SIDNEY — Sidney City Council discussed potential council ward redistricting during its Monday night meeting.
Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth sought direction from council on the topic of ward redistricting. The 2020 Population Census was completed in Oct. 15, 2020, she opened with, and said due to COVID-19, the census response phase, as well as the apportionment/redistricting phases were pushed back by three to six months from the original schedule. Redistricting data, including population and housing, was released by the Census Bureau in August and September 2021. Further demographic and housing characteristics are scheduled to be released in 2022, with an unknown date for detailed data to be released.
The city of Sidney’s population from the 2020 Census is 20,589, a decrease of 640 persons from the 2010 Census count of 21,229, Dulworth noted.
One of the local activities that results from new census data is a review of the council wards, she said. Dulworth quoted the zoning code saying, the city is “subdivided into four wards … which boundaries are so fixed so that each ward shall contain as nearly as practicable an equal number of inhabitants.”
She said city staff reviewed the population data provided by the Census Bureau for redistricting and “found several concerning anomalies.” The anomalies include census blocks in which there are no residences but a population is reported and census blocks in which the population is seriously under-reported.
In addition, Dulworth continued, the total population count for the city as a place is 20,589, but the total population count when the population for each of the census blocks in the city are added is 20,532, a difference of 57 people.
Due to the errors discovered with the population counts, she said city staff is concerned undetected problems may also be present in other areas of the city. Changing council ward boundaries based upon potentially flawed data is a concern.
City Council can choose to consider the current ward boundaries and population counts to be “as nearly as practicable an equal number of inhabitants” as required by the zoning code or adjust the ward boundaries to further equalize the populations.
Dulworth said the following parameters are used when making changes to ward boundaries:
• Population in each ward should be as close to 5,136 as practical;
• Ward boundaries should follow physical features, such as streets, alleys, waterways, railroads, or other features that are visible;
• Ward boundaries should follow census geography boundaries;
• Ward boundaries should not divide cohesive neighborhoods where possible;
• Changes to ward boundaries should be minimized to prevent changes in voting precinct and voting location.
The optimal population per ward is 5,136, Dulworth explained.
If council were to adjust the wards, she said city staff recommends to move the residents who live in the area between West Avenue and St. Marys Avenue, north of Forest Street and south of the first east-west alley located south of Pike Street as noted in the hatched area, from 3rd Ward to 2nd Ward. The area between Miami Avenue and River Avenue, south of Poplar Street and north of Court Street would be moved from the first Ward to the fourth Ward.
Dulworth displayed numerous charts, maps and areal images of areas of Sidney and the ward population break down. In the end, after a brief discussion, it was determined due to likely inaccurate census information, and also only the difference of 57 people, City Council decided to leave the wards as is and revisit it again after the 2030 census.
In other business at the end of the meeting during a call for comments from the public, developer Mick Given, of Plum Ridge Trail, spoke to inform City Council of the progress with the MSGA Development. He said over the last five months they have numerous meeting, and homes should begin to go up soon and expect new homes to start with contracts by May. He said the project is moving along good.