CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Any decision on changing city council wards in Charleston will wait until after next year's legislative session, members of the city's Redistricting Committee decided Wednesday.The city must change the makeup of its wards based on population loss. The 2010 Census showed Charleston's population was 51,400, down nearly 4 percent from 53,421 residents in 2000.Charleston now has 21 city council wards, and committee members want to eliminate one. But they're not sure they can legally do that.State law allows for the number of city wards to be increased, but there is no mention of how, or if, reducing the number of wards can happen, according to Jo Vaughan, the city's redistricting consultant.
"We just want to put that in there so there will not be any challenges," Vaughan said. City officials will ask state legislators to make the change.
Last week, committee members requested a 20-ward plan to readjust each ward based on population in an effort to avoid spreading one ward across both sides of the Kanawha River. An initial proposal maintained Charleston's 21 wards, but paired North Charleston with the Fort Hill area, a decision that did not sit well with council members."If we go by the numbers, it is such an easy step," said committee member Mary Jean Davis of the elimination of one ward. "I want those people in the wards, not the council people, to feel comfortable with who's representing them."If the committee chooses to keep the city's 21 wards, crossing the river "is inevitable," Vaughan said.The next Charleston municipal election is in 2015.Reach Rachel Molenda at firstname.lastname@example.org