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Baraboo approves new ward, district maps
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Baraboo approves new ward, district maps

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Delays to the release of U.S. Census data again played out Tuesday at the Baraboo Common Council meeting as members waived a second reading generally required for an ordinance to approve the adjusted ward and aldermanic district maps and send them to the county.

Mayor Rob Nelson, who also serves as Sauk County board supervisor, was one of the people who worked on the map.

“One of the things we are trying to accomplish in the redistricting is to keep the number of wards as low as possible, because each time an aldermanic district is split between two or more supervisory districts it means there are two or more distinct ballots that need to be printed up,” Nelson said. “We want to try to reduce the number of ballots and stations at the polling place that are required to keep the administration of elections as affordable and smooth as we can.”

In the end, the number of wards increased by one; from 14 to 15 total.

The maps were worked on in order to be returned to Sauk County supervisors by Oct. 18, less than a week from Tuesday’s council meeting.

Sauk County drafts redistricting maps under time constraints

Planners are tasked with taking a tentative supervisory district map, which includes the city, and attempt to fit nine aldermanic districts within those lines while also taking into consideration the dictated census blocks. Each district population must be 1,395 with a deviation up to 5%, either positively or negatively.

Director of Public Works Tom Pinion said they worked to maintain every alderman’s district despite small changes to the geography or a shift in ward numbers as they navigated the “constraints we were dealt with.”

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“We turned this around pretty quick, but I think the end product is something that is certainly more than reasonable,” Pinion said.

The census blocks caused problems for those outlining the maps at the city level just as they did for GIS planners at the county level.

“The census defines a certain geographic area,” Nelson said. “In the downtown area, where we have a grid system, a census block is basically a block and you can look at that and say, ‘There’s 52 people that live on this block, there’s 47 people on this block,’ but when you get to some of the areas that are not necessarily in a grid structure, you get some wacky looking census tracts that you cannot divide.”

The number of aldermanic districts, and therefore council representatives, will not change. Though the common council members will see their ward numbers change. Some wards have larger populations than others, which dictated how many are within an aldermanic district. For example, the first district comprises Wards 1 and 2, which have populations of 668 and 676, respectively. The ninth aldermanic district only includes Ward 15, which has 1,348.

Pinion said the plus or minus of 5% factored into their designations as well. Areas currently not inhabited but in development and Sauk County Jail inmates, who are counted in the census, were factors in determining ward population size.

“Crystal ball is getting real fuzzy,” Pinion said. “But 10 years out, we know the Jackson property is going to have more people, so we intentionally put the first district to the minus 5%, 5% below, so there’s room for growth, which would minimize future changes in those boundaries. Similarly, district 5, which includes the law enforcement center and the residents there, 122 residents, we put that on the plus 5% to try to maximize it.”

Council members waived the second reading and passed the ordinance on a unanimous vote, with Michael Plautz and Scott Sloan voting over videoconference.

Council also:

  • Approved an ordinance to amend city code to allow for chickens to be raised for educational purposes as part of a project through the Baraboo School District
  • Agreed to register for two national opioid settlements as recommended by attorney Steve Zach to receive additional documentation to review and decide whether the city should opt-in to the class action settlement
  • Approved the lease of two rooms and storage space within the Baraboo Civic Center in 2022 to Stage III Theater for Youth with a 50% reduction to about $370 per month
  • Approved the lease of Baraboo Civic Center rooms to the Baraboo Area Senior Citizen Organization to operate a senior center at an 80% reduction for $170 per month in 2022
  • Approved the lease of space to the Boys and Girls Club of Baraboo/Sauk County at an 80% reduction in 2022 for a rent of $733 per month
  • Approved the lease of the Pierce Park Pavilion from Oct. 15 to April 14 to the Baraboo Thunderbird Youth Hockey Association
  • Approved select wage increases to remain competitive to attract seasonal workers within the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department
  • Approved the increase of fees for select programs and facilities within the parks department to offset roughly $9,000 to $10,000 in additional water utility costs in 2022
  • Approved a liquor license application for beer for incoming business 608 Axe Throwing
  • Approved a request by resident Lacey Howard to exceed the city law that allows a maximum of two dogs per household to three to keep her rescues she moved to the city with from a farm in Iowa. The matter had been sent back to the Administrative Committee after letters of support but also a noise complaint over the dogs barking had been sent to the city with three signatures of people who live within blocks of her home. Police Chief Mark Schauf said community service officers who met with Howard recommended approval of the request.

Follow Bridget on Twitter @cookebridget or contact her at 608-745-3513.

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