City Council seeks public input
SIKESTON - If you have a preference on the designation of Sikeston's wards, you have a little over a week to have your voice heard.
The deadline to submit written comments on the designation of wards is 5 p.m. June 26. The input from the public's comments will then be presented during public hearings scheduled for 7 a.m. June 27 and 5 p.m. July 1.
City officials anticipate formal action on the designation of municipal wards during the city council's regular session July 1 following the hearing. The deadline for setting wards is Oct. 1.
Council members Michael Harris and Sue Rogers have spearheaded the development of ward boundaries, according to Mayor Phil Boyer. "I think they've done a real good job," he said.
"It's not something that any of us have taken lightly," said Rogers about the process of drawing up wards. "There has been a lot of time and consideration looking at all the different elements. We want to do what's best for the citizens of Sikeston."
Each of the four wards must be within 10 percent of 4,238 residents as determined using Sikeston's 2000 census population of 16,954. Three of the proposed maps stay within three percent, with only Council Option 3 coming near the 10 percent deviation, Harris noted.
City officials agreed on the importance of using recognizable geographic barriers in addition to providing equal representations of the population. "We learned from the city of Cape Girardeau where people complained they didn't know which wards they were in," said Boyer. "Using major traffic arteries really simplified our ward system."
Another goal was to maintain existing voting precincts where possible. "We tried to make it so there was the least amount of changes in the polling places," said Rogers.
Using census tracts to monitor how changes would affect populations in each of the wards, dozens of boundary options were tried as officials explored the options. These were ultimately narrowed to four by the council.
Maps illustrating these four options are presently on display to gather public input at the City Library, the Board of Municipal Utilities office, the Heritage House and in local bank lobbies in addition to City Hall.
At a glance, the maps are all very similar. All four options use Highway 61 (Main Street) as a dividing line between the northwest and northeast wards down to Malone, excepting that Council Option 2 places a small portion of State Highway HH with the northwest instead of northeast ward.
The border between the northwest and southwest wards follows Wakefield to West Street in all four options. Malone, Ingram and Ables are used on all four proposed maps to separate the northeast ward from the southeast, and Kingshighway serves as a border between the two southern wards at least part of the way in all four.
Details by which the four maps differ, while small on a map, will affect several hundred residents.
Boxes to collect comments from the public accompany each of the displays, but city officials are yet to receive any feedback. "I encourage people to view the proposals and please make comments - positive or negative," said Rogers. "We want to know. We really do."
The lack of feedback may be "an indication that people are fairly well pleased with the proposed maps," Harris said. "Any of the four would work well.
"I think the wards will be positive for the city," he added. "I commend the citizens of Sikeston for going with a Charter government and ward representation."
Comments on the proposed wards may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to City Hall at 105 E. Center Street, Sikeston, Mo. 63801 in addition to being placed in comment boxes accompanying the map displays.