A redistricting ad hoc committee chaired by Commissioner Alvin Mason got a first look at Linda Meggers’ efforts Wednesday, and most went away saying the map needed slight adjustments before they would approve it.
“It’s a good first stab,” Commissioner Jerry Brigham said. “I feel there will be some tweaks.”
District 7, Augusta’s northernmost, represented by Brigham and school board member Frank Dolan, emerged untouched in the map Meggers brought to Augusta. The district was within 603 residents of its ideal size, according to census data.
Not so for District 1, represented by Commissioner Matt Aitken and school board member Marion Barnes, and short 4,165 residents in the 2010 census.
To build up District 1, Meggers reached into adjoining District 2, adding areas south of Laney-Walker Boulevard along 15th Street as far south as Essie McIntyre Boulevard and Olive Road. She also added a stretch of Central Avenue to Monte Sano Avenue, then dipped south to include the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center’s Uptown campus and some nearby neighborhoods.
Aitken, up for re-election to a second term next year, said he would “lead with the framework they’ve given me.” Required to pass muster with the U.S. Department of Justice, the proposed district increases from 63.54 percent to 65.12 percent black.
Meggers then grew District 2 west into District 5 territory to make up the losses, adding an area south of Wrightsboro Road to Jackson Road, plus another pocket bound by Gordon Highway and Bobby Jones Expressway. It also adds District 5 areas south of Milledgeville Road east of Wheeless Road, and would take in all of Kissingbower Road.
District 2, held by term-limited Commissioner Corey Johnson and school board member Eloise Curtis, decreases from 75.77 percent to 73.52 percent black in the proposed map.
Losing areas to District 2, District 5 then was expanded into District 3, which would remain unchanged except for losing a swath bound by Wrightsboro Road, Jimmie Dyess Parkway and Gordon Highway to District 5. Meggers also added a few District 4 neighborhoods south of Meadowbrook Drive to District 5.
District 5 Commissioner Bill Lockett, an ad hoc committee member who missed the Wednesday meeting because of a leg injury, said he knew District 5 was short 1,690 people and expected some changes.
“I’ll just work with what I can,” said Lockett, who will be up for re-election next year.
Except for losing the neighborhoods between Morgan and Woodlake roads to District 5, District 4 remains intact in the proposed map. The district was more than 3,200 people over its ideal size in the 2010 census.
Pleased with the map was District 6 school board member Jack Padgett, who had predicted his district and District 8 could be balanced out by swapping a few precincts. That was done, with Meggers adding an area of District 8 from Doug Barnard Parkway almost to the Goshen community to District 6. District 6 remains 51 percent black, while District 8 decreases from 31 percent to 30 percent black.
Less pleased with the map was former commission candidate and community activist Sammie Sias, who had pushed for his Sand Ridge neighborhood, a “distinct subdivision,” to be reunited into one district in the map. Since 2000, Sand Ridge, located just outside Fort Gordon between Tobacco and Willis Foreman roads, has been split between districts 4 and 8.
The divided neighborhood was one of a handful of issues the committee agreed Wednesday to work on.
“I am cautiously optimistic at this point,” Sias said.
The maps aren’t finalized, and the public will have a chance to look at them during three public hearings scheduled starting next week. The 6 p.m. hearings will be held downtown and at south and west Augusta locations, but their locations have not been finalized, according to Lynn Bailey, the executive director of Richmond County Board of Elections.
If they meet Department of Justice approval, the districts will be in play by the start of spring qualifying for November elections next year, when elections to five school board and five commission seats will be held.