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Bedford County will still have seven districts when redistricting to accommodate Bedford’s reversion to town status is complete.
Late last year the supervisors voted to instruct the redistricting commission to present them with both a seven district map and an eight district map which makes the town its own district. A majority of the committee preferred the seven district version.
“We did vote for the seven district map to recommend to you,” said Matthew Braud, who served as the committee’s spokesman.
The seven district map splits the town between District 6 and 7. County Attorney Carl Boggess said the committee tried to use the railroad track as the dividing line, but couldn’t get the numbers to work. Before Bedford became an independent city back in the late ‘60s, it was split between two districts with the track forming the dividing line.
That no longer works because the town will include land that is not currently part of the city. The committee ended up choosing Va. 43 as the dividing line with portions west of the line in District 6 and portions to the east in District 7.
The map creates a population difference of no more than 1.7 percent among the districts. It was also done with the aim of not shifting any elected representative—either supervisor or school board member—out of their district. The committee also tried to avoid shifting appointed officials out of their districts, although that effort wasn’t entirely successful. The map places District 7 planning commission member Jerry Craig in District 5.
“We didn’t have a lot of options available to keep everybody whole,” said Braud.
Keeping Craig in District 7 presented two problems. One is that it would leave a precinct split between two congressional districts — something the committee tried to avoid as much as possible. The other problem is that the area where Craig’s home is located is in a large census block. Braud said that the county is forbidden by federal law to split census blocks when drawing districts. Moving this census block into District 7 would create problems in balancing the districts’ populations.
If Craig ends up in District 5, he will still keep his planning commission seat until his term expires in 2016. Once it expires, he won’t be eligible for reappointment to that seat, although he could be appointed to the District 5 seat.
The supervisors voted by a 5-2 vote to direct the committee to proceed with a seven-district map. District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard and District 7 Supervisor Tammy Parker cast the dissenting votes. The vote was confirmed by a second vote taken after the regular meeting convened at 7:30 p.m.
The redistricting committee will come back to the supervisors at a work session on Jan. 28 with two seven district maps. One will be the map presented Monday night; the other will be one that will attempt to address issues the supervisors raised.
During the regular meeting, at which District 5 Supervisor Steve Arrington was elected as chairman and District 4 Supervisor John Sharp was elected as vice chairman, the supervisors heard a presentation from the county’s constitutional officers asking for pay raises for county employees. Sheriff Mike Brown said that the Sheriff’s Office lost three deputies last year because most surrounding law enforcement agencies have higher salaries. He noted that the Bedford City Police Department pays higher salaries than the Sheriff’s Office does. He also noted the starting salaries for deputies are low enough that a new deputy with two children qualifies for public assistance.
Arrington said that he has already met with the five constitutional officers.
“We will not be looking for tax increases,” he commented.
He said that the supervisors have a difficult budget cycle ahead of them and it remains to be seen what legislators in Richmond will do.
“I do not apologize for a 50-cent tax rate and I do not apologize for not raising taxes,” he said.
In action items, the supervisors unanimously approved a new telecommunications tower strategic plan. According to George Condyles, president of Atlantic Technology Consultants (ATC), the plan proposes building 11, 199-foot monopole towers to provide adequate signal strength. ATC has been the county’s consultant for telecommunications issues since 2000 and developed the current strategic plan.
Condyles said that the 199-foot towers, which the telecommunications industry will build, will serve as the backbone for a system that will provide 4G broadband service to virtually all of Bedford County. The work of bringing the signal to people’s devices will be done by shorter towers and Condyles notes that there are already a large number of 40-foot towers in the county in the form of telephone poles.