Routt County seeks public comment on new commissioners’ districts
The Routt County Board of Commissioners is looking for feedback on updated boundaries to its districts, which need to be redrawn after the county grew by 1,320 people during the past decade.
At a meeting in August, commissioners directed county staff to come up with new districts that had equal populations but otherwise made as few changes to the current district layout as possible.
On Monday, Emy Keeling, Routt County GIS manager, presented two proposed maps to commissioners — one closely resembling the current map and another that balanced area and population. The commissioners said they favored the first but would ask for more public comment before adopting a new map.
“Just because we’re not aware of a compelling reason to do something different doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist,” Commissioner Tim Corrigan said.
The three districts govern where a commissioner lives in the county, not who votes for them as all residents vote in commissioner elections. The city of Steamboat Springs comprises more than half of the county’s population and parts of the city are in all three districts.
On the current district layout and in both the options Keeling created, it would be possible for all three commissioners to live within the limits of Steamboat.
Currently, District 1 includes South Routt and some of the southern-most parts of Steamboat. District 2 includes West Routt, North Routt and some of the western edges of Steamboat, and District 3 is totally within Steamboat’s city limits.
The new districts need to be within 5% of each other in population and be contiguous.
The map commissioners favored is option one, which maintains a similar layout, keeping District 3 within the city limits. District 1 would include Steamboat to the west and south of U.S. Highway 40 through town, as well as South Routt. District 2 would include homes on the west side of town, such as those around Steamboat Springs Airport, in addition to West Routt and North Routt.
Option two is very different, balancing both the population and land mass of the county, with each district including about a third of Steamboat. District 1 would have much of the area around the base of Steamboat Resort, District 2 would primarily include parts of the city to the west and south of U.S. 40, and District 3 would include the northern parts of the city, extending all the way to the Wyoming border.
“Option two is almost purely run by a computer model,” Keeling said.
Option one guarantees that at least one of the three commissioners will live in Steamboat, where option two makes it possible for each to live outside the county’s population center. Option two also puts broad areas of Steamboat in each district, potentially making it more likely that all three commissioners would be Steamboat residents.
“I think you could probably argue the pros and cons of that, but as Commissioner (Beth) Melton pointed out, everybody gets to vote on every commissioner,” Corrigan said. “It really just comes down to who might be eligible or not be eligible to run in a given election.”
“There are times where I’ve had the concern that all three commissioners could be from within Steamboat Springs, but with the residents of the county voting, I don’t see that happening,” said Commissioner Tim Redmond.
The District 3 commissioner seat, currently held by Melton, is up for reelection in 2022, with the other two seats on the ballot again in 2024.
Keeling created a story map of the redistricting process that presents each of the maps being considered. At the bottom of this is a form for residents to submit feedback to commissioners about the districts. The deadline to submit comments is Nov. 2.
Residents can also provide public comment about districts to commissioners during their Tuesday meetings at 9:30 a.m. Commissioners are expected to vote on the districts before the end of the year to ensure they are in place ahead of the 2022 primaries.
“We want to do it as early as we can and are shooting for Jan. 1,” said Clerk and Recorder Kim Bonner. “It just makes more sense to get it done ahead of the (2022) election.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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