Cumberland officials are preparing to redraw town council lines after population changes reflected in the 2020 census.

Submitted image

CUMBERLAND — Officials are now considering keeping five Cumberland Town Council districts as they prepare to redraw lines in light of population changes reflected in the recent census.

The path marks a shift from an option leaders formerly leaned toward calling for three council districts with two at-large representatives.

Straddling the Hancock-Marion County line, Cumberland had a population of 5,169 in 2010 before growing to 5,954 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census. That growth resulted in lopsided populations among the town’s council districts.

Splitting the town’s 2020 tally among five districts results in each having just under 1,200 residents, or just under 2,000 residents across three districts. In the redistricting options Cumberland officials considered, each of the districts deviated from those amounts by respective percentages.

When redistricting, officials also take into account total deviation – a percentage derived by adding the deviations of the proposed largest- and smallest-population districts. In the five-district option the town council is considering, the total deviation is 4.37%. In the three-district one a majority of council members had been leaning toward, the total deviation is 4.13%

Along with having a lower total deviation, the three-district option also split up neighborhoods less, council members cited. At a council meeting last week, however, members’ consensus shifted 3-2 for a five-district option, with Edward Loud, Anna Pea and Joe Siefker supporting it while Breck Terheide and Mike Wolski indicated their preference for three districts.

Pea, who formerly supported the three-district option, said that after thinking about it more she determined the change would be too radical and that five districts allows the council to represent residents better.

“If it’s three, then you’ve got three huge districts, so it’s hard for that representative to give whoever needs attention,” Pea said, adding representation becomes even more difficult after adding at-large into the mix.

She added that while the total deviation is lower in the three-district option than the five-district one, it was only by about a quarter of a percentage point.

Terheide said although he still prefers three districts, he hopes to get guidance from residents at a public hearing on the redistricting slated for the town council’s meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 17 at Town Hall, 11501 E. Washington St., Cumberland.

“It’s always a tough decision when you’re going to redistrict — how you’re going to do it,” Terheide said. “And the principal problem I have with the five-district was it divided some neighborhoods.”

His neighborhood of Hartman Farms, for instance, along with Cumberland Heights and Valley Brook Farms are among those that would be divided, Terheide noted. Three districts would result in less division, making it easier for constituents to follow, he added.