Redistricting brings changes to counties

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New redistricting maps for the Missouri General Assembly were filed last Wednesday with the Missouri Secretary of State's office. The final rearrangement of boundaries bring some changes to Barry and Lawrence counties, especially to Pierce City.

The biggest adjustments come to the Missouri House of Representatives. Both Barry and Lawrence counties remained fairly intact as separate House districts. Lawrence County will change from the 132nd District into the 157th District. Barry County, previously known as the 68th District, will now be the 158th District.

Monett will remain divided by the county line. The Forest Park precinct will still be represented by the Lawrence County representative. The rest of the city will be in the Barry County representative's district.

The most significant local changes come along the division between the two counties. Redistricting planners have chosen to divide Pierce City much the way Monett is split.

The southwest corner of Lawrence County has been broken off of the new 157th District and added to the 158th in Barry County. The northern edge of the separated section is Farm Road 2210. The eastern division runs down Highway 97, following its course in from the north, around the north water tower on Madison and south on Elm Street.

The division does not follow the jog in Highway 97 at Commercial Street. Instead, the line continues south to the end of Elm Street at Newman Avenue, then cuts west to where South Pine Street merges with Highway 97, and follows Highway 97 past the National Guard Armory to the Barry County line.

Homes east of Highway 97 and Elm Street divisions will be in the Lawrence County 157th District. Homes west of the line will be in the section added to the 158th District in Barry County. The western edge of the new section breaks at the Newton County line.

"I hate it when they do that," said Don Ruzicka, state representative from the current 132nd District, who presently serves all of Pierce City in the Missouri House.

"To get the right population figures, they have to pull from areas where the population is," Ruzicka said. "With Lawrence County sitting between Springfield and Joplin, it could have been cut up like a pie. We ended up with mostly single intact counties. I think that's great."

On the east side of Lawrence County, a section had been separated from the rest of Lawrence County 10 years ago. The piece, including McKinley and running around Marionville, had been added to the 141st District, carved from both Christian and Stone counties. In the new redistricting, this section was restored into the new 157th District with the rest of Lawrence County.

"At Stone County, they gave me a straight line," Ruzicka said. "Now we have the full county border.

The 158th District follows the borders of Barry County plus adds a new piece in the northeast corner. Unlike Lawrence County, which is close to a square, Barry County cuts west near Jenkins, leaving an indentation with Stone County.

Under the new map, the 158th District will continue north from the lower county line almost to Crane. The east-west division will run along Highway D, approaching Crane from the south, and run back to Barry County along Grizzly Mountain Road, on the south edge of Crane.

The new line removes Campbell's Point, near Shell Knob in Stone County, from the Barry County district. Campbell's Point was landlocked with Barry County and had been moved from Stone County to keep residents from having to drive some distance to find another polling place in their own county.

"I talked to [68th District State Representative] David Sater about the changes," Ruzicka said. "He shared my feelings about how they worked out the changes. I'm glad to see at least 95 percent of Lawrence County in one unit."

The 29th State Senate District retained its same number but also changed territory. Unlike House districts, Senate districts only include intact counties. Ten years ago, the 29th District lost McDonald County and had Howell County added on the east side.

In the latest map, the 29th District has shifted back to the west. McDonald County has been restored to the district. The three counties on the eastern end have been removed. Howell and Ozark moved into the 33rd District with other eastern counties, while Douglas County joined its neighboring counties of Christian, Greene, Webster and Wright counties to form the new 20th District.

The 29th District now includes Barry, Lawrence, McDonald, Stone and Taney counties.

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