Alabaster, Pelham not pleased with redistricting plan

Published 7:19 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Officials in Alabaster and Pelham said they are displeased with a proposed County Commission redistricting plan which, they said, would split their cities into too many different districts.

During its July 18 City Council meeting, Pelham officials said the plan would remove a commission voting district composed at least 50 percent of Pelham residents.

Under the current commission districts, Pelham is covered by parts of districts 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9. But the new plan would change much of Pelham from District 9 to District 7, which it would share with Indian Springs Village.

The new plan would also extend District 4 northward to Valleydale Road, taking over a part of the current District 7.

Because the County Commission was holding a pair of public hearings on the matter the same night as Pelham’s council meeting, Councilman Bill Meadows left the council meeting to voice Pelham’s grievances with the proposed plan to the commissioners.

“Our issue is not with the past representation Pelham has gotten from the County Commission,” Meadows said after returning. “If we have at least one district that is at least 50 percent Pelham, I think we would be better served.”

Pelham Mayor Don Murphy said he worried the new plan would diminish Pelham’s ability to elect or defeat a county commissioner, and said the city’s issues could get overlooked as a result.

“The two largest cities in Shelby County are Alabaster and Pelham. Shouldn’t each city have at least one that’s 50 percent?” Murphy said.

Alabaster City Administrator George Henry cited similar concerns when he spoke to the commission July 18.

Alabaster currently is parts of districts 2, 3, 4 and 9. The proposed plan would move a larger portion of the city into District 3, and would place a small portion of the city in District 1.

“I would not say it necessarily hurts as much it creates another hurdle to get commission consideration for Alabaster residents and projects,” Henry said, noting Alabaster must routinely work with the state and county to improve roads. “The feedback I have received is that it feels as if the voice of the residents in the city can get diluted due to the number of commissioners representing the city.”

Henry also said having a “concentrated voice” on the commission could also help Alabaster attract economic development.

County Commission President Corley Ellis said the commission will take the two cities’ concerns into consideration when making a final decision on the new districts.

“It’s a real hard balancing act. You do your best to make everyone happy,” Ellis said, noting redistricting is a “complicated process.”

District 4 Commissioner and Alabaster resident Dan Acker said the commission must ensure the new districts are approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Our main goal is satisfying the Department of Justice. Alabaster has some wants and Pelham has some wants,” Acker said. “It’s just like a jigsaw puzzle. We have so many things we have to consider while we’re doing this.”