Population uneven in Collier commission districts, time to redraw boundaries

The Collier County Commission meets beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the commission chambers at the county government complex, corner of Airport-Pulling Road and U.S. 41 East.

— Two need to shrink, three need to grow and it all needs to happen before the 2012 elections.

Collier County commissioners are scheduled Tuesday to begin preliminary discussions about establishing new boundaries for the five commission districts. The move comes about a month after 2010 census results were released.

State law requires that following each census, county commissions must “divide the county into districts of contiguous territories as nearly equal in population as practicable,” according to a report by David Weeks, a Collier County growth management plan manager.

Census 2010 redistricting data, released in March 2011, showed Collier County’s total population was 321,520 as of April 1, 2010. While all of the districts saw growth since the last redistricting occurred in 2001, Weeks in his summary said the growth varied from district to district.

That varied growth means a significant boundary shift would need to occur in some areas to ensure commissioners are representing an equal portion of the population.

District 4 – which includes all of Naples and Bayshore – experienced the least population growth during the 10-year period. The district’s population is 47,511 people, or about 16,700 people shy of the ideal population per district.

The ideal population per district is 64,304.

Commission Chairman Fred Coyle said he wasn’t surprised his District 4 took a hit when it came to growth during the past 10 years. Instead, Coyle said he’s been anticipating the need to expand his district for a while.

District 4 – which includes all of Naples and Bayshore – experienced the least population growth during the 10-year period. The district’s population is 47,511 people, or about 16,700 people shy of the ideal population per district.

The ideal population per district is 64,304.

“I’ve known that for years,” Commissioner Fred Coyle said. “That was obvious as far back as 2003 that the district would have to grow after the census was taken. The population of the county was clearly shifting north and east.”

“I’ve known that for years,” Coyle said. “That was obvious as far back as 2003 that the district would have to grow after the census was taken. The population of the county was clearly shifting north and east.”

That growth is evident in the recommendation for what needs to be done with the two eastern Collier County districts.

District 3 (Tom Henning) – Golden Gate and the Golden Gate Estates area – has a population of 80,207, or 15,903 more than the ideal population; while District 5 ( Jim Coletta) – eastern Collier County – has a population of 76,157, or 11,853 more than the ideal population.

District 2 (Georgia Hiller) — North Naples and Pelican Bay — needs to gain 4,427 people to reach the ideal population, while District 1 — which covers East Naples and Marco Island — needs to gain 6,691 people to reach the idea population.

District 1 Commissioner Donna Fiala said she knew her East Naples district was going to need more people, but said it’s too early in the process to speculate which areas those people will be drawn from.

“I don’t know what to anticipate,” she said. “If I could I would love to take in the communities south of U.S. 41.”

But commissioners aren’t expected to begin looking at the boundaries Tuesday. Instead, the focus of the discussion will involve criteria used for redistricting. The county plans to use the same criteria — similar population in each district; districts should be compact and regularly shaped; and must include the incumbent’s residence — as it did in 2001.

Weeks, in his memo, also said staff plans to consider “racial and ethnic population in an effort not to dilute their concentration.”

Once the criteria is set, county staff will prepare five maps, written analysis and description of proposed boundaries. The proposed maps will be presented to county residents, as well as the county’s Black Affairs and Hispanic Affairs advisory boards, for review.

State law limits redistricting to odd-numbered years, and commissioners are expected to adopt new district maps no later than September.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners are:

■ Expected to decide whether to move forward with an ordinance change that would allow guns in county parks. The change would clean up the language in the county ordinance — which currently doesn’t allow weapons in county parks — in order to reflect state law. Florida law currently allows people with concealed weapon permits to bring their weapon into a county park. State law, however, prohibits people from waving or discharging a weapon in the park.

■ Expected to sign a resolution to urge NCH Healthcare Systems, Tricare, a federal insurance program for the military, and Humana, Tricare’s regional network, to resolve their differences. NCH hasn’t been a contracted provider with Tricare through Humana, and NCH officials told the Daily News earlier this month the hospital system hasn’t been able to reach an agreement that is satisfactory to all parties.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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