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Board's expansion plan stalls

A controversial plan to expand the Union County Board of Commissioners and likely elect some members by district won't get approval from state legislators this year.

N.C. lawmakers scrambled Friday to end this year's short session.

Meantime, a bill from Rep. Pryor Gibson that could have changed the board's makeup is stalled in a committee.

That defeat didn't stop several western Union County mayors from telling county commissioners last week just how bitterly they oppose the plan.

“The process by which the commission is trying to move forward is horrendous, in my opinion,” Wesley Chapel Mayor Tracey Clinton told two commissioners at a meeting Thursday night. The legislative bill that would allow the change, Clinton said, “flies in the face of democracy.”

The plan to change the county board was not on the agenda for the quarterly meeting between town mayors and county commissioners, held at Weddington Town Hall. But soon after Clinton broached the topic, it consumed the largest portion of discussion.

Critics have said the proposed change is an effort by the current board majority to put their political allies on the board. They also have denounced the bill introduced by Gibson, an Anson County Democrat, which seemed to propose the change for neighboring Anson County commissioners, but could have been changed to target Union. And opponents said the idea defies the will of voters, who rejected a similar measure last November by 11,658 to 8,266.

Commissioners who favor the idea say they want districts to make sure all Union County voters, including those on the rural east side, have a say in government. And Gibson said Friday that he plans to continue efforts to change the makeup of Union's board of commissioners.

Several town councils have passed resolutions against the proposed changes.

Mayors who spoke Thursday aired their concerns with the only two county commissioners who attended, Parker Mills and Roger Lane.

Mills is part of a 3-2 board majority that voted May 19 to change the board's makeup; others are Allan Baucom and Kevin Pressley. Lane and commissioner Lanny Openshaw oppose it.

Mayors Rick Becker of Mineral Springs and Daune Gardner of Waxhaw suggested that a better time to draw districts would be after the 2010 U.S. Census. The recently proposed districts were based on figures from the 2000 Census, which west side advocates say vastly underestimates the population in their fast-growing section.

Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton asked Mills if county commissioners would be willing to delay altering the board.

Mills said no: “I want everybody to have a seat at the table.”

The measure has support in eastern Union County, which has a significant minority population.

Marshville Mayor Frank Deese defended the idea: “The process may not be the greatest process, but right is right.”

Deese said county commissioners have long neglected the eastern side of the county when it comes to providing services, including water and sewer.

Even though commissioners opposed Gibson's proposal to voters last fall, the May 6 primary “changed the situation,” Mills has said.

Commissioner candidates Kim Rogers and Tracy Kuehler won the Republican primary and face no fall opposition. They have been identified as likely allies of Openshaw, and their seating would replace the board's current majority. Staff writer Lisa Hammersly contributed to this article.

A controversial plan to expand the Union County Board of Commissioners and likely elect some members by district won't get approval from state legislators this year.

N.C. lawmakers scrambled Friday to end this year's short session.

Meantime, a bill from Rep. Pryor Gibson that could have changed the board's makeup is stalled in a committee.

That defeat didn't stop several western Union County mayors from telling county commissioners last week just how bitterly they oppose the plan.

“The process by which the commission is trying to move forward is horrendous, in my opinion,” Wesley Chapel Mayor Tracey Clinton told two commissioners at a meeting Thursday night. The legislative bill that would allow the change, Clinton said, “flies in the face of democracy.”

The plan to change the county board was not on the agenda for the quarterly meeting between town mayors and county commissioners, held at Weddington Town Hall. But soon after Clinton broached the topic, it consumed the largest portion of discussion.

Critics have said the proposed change is an effort by the current board majority to put their political allies on the board. They also have denounced the bill introduced by Gibson, an Anson County Democrat, which seemed to propose the change for neighboring Anson County commissioners, but could have been changed to target Union. And opponents said the idea defies the will of voters, who rejected a similar measure last November by 11,658 to 8,266.

Commissioners who favor the idea say they want districts to make sure all Union County voters, including those on the rural east side, have a say in government. And Gibson said Friday that he plans to continue efforts to change the makeup of Union's board of commissioners.

Several town councils have passed resolutions against the proposed changes.

Mayors who spoke Thursday aired their concerns with the only two county commissioners who attended, Parker Mills and Roger Lane.

Mills is part of a 3-2 board majority that voted May 19 to change the board's makeup; others are Allan Baucom and Kevin Pressley. Lane and commissioner Lanny Openshaw oppose it.

Mayors Rick Becker of Mineral Springs and Daune Gardner of Waxhaw suggested that a better time to draw districts would be after the 2010 U.S. Census. The recently proposed districts were based on figures from the 2000 Census, which west side advocates say vastly underestimates the population in their fast-growing section.

Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton asked Mills if county commissioners would be willing to delay altering the board.

Mills said no: “I want everybody to have a seat at the table.”

The measure has support in eastern Union County, which has a significant minority population.

Marshville Mayor Frank Deese defended the idea: “The process may not be the greatest process, but right is right.”

Deese said county commissioners have long neglected the eastern side of the county when it comes to providing services, including water and sewer.

Even though commissioners opposed Gibson's proposal to voters last fall, the May 6 primary “changed the situation,” Mills has said.

Commissioner candidates Kim Rogers and Tracy Kuehler won the Republican primary and face no fall opposition. They have been identified as likely allies of Openshaw, and their seating would replace the board's current majority. Staff writer Lisa Hammersly contributed to this article.

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