The Pataskala Wards and Boundaries Commission met June 23 to review the detailed work that it expects will lead to a final recommendation to city council by the end of August.

The Pataskala Wards and Boundaries Commission met June 23 to review the detailed work that it expects will lead to a final recommendation to city council by the end of August.

"The goal will be to finalize the divisions or at least get it to where we can do it within one more meeting in early August before we make our presentation to council," said commission chair Pete Nix.

The general goal of the commission is to have substantially equal populations in all the city's four wards. The difficulty is that achieving precise equality requires drawing complex boundaries that do not appear logical and that break up neighborhoods.

"We got a proposal from our subcommittee that essentially equalizes the wards population-wise," Nix said. "There are three areas that are small that we're going to come back and see if we can't clean those up a little bit and still stay within the charter provision and the law provisions of staying substantially equal. What we're trying to do is avoid running down the middle of a street in a corner of a subdivision just to reach a number that it is not necessary for us to reach."

To alleviate the problem, the wards are drawn with some variation, so that small inequalities in population result in more coherent boundaries.

"We're trying to keep the neighborhoods and subdivisions together, but at some point, you're going to have someone one side of the street in one and on the other side of the street in the other," said commission member Mike Compton.

Nix said the requirement to maintain substantially equal wards is ambiguous. The only explicit figure the commission has discovered is a 1-percent variation in ward population, but it cannot find any legal authority for the guideline.

"It's a lot ambiguous," Nix said. "I think it's a guideline that has been given at some point in the past by the board of elections, but our research has not been able to find any of it in law."

Compton and commission member Mike Fox said the process of drawing ward boundaries is a bit surreal, because it is based on census data and the census bureau does not report its results by street, but by census block. Census blocks have no definition; they are arbitrary geographic-area designations appearing as ad hoc territories on a map. They can include such oddities as the centers of cul de sacs or driveway loops with a designated population of zero.

"It could be a driveway," Fox said. "It's very random."

Said Compton: "It does not make much sense."

Nix said the census bureau should include addresses in its published databases.

"Translating the census data, this is job security for statisticians to report the data the way they do," Nix said. "A layman can't simply look at that data and say there are 100 people on these four streets."