Hart said.

The board also met with Jefferson County commissioner Leonard Wortman, Dennis Glick of Future West and Monique DiGiorgio of the Western Environmental Law Center to discuss the upcoming meeting of the Mountain States Transmission Intertie project liaison group. The liaison group consists of stakeholders in the MSTI project who will participate in group discussions to review of project activities, products and issues. The questions posed to the community about possible locations for the MSTI line were not framed to produce a predetermined answer, emphasized Happel.

“We need to try to ease the liaison group into that comfort level and provide the information they want in a way that they can’t question the integrity of the project,” Happel said.

Dennis Glick added that transparency has been an important theme throughout the MSTI review project, and the liaison group meetings are a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that.

The upcoming liaison group meeting will be Thursday at 1 p.m. in Dillon.

In other news the board carried a motion approving a resolution the Sheridan Rural Fire District’s Board of Trustees to purchase real estate property. The Sheridan RFD has raised $15, 332 to put toward the purchase of 10 acres just outside of Sheridan. The purpose of the purchase is to provide the volunteer fire department with adequate facilities. The project will take place in three phases: purchasing the property, acquiring grants and funding to build a new fire station and finally building the facility.

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