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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

City Council will grow to 7 members with 2015 election

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The time is coming to make elbow room at the Greencastle City Council table for two more members at City Hall.

For the next city election, the current five-member City Council -- comprised of four ward representatives and one at-large member -- will expand to seven, three of whom will be elected at large.

While that election won't take place until November 2015, passage of Ordinance 2012-16 this month sets the wheels in motion for the expanded City Council while also re-establishing balanced election districts within the city limits of Greencastle.

It was the results of the 2010 Census -- which reported the City of Greencastle's population as 10,326 -- that thrust Greencastle into Third Class City status (with a population of more than 10,000 and less than 35,000).

"We went from just barely under 10,000 in the last census to over 10,000 this time," City Attorney Laurie Hardwick noted, "and that creates the necessity of changing the status of the Council."

Only Greencastle and the City of Plymouth were so affected by the 2010 Census in Indiana. Plymouth has also chosen the option of three at-large members.

Greencastle could have restructured totally with five wards and two at-large positions. However, it was decided that maintaining the four-ward setup was far less disruptive.

"It's a simple fix," Fourth Ward Councilman T. J. Smith stressed.

By virtue of its new status, Greencastle will now have three at-large members who are voted on by the entirety of the city's registered voters.

"It's important to note," the lone current at-large City Council member Phyllis Rokicki said, "that all three at-large positions would be elected by Greencastle as a whole. That would give every citizen of Greencastle four Council members to vote on (three at-large and their ward representative)."

Minor changes in the maps of Greencastle's wards and precincts also have been addressed in an attempt to equalize the number of residents of each city ward to about 2,500.

According to the latest Census, Greencastle now has 8,359 residents of voting age (18 or over). The equalizing of wards, however, could not really address that number. It did, however, try to equalize active voters.

"The fact that active voters are consistent (among the wards) is a good thing," Second Ward Councilman Mark Hammer, the longest-serving member of the panel, said.

"Geography has a lot to do with it," City Planner Shannon Norman said, noting the physical discrepancies that exist within the city wards. "Second Ward is more compact and dense," she said, "while Third Ward is not very compact at all."

Some minor changes have occurred within precincts of the same ward, particularly in Second Ward where voters go to the polls at the Armory. Being in the east or west precinct there will only make a difference in which door they enter to vote, Hammer pointed out.

Regardless, all voters affected by the changes will be notified through the mail by voter registration of their new ward or precinct.

The only real changes between wards, Hardwick said, occurred between the First and Fourth ward boundaries in the city's South End. Those, she said, were very minimal.

Ordinance 2012-16 was adopted unanimously after a motion for approval by Hammer and a second from Jinsie Bingham.

Third Ward Council member Bingham, who recently turned 77 years of age, offered a little personal perspective on the matter.

"I have lived in the same house (on Bloomington Street) for 71 years," she noted, "and that house now has been in four congressional districts and two city wards, so this is fantastic."

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