Hammond council agrees on redistricting proposal for city

City Council members unanimously approved a redistricting plan Tuesday based on 2010 U.S. census findings showing that more than 20,000 people live in Hammond.

The council chose a remapping scheme designated as Plan 1 by Redistricting Inc., a Baton Rouge firm that specializes in drawing up maps of voting districts that comply with federal and state regulations. The council then voted unanimously to reject a second redistricting option known as Plan 2.

Redistricting Inc.’s Bill Blair told the council that the new voting districts reflect population shifts primarily in Council Districts 4 and 5. Blair said that an “ideal district” should contain 4,003 residents. District 4 fell below the ideal mark while District 5 had more residents than the ideal.

Each district, to comply with federal and state regulations, cannot vary more than 5 percent, Blair said.

During a public hearing, Hammond resident Louise Bostic complained that in some areas the new districts are strangely drawn.

She asked why certain “peninsulas” were part of the new district map. Bostic said she referred to two areas in District 2, one near College Drive and the other on Northwest Railroad Ave., that are only two blocks wide by several blocks long.

In that case, and in several others, residents on one side of a street vote in one district while their neighbors across the street vote in another, Bostic said.

“It seems to me that someone wandered around Hammond wearing a blindfold and drew the districts,” Bostic said.

Districts 1, 2 and 5 remain relatively unchanged from their current configuration.

Other items coming before the council included:

SEWER SYSTEM: The council voted unanimously to authorize the city to pre-apply for a $5 million loan to correct inflow and infiltration problems within the city’s sewer system.

Mayor Mayson Foster said the loan, if approved, would be made through the Clean Water State Revolving fund at an interest rate of 0.95 percent. Foster said that final approval of the loan could take up to six months.

AIRPORT TRAFFIC: City Administrator Pete Panepinto said that Hammond’s Northshore Airport is getting ready for Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 in New Orleans.

Foster said Hammond’s airport would be the third-busiest in the state during Super Bowl week — handling more than 100 aircraft — after Louis Armstrong International Airport in Kenner and Baton Rouge Metro Airport.