By CHRIS MENEES
Obion County’s reapportionment/redistricting plan is headed back to the drawing board.
The Obion County Commission was asked to consider adopting a plan Monday during its session at the courthouse, but the action was tabled after lengthy and sometimes heated discussion.
Both federal and state law mandate reapportionment and redistricting. Reappor-tionment refers to the allocation of political seats among units and is most commonly used in reference to the distribution of congressional seats among the 50 states, while redistricting refers to the delineation of boundaries for political units, such as state legislative and county commission districts.
The redistricting is done every 10 years based on the most recent census and, according to Tennessee Code Annotated, the state’s county governments are required to redistrict by Jan. 1, 2012.
Obion County’s reapportionment committee met earlier this month and committee chairman Donnie Braswell explained to commissioners the group’s three objectives included keeping the populus in the districts the same (equal representation), with a 10 percent tolerance; not diluting the minority vote; and keeping the districts reasonably compact.
The target population per district is 4,544, with 1,515 per commissioner, according to information provided to the committee by the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS).
After discussion and modifications, the reapportionment committee ultimately voted to go with a modified plan which was presented to the commission Monday morning for consideration. Braswell said while the committee voted to adopt what became known as Plan 1 rather than a second plan which was considered, selection of the county’s plan is ultimately the county commission’s decision.
Mike Galey, a county government consultant who serves northwest Tennessee counties for CTAS, was among those in attendance at the county commission meeting Monday. He has also been meeting with the reapportionment committee.
Commissioners asked several questions that compared the two plans considered and there was considerable discussion about making amendments to plans due to concerns over shifts in some district boundaries. At one point, commission chairman Ralph Puckett called for order to be restored after an exchange between commissioners Danny Jowers and Dwayne Hensley over Hensley’s comment about the prospect of a challenge in chancery court if the best map for minority representation is not chosen. Hensley had made a motion that Plan 1 be adopted, calling it the most fair.
Commissioner Richard Arnold ultimately made a motion that involved amending Plan 1 in order to leave District 4 as it is outlined in Plan 2 and amend District 6 as it is outlined in Plan 1.
After several commissioners indicated they were still unclear about the proposed amendment, Galey recommended he be allowed to leave the meeting in order to re-draw the amended proposal and bring it back to commissioners later in the meeting. Commissioners voted to table the matter and address it later in the session.
However, after commissioners addressed all other business on the agenda and returned after a 10-minute recess, commissioner Jerry Grady made a motion to table the reapportionment/redistricting plan until next month’s commission meeting and for the matter to go back to the reapportionment committee. His motion was approved.
Braswell tentatively set another meeting of the reapportionment committee for next Monday at 7 p.m. at the courthouse.
In other action during Monday morning’s meeting, which was opened with prayer led by Jowers and with the Pledge of Allegiance, the commission:
• Approved a resolution concerning local service assistance in regard to satellite and cable television and AT&T.
The resolution emphasizes the need for local customer service access to address customers’ problems. Concern about customer service being outsourced to foreign countries was brought before the county’s budget committee during its meeting earlier this month.
The resolution will be sent to state and federal legislators.
• Approved a resolution to authorize the submission of an application for a used oil grant from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for the Solid Waste Fund in the amount of $3,000 — a 100 percent grant, with no local funds required — to maintain and upgrade current equipment used at the county’s recycling center.
• Approved a courthouse committee recommendation to relocate a military monument from the Obion County Fairgrounds to the courthouse lawn, using private donations to repair the monument and move it.
The monument — in memory of servicemen missing in action in southeast Asia in the Vietnam era — was dedicated Aug. 26, 1973, in memory of Richard Clive “Tito” Lannom.
Arnold, chairman of the courthouse committee, said the monument is in need of repair and needs to be moved quickly. It was noted during the budget committee meeting earlier this month that anyone interested in contributing funds for the monument’s relocation and restoration is asked to contact either Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire at the courthouse or local residents Ed Youngblood and Chuck Ashley.
• Authorized the repair of the courthouse roof, which has been leaking in the old jail area upstairs. McGuire will obtain bids for the roof replacement, which can be funded with the use of capital outlay/debt service rather than the General Fund, according to Jowers, budget committee chairman.
• Approved the donation of two old American Red Cross vans recently donated to the county. McGuire said the vans aren’t worth very much and aren’t needed in the county’s fleet. One van was donated to the Obion County Rescue Squad and a smaller van was donated to Northwest Tennessee Disaster Services.
The action was approved by a 15-1 vote, with Grady voting against it and commissioner Terry Dwyer abstaining due to a conflict.
• Approved a request by Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder to create a special account for private donations specifically designated for law enforcement purposes.
• Approved a resolution proposed by Williamson County officials to express support for legislation that would amend Tennessee Code Annotated to subject governing bodies to the same open meeting act that the state’s General Assembly is subjected to under state law.
Jowers said the action basically asks that state legislators “abide by the same rules as the rest of us” and seeks to subject all governing bodies to the same requirements as state legislators. Copies of the resolution will be sent to Williamson County officials, as well as state legislators and the Tennessee County Commissioners Association.
• Approved four notary public applications.
Commissioners Paul Albright, Kenneth Cheatham, Tim Doyle and Sam Sinclair were absent from Monday’s hour-long meeting.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 10.18.11