LITTLE VALLEY - While arguments pertaining to reapportionment in Chautauqua County have been at the forefront for months, Cattaraugus County lawmakers are just starting to take up the issue.
The Cattaraugus County lawmakers approved a resolution during a Wednesday meeting to appoint a committee to examine redistricting for the county, said County Administrator Jack Searles, who said several plans being reviewed, one of which the committee will recommend. Seven legislators will be appointed to the committee to study census figures and assess reapportionment of legislative districts.
Census shifts, he said, will require modifications, and, he said plans being studied deal with reducing the number of legislators and possibly the number of legislative districts.
Cattaraugus County Legislative Chairman, Michael T. O'Brien, R-Portville, said the county had a decrease in population resulting in the reapportionment plans since it is the only time districts can be redistributed. He said the bipartisan committee reviewing drafted plans may also come up with others.
"We will take a close look at it," he said, adding lawmakers hope to have the project completed by summer. He said that will allow the new redistricting plan to be on the November ballot, but, he said, the plan would not take effect for four years. He said lawmakers did not think they would be able to put together a plan in time to have it go into effect this year since election proceedings for November elections begin this summer when they still may be putting final touches on redistricting.
He said plans so far would decrease the number of legislators from 21 to 17. He is uncertain if they will also change the number of legislative districts, but, may instead look at one or two representatives per district or a combination of that.
A plan to reduce the Chautauqua County Legislature from 25 lawmakers to 19 was turned down by lawmakers recently in a 16 to 8 vote.
The need arose for a redistricting plan after 2010 census figures showed Chautauqua County's population decreased by 3.5 percent in the last 10 years. The county lost 4,845 people during the last 10 years, standing at 139,750 in 2000 and 134,905 in 2010. There were also changes seen in area municipalities. Decreases were seen in Dunkirk, Jamestown, Portland, North Harmony, and increases were seen in Clymer, Bemus Point and Sherman.
In Cattaraugus County, the population decreased from 83,955 in 2000 to 80,317 in 2010. The largest percentage decreases in population were seen in South Valley and Coldspring. The city of Olean lost 5.8 percent of its people and Salamanca saw a 4.6 percent decrease. Increases were seen in Conewango, 7.2 percent; Farmersville, 6 percent; Lyndon, 7 percent, and Napoli, 7 percent. Although data regarding population changes is being researched, it is uncertain when the legislature will take up redistricting.