ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Council reviewed a demographer’s latest draft plan for a proposed four-district configuration for the parish at the second redistricting workshop Monday, then voted 4-2 to present it for possible consideration as an ordinance at its Dec. 15 meeting.
The parish’s Home Rule Charter requires a switch to the “four-and-one” representation — meaning four district representatives and one at-large — from the current seven council members. The new plan must take effect in time for the fall 2015 elections, which will be in October.
Voting for the plan were council members Mel Percy, Ricky Lambert, Lea Williams and Heather Howle. Voting against were Melvin Young and Otis Wilson, with John Kean absent.
Demographer and geographic information specialist Mike Hefner has been contracted by the parish to devise a map, which he said uses the current district lines when feasible as a reference point. He presented the latest version, Draft Plan 2A, for the council and public to view and provide comments before the vote.
“We want to get a plan that meets the needs of the parish and one that meets the needs of the Home Rule Charter,” Hefner said.
Plan 2A would divide the parish into four districts — A,B,C and D. District A would be 54.7 percent African-American with 2,148 residents, and District B would be 60.1 percent minority with 2,434 residents. District C would be 86.6 percent white with 2,961 voters, and District D would be 81.2 percent white with 2,950 voters.
The breakdown of the parish’s 10,493 residents is 65.4 percent white and 32.6 percent African-American.
“I think we finally hit the mark with 2A,” Hefner said. “We’re awfully close.”
Hefner said once the final map is approved by the council, two ordinances will go to the State of Louisiana for final approval, one creating the four new districts and a second that will create precinct distribution as a result of the plan.
St. Francisville resident Dawn Savell questioned why some streets like Ferdinand Street were used as a dividing line between districts.
“I don’t think that’s in the best interest of the neighborhood, dividing it by a street,” Savell said.
Hefner said because the town is the parish’s largest population center, that was unavoidable. Howle and Percy said they have roads used as boundaries in their respective districts.
Ambrose Sims said Hefner was “doing about the best job that he can do” but questioned the distribution of voters in the four districts.
Williams voiced opposition to the HRC’s mandate reducing the current board from seven to five members.
“I do not think the four-district plan is appropriate for our parish,” she said.
A third special meeting will be held at 4 p.m. Dec. 15 before the regular council session.