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Lewis County legislators approve redistricting plan

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LOWVILLE — Most Lewis County legislators will have altered districts if they run for re-election next fall.

County lawmakers, following no public comment and with little fanfare, by a 10-0 vote Tuesday approved a redistricting plan that will split a third town and shift boundary lines for seven of the 10 districts.

The change will take effect for the 2013 election, when all 10 legislative seats will be up for grabs. No sitting legislators will be forced to run against each other.

Current legislative districts split only two towns: Lowville into four segments and Croghan into two. Under the redistricting plan, Denmark — now encompassed by District 3 — also will be split into two.

District 3 will pick up constituents in the northern part of the town of Lowville to make up for the loss of residents in the Castorland area to District 2.

Boundary lines will shift at least slightly in the northern and central districts, while the three southern districts will remain unchanged.

Lewis County’s population from 2000 to 2010 increased by only 143, from 26,944 to 27,087, but it shifted toward the county’s western portion.

The goal of redistricting, done every 10 years, is to keep each district as close as possible to the average population of 2,709.

County legislators by a 10-0 vote Tuesday also authorized the Public Health Department to contract with the Bonadio Group, Syracuse, to address billing and payment problems and with an architect to design a new space for the shrinking department, pending results of an upcoming Board of Legislators discussion on overall space needs.

Legislator Charles R. Fanning, R-Copenhagen, the Public Health Committee’s chairman, said he did not yet have an hourly rate for Bonadio, but promised a contract would be signed only if it is cost-effective. The expense is expected to be covered through increased payment for services, he said.

The county agency, which plans to turn over certified home health aide and Hospice programs to Lewis County General Hospital after Jan. 1, is looking to move its remaining staff out of the county-owned hospital’s North State Street campus into the privately owned Lowville Commons building on South State Street, Mr. Fanning said. With only a relatively small space to be needed, the switch would provide a “substantial savings” in rent, he said.

Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, suggested legislators soon discuss the county’s office situation, including other leased space, in its entirety to determine if a move to the Commons would be the best option. No specific meeting date was set.

Lawmakers by unanimous votes also appointed Republican Ann M. Nortz and Democrat Lindsay I. Burriss as election commissioners for new two-year terms.

Mrs. Burriss has served as interim commissioner since late December 2011, when former Commissioner Elaine McLear was suspended without pay after allegations that she had authorized her daughter to be paid for election inspector work she did not do. State police investigated the case and findings were turned over to the state attorney general’s office, which has yet to take action.

Mrs. McLear recently sued the county seeking reinstatement and back pay, and a state Supreme Court justice ruled in her favor, agreeing election commissioners can be removed from office only by the governor. However, the county appealed the decision, keeping Mrs. McLear from returning to work until that process is completed and after her term expires Dec. 31.

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