Huntington Common Council gives preliminary approval for bond sale for sewage system

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Members of the Huntington Common Council have given their preliminary approval to the sale of up to $9.46 million in bonds to help finance upgrades to the city's sewage system.

The 20-year, $500,000-a-year payment on those bonds would be funded through a sewage rate increase of up to 14 percent charged to residents who receive city sewer service.

An ordinance allowing the bond sale was approved by the council during its Nov. 13 meeting on a 3-2 vote. Charles Chapman, Paul Pike and Jack Slusser cast the favorable votes, with Greg Davis and Wayne Powell voting no. Council members Joe Blomeke and Jim Long were absent.

The bond ordinance, which must be passed on a second reading before it becomes effective, will come before the board again at its next meeting.

The bonds are needed to pay for the next phase of a state-mandated project to stop raw sewage from flowing into area streams. This phase of the project includes separating storm drains and sewage lines in the Frederick Street area. Storm water and sewage currently flow together through the same lines, causing sewage to bypass the treatment plant in times of heavy rains and snow melt. Several related projects are also included in this phase.

The $9.46 million is the maximum that could be needed for the project, engineers say. The amount will be adjusted downward as contracts are awarded and the true cost is known.

The sewage rate increase, estimated at a maximum of 14 percent, will also be reduced as the actual cost of the project is tabulated.

Council did not vote on the rate increase, but set a public hearing on the proposal for Dec. 11.

In other business, an ordinance reapportioning the city council districts was approved on a 5-0 vote and will come back at the council's next meeting for second reading.

The reapportionment of districts must be done every 10 years to reflect population numbers shown in the most recent census. Each of the districts must have roughly the same number of residents.

The redistricting proposal being considered by the council is one of a half-dozen options presented by Bryn Keplinger, assistant director of the Huntington Countywide Department of Community Development, Huntington County Clerk Kittie Keiffer and Election Deputy Pam Fowler. Council members decided on a 5-2 vote last month to move forward with this proposal, with Jim Long and Greg Davis dissenting. Long argued that the changes in his district, situated on Huntington's east side, would split up homogeneous neighborhoods.

The five districts currently range in population from a low of 3,077 to a high of 4,273.
The newly reconfigured districts would range in population from 3,372 people to 3,624 people. Redistricting guidelines urge that the difference between the district with then highest population and the district with the least number of people be less than 10 percent; the difference would be just 7.2 percent in the proposal before the council.
In terms of registered voters, the districts would contain anywhere from 1,780 voters to 2,341 voters. However, the district's size must be determined by the entire population, not just the number of registered voters.

In addition to dividing the population into five roughly equal districts, each of the new districts must also be made up of contiguous territory and be reasonably compact. Precincts may not be split unless it's necessary to achieve equal population.
The proposal would split two precincts - Huntington 2A, which would be divided between the second and third districts, and Huntington 3, divided between the first and second districts. That will necessitate two sets of ballots for voters in both of those two precincts during city elections, Keiffer noted during earlier discussions.

Other precincts would be shuffled to different districts to achieve the population balance.
Those changes include:

• The first district, currently represented by Chapman, now consists of precincts 4, 6 and 6A. Two of those precincts - 4 and 6 - would stay in that district, but Precinct 6A would move to the fifth district. However, part of Precinct 3 would move from the second district to the first district.

• The second district, currently represented by Pike, now includes precincts 1A, 2 and 3. Precincts 1A and 2 would remain in the second district, but part of Precinct 3 would move to the first district. However, part of Precinct 2A would move from the third district into the second district.

• The third district, currently represented by Long, is now made up of precincts 1, 2A and 10. It would keep 1, 10 and part of 2A, but the other part of 2A would move to the second district. It will also gain precinct 13.

• The fourth district, currently represented by Powell, now consists of precincts 7A, 8 and 9. It would keep 7A and 8, but 9 would move to the third district. However, Precinct 7 would move from the fifth district into the fourth district.

• The fifth district, currently represented by Blomeke, now includes precincts 5, 5A and 6A. Two precincts - 5 and 5A -would remain in the fifth district, but 7 would move to the fourth district. The fifth district would gain Precinct 6A, which would move from the first district.

In each district, the current representative's home remains in his district.

The council includes two additional at-large representatives.

The redistricting would take effect immediately after its final approval by the council.