2001-05-22 Grand Haven Tribune Board looks at option to reduce number of county commissioners

Board looks at option to reduce number of county commissioners
Grand Haven Tribune

A board charged to re-draw Ottawa County commissioner districts whittled down its options Monday, and a reduction n the number of commissioners remains a strong possibility. The Ottawa County Reapportionment Board has seven maps left on the table, with four of the maps drawn up for 11 commissioner districts.

The board includes county Clerk Dan Krueger, Prosecuting Attorney Ron Frantz, Treasurer Mary Richardson, Ottawa County Republican Party Chari Jack Holmes and Ottawa County Democratic Party Chair John C. O’Brien.

The composition of the group is decided by state law. The board must re-draw districts according to the population figures from the 2000 Census. Each board member presented two maps he or she favored Monday. Richardson, Krueger and O’Brien each put forward maps with 11 Commissioner Districts.

O’Brien said the time had come for smaller government. Holmes disagreed, proposing two 13-commissionermaps. He said out of the $150 million county budget, the cost of commissioners is slight. “I don’t think commissioners are that costly in the scheme of things,” Holmes said Public comment, according to Holmes, largely called for remaining with the status quo.

Richardson, who favored two maps with 11 commissioner districts, said she realized that the public comment favored a 13-commissioner board. The criteria, which the reapportionment board are required by law to follow, do not ask board members to consider the number of commissioner districts, she said.

Ottawa County can have between 5-21 commissioners. There are eight criteria the reapportionment boards are required to follow, including making population in districts nearly equal and trying to make districts square and compact.

Frantz said going down to 11 would make the districts too large. “I think it’s one of the inherent problems of going back to 11 from 13,” Frantz said. “When you get to 11, you have to put so much together,” he added. Eleven districts would cut representation for the Tri-Cities area from four districts to three. The downtown area of the city of Grand Haven is split into a district with the city of Ferrysburg and Spring Lake Township in two of the 11 district maps.

Grand Haven Township trustee Joanne Marcetti said one of the 13 commissioner maps fits the township the best. She did not support 11 districts. “It would not be our choice,” she said. The maps submitted Monday also included a blowup of the Holland area which broke down the population according to race.

Members of the Racial Coalition for Justice, a group put together to speak for minorities at the reapportionment hearings, said the group will make its recommendation on Wednesday, May 23. The meeting is at 1”30 p.m. at the Ottawa Count Fillmore Street Complex. A meeting will also be held on Friday, May 25, 1:30 at the Fillmore Street Complex.