RIDGWAY – It has been almost seven years since the boundaries of Ouray County’s elective districts were redrawn to better represent the voting population, and it will be another two before it’s done again.
The Ouray Board of County Commissioners could do it earlier, but at their meeting on Monday, decided to wait until data from the most recent census is available, in 2011. The county will then be required to complete new redistricting by July of that year.
One reason to wait – the current commissioners could redistrict themselves out of office, a situation whose resolution is unclear in state statutes, according to County Attorney Mary Deganhart.
“There is no answer,” she told the commissioners. “The statutes aren’t clear on this. It states you have to live there. I am not able to find any case law addressing the issue and my feeling at this point is why go there? Why take that chance or run that risk that someone could, whoever it was, claim that a commissioner is no longer living in that district.”
A draft resolution will go before the commissioners in an upcoming meeting to give the public notice that a plan is in place to redistrict in 2011.
“If we pass something in 2011, anybody considering running [for commissioner] in 2012 would be aware of it and know of the changes and could plan for it,” Commissioner Heidi Albritton said.
Since the last census was completed, in 2000, the populations of Log Hill Mesa and Colona have grown significantly. Two of the sitting commissioners, Keith Meinert and Albritton, both live in Ouray, and as the boundaries currently exist, it is possible all three commissioners could live in Ridgway.
“Three district boundaries connect at Ridgway,” Meinert said. “It means representation could be very skewed from one particular part of the county and leave out representation from the Log Hill area.”
Meinert emphasized that the purpose of redistricting is to accurately represent the populations of Ouray County.
“It is not intended to cater to any commissioner,” he said. “It is to correct the current district boundaries, which have allowed two commissioners from the City of Ouray to be sitting for the last eight to 10 years with essentially nobody from the far north. It is to ensure the population centers will have a commissioner that comes from that area.”