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2 towns seek to stay in one district

The supervisors of Cambria and Wilson urged the Niagara County Legislature redistricting commission Thursday to keep their towns in a single legislative district.

The five-member commission has been assigned the job of drawing a new map to implement the reduction in the Legislature from 19 to 15 members in this November's election.

The commission comprises four Republicans and a Democrat, reflecting the current party strength in the Legislature.

It must use the 2010 census results to produce districts as equal in population as possible.

Supervisors Wright H. Ellis of Cambria and Joseph A. Jastrzemski of Wilson said at Thursday's second public hearing on redistricting that their towns have been in the same district for 20 years and they belong together. "They're primarily agricultural communities. We have very little subdivision development," Ellis said.

Jastrzemski added, "I would ask you not to split our district east and west. That's our biggest concern."

State law says no district may have a population that is more than 5 percent above or below the countywide average, and no municipality can be split into multiple districts unless its population is more than 10 percent above the average.

If the estimated figures are close to the final results, the average population will be about 14,300 per district.

Using the population estimates the Census Bureau issued last summer, the only communities that can be divided legally are the cities of Niagara Falls, Lockport and North Tonawanda and the towns of Wheatfield, Lewiston and Lockport.

Commission Chairman Kevin C. Schuler said, "There's like a firewall down the middle of the county. Pendleton, Cambria and Wilson can't be divided."

But they can be attached to neighboring towns, or parts of towns, to make new districts, which is what Ellis and Jastrzemski want to prevent.

Matt Cole, of Niagara Falls, voiced similar concerns for his LaSalle neighborhood.

Cole opposed joining LaSalle in a district with the Town of Niagara or part of Wheatfield. Instead, he recommended merging the five existing districts within Niagara Falls as much as possible.

Cole said he wants to make sure "our elected officials are our elected officials and nobody else's."

"The Town of Wheatfield is split down the middle of my street," said Donald G. Hobel of Wheatfield. "I hope we can do better next time."

Several speakers urged the committee not to allow political considerations to enter into what they said was a mathematical problem. "I hope each of you will pledge tonight you'll only look at figures," said Donald Perry of Hartland. "Another thing you are to disregard is the addresses of the [incumbent] legislators."

Alfred Wroblewski, of Royalton, had his doubts. "I don't know if you have the guts to stand up to the politicians in charge of this county or not," he told the commission. "Eventually, they're going to get their way."

Schuler said the commission will reconvene at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the County Courthouse. He said it can produce a rough map using the estimated population figures and add the details when the official results are released.


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