Originally created 09/05/01

Merriwether region gets second county councilman

EDGEFIELD, S.C. - Edgefield County's growing Merriwether region gained more representation on the county council thanks to a new redistricting plan.

"Now there are going to be two councilmen representing the people" of Merriwether, said Councilman Joel Hudson. Councilman Bill Vaughan will also represent the Merriwether district.

Mr. Hudson sponsored the redistricting plan chosen at Tuesday night's council meeting. He has been the only representative for Merriwether, the most densely populated region in Edgefield County.

Census 2000 results required the county to redistrict because of changes in population. The county saw an 81 percent variance from the targeted 4,919 people per district, and only a 10 percent variance is allowed, said David Alexander, digital cartographer with the South Carolina Office of Research and Statistics.

"What happens in redistricting is everyone has been used to certain boundaries for the past decade, and now those boundaries change, and change just tends to make people uncomfortable," said County Administrator Wayne Adams.

The plan passed by a four to one vote. Mr. Vaughan voted against it.

"I'm losing an awful lot of my constituents," Mr. Vaughan said. "When they talk about having them compact, they forgot about district two. It runs just about the whole length of the county."

The city of Edgefield will be divided in the plan, with representation by Mr. Vaughan and Councilman Norman Dorn.

"I don't like the city of Edgefield being split in half like that," Mr. Vaughan said.

Chairman Monroe Kneece said the plan will add 1,500 people to his district, including inmates of the state prison. Councilman Willie Bright's new district will incorporate the federal prison. The inmates cannot vote to re-elect either councilman.

"I guess everybody lost something they wanted to keep or picked up something they necessarily didn't want. The problem was these two prisons," Mr. Bright said. "I don't like it, but what can we do? I didn't see no way of drawing it any better without drawing a whole lot of fingers and arms."

The council will hold a public hearing on the new plan during its Oct. 2 meeting. Council members then are expected to pass an ordinance reflecting the new district boundaries, Mr. Adams said.

"The goal is to have everyone registered in the new districts prior to filing time for the new council seats next March," Mr. Adams said.

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395.


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