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Residents will vote on removing Berlin's four wards in January

November 02, 2011
BERLIN–On January 10, 2012 during the New Hampshire presidential primary, the public will vote on the option to consolidate the city's four wards into one. If this passes, the candidates for the eight city councilors would be elected at large and there would be one centralized voting location.

At the Oct. 24 public hearing, the city council approved the proposed resolution concerning the wards in a unanimous vote, and a referendum amending the city charter to remove the wards will be on the ballot for the January primary.

Mayor Paul Grenier opened the hearing and stressed the difficulty the council has been going through concerning the redistricting of the wards. He explained that the city is required by state law to adjust its wards if needed after every census. The U.S. Census standards require each ward to be approximately equal with no more than a five percent difference in population. The 2010 census recognized the 750 inmates in the state prison, making ward III well above the five percent mark. The 2012 census will require redistricting to equalize the wards within census borders.

"It became very apparent that we need to make sweeping changes," said Mayor Grenier.

During the hearing, city planner Pamela Laflamme explained the options considered to redistrict the four wards. One option was to balance out the populations within the wards, and another was to split the wards into two. The council rejected both options because it would split up neighborhoods. Laflamme concluded that the council decided having just one ward was the best solution.

Grenier noted that the charter needs to be looked at and changed, as it has been the same since 1992. He recommends having a charter revision commission to review the charter in order to make necessary adjustments.

The charter amendment will now be reviewed by the Attorney General and the Secretary of State's office and they will make a decision on whether or not to consider the proposal within 30 days, said City Clerk Debra Patrick.

The redistricting will take effect in 2012 for the September primary and the up-coming municipal election on November 8 will not be affected. Voting in November will still be in same district locations within the four wards.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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