By DOTTY NIST
Walton County Redistricting Committee members were able to reach a consensus on a plan for future boundaries of county commission and school board districts when they held their second meeting since beginning the task of developing recommendations.
This took place at the committee’s May 4 meeting at the South Walton Tourist Development Council (TDC) meeting room in Santa Rosa Beach.
The Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) and the Walton County School Board will have the final say on redistricting of the five districts. School board districts mirror those of the BCC.
The Florida Constitution requires counties to divide their area into districts that are as equal as possible in population following each 10-year U.S. Census. The 2010 Census figures had revealed a population increase of 14,443 in Walton County over the 10-year period, bringing the county population to 55,053.
It was also calculated that the population of four of the county’s districts was below the ideal split number of 11,009, and that the other, District 5, exceeded that number by almost 45 percent.
The redistricting plan favored by the committee would result in the five districts being very close to equal, with less than 2-percent difference between their population numbers. It would also keep all county commissioners’ and school board members’ residences within their current districts, thus allowing those incumbents to run for office again at the end of their terms.
The plan would add small sections north of County Hwy. 2 and west of County Hwy. 147 W to District 3, and a small section north of State Highway 385 S would also go to District 3. District 2 would extend south past U.S. 90 E west of County Hwy. 183 S. as far as Rock Hill Road. The plan would extend District 4 south across the bay along the county’s western boundary, into part of what is currently District 5, and District 5 would become a “beach district” even more so than currently, running from Holiday Road all the way to Inlet Beach south of U.S. 98 along the coast. Among other changes, District 1 would extend to the west along U.S. 331 into part of what is now District 4, in the area of County Hwy. 83A E and W, south of Hwy. 20 W.
At their May 4 meeting, the Redistricting Committee members set the goal of finalizing their recommendations at their next meeting, which they set for May 25. They envisioned the recommended plan being presented to the BCC and the school board for final consideration by the end of June.
Other redistricting plans considered by the panel are to be summarized and included with the information to be presented to the commissioners and school board members.
Walton County Citizen Services Director Ken Little agreed to post the map showing the recommended district boundaries on the Walton County Web site, http://www.co.walton.fl.us. Citizens may also view a copy of the plan at the county GIS Office at 45 N. 6th Street in DeFuniak Springs.
The May 25 meeting was scheduled for 2 p.m., and Freeport City Hall was decided on as the tentative location. These meetings are open to public attendance and input.