By Matt Youngfrau
WURTSBORO July 2, 2002 The process of redistricting in Sullivan County is underway, and the latest informational meeting took place on Thursday, June 27.
The second in a series of four, the gathering was a special meeting of the Sullivan County Legislature's General Services Committee and was held at the Mamakating Town Hall in Wurtsboro.
"The purpose of this meeting is to provide opportunities for people to ask questions," remarked Committee Chair Chris Cunningham. "After the meetings, [Consultant] Phillip [Chonigman] will work on the plan. We will present the plan in the fall."
"Once we shift districts, it will cause a domino effect," stated Chonigman, a GeoPolitical Strategies (GPS) representative hired by the county to help with the redistricting process. "We will see some change."
The overall goal is to make changes with as little disruption as possible and without eliminating election districts. However, due to population changes, some of those lines have to be changed.
According to Chonigman's estimates, the ideal district population would be 8,018 people. The actual number will be confirmed within two months when the state prison figures are removed. Exact numbers have been unavailable, although Chonigman has estimated the number of inmates at Sullivan and Woodbourne Correctional Facilities in Fallsburg to be 1,800.
Currently, four districts 1 (Delaware, Cochecton, Bethel), 2 (Tusten, Highland, Lumberland, Forestburgh and part of Mamakating), 4 (most of Mamakating), and 7 (parts of Fallsburg and Neversink) are over the target number. Chonigman feels that a 5 percent deviation (about 400 people) is acceptable.
One of the nine districts that will see significant change is District 2, currently represented by Kathleen LaBuda of Wurtsboro. The population has shifted notably in that district.
All of the numbers are based on the 2000 census. Chonigman handed out a comparison between the 1990 and 2000 census. In ten years, Sullivan County's population grew by 4,689 people to 73,966 people. In fact, of the 15 towns in the county, only two (Liberty and Rockland) saw a decrease. Of the six villages, three (Jeffersonville, Liberty, and Monticello) lost residents.
While information was exchanged and collected at the meeting, lawmakers expressed some concern about the low turnout only four people from the general public attended. Legislators are worried that, when the plan is released in the fall, people will complain that they had no say in it. It is hoped that more residents will turn out for the next two meetings: Tuesday, July 9 at the Tusten Town Hall in Narrowsburg and Tuesday, July 16 at the Sullivan County Government Center in Monticello. Both meetings start at 7 p.m.