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S. Hill leaving 122nd District?

Published November 15. 2011 05:01PM

Summit Hill may soon become a legislative outcast in Carbon County.

Under a proposed 2011 reapportionment plan, Summit Hill might be moved from the 122nd Legislative District, whose representative is Doyle Heffley, to the 124th Legislative District, where Jerry Knowles is the state legislator.

Currently every municipality in Carbon County is within the 122nd District. Summit Hill is the only community suggested for transfer to another district.

This has infuriated Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek and former state Rep. Keith McCall, both residents of Summit Hill. McCall has been the only representative of the 122nd District to elevate to the prestigious role of Speaker of the House.

McCall, and his father, the late Thomas McCall, had represented Carbon County in the House of Representatives for a combined 36 years until Keith stepped down in 2010, opting not to seek re-election.

O'Gurek attended last night's meeting of Summit Hill Borough Council and explained the reapportionment plan. The council responded that it will write a letter opposing the proposal.

The commissioner also has copies of petitions that he is hoping borough residents sign to oppose the reapportionment. The petitions are located at various locations in the town.

Council President Joseph Weber said the petitions are also available for signatures at the borough hall.

On Friday, O'Gurek and McCall will be testifying at a public hearing before the Legislative Reapportionment Commission in Harrisburg to oppose the plan. They also will be presenting the borough council's letter of opposition and are hoping to have some of the petitions available to take with them.

"To take just one of 23 Carbon County communities out of the district and to place it in a district that goes through Schuylkill and Berks counties is an injustice and a travesty," O'Gurek said.

The 122nd District is currently unique in that it is the only legislative district to comprise a single county.

Under the redistricting proposal, this quality would continue to exist, except without Summit Hill.

The 124th Legislative District, where Summit Hill would be placed, is currently comprised of towns and townships in Schuylkill and Berks Counties.

Redistricting proposals are made every 10 years and based on census figures. The population of Carbon County has increased, especially in areas like Kidder and Penn Forest townships.

O'Gurek told Summit Hill Borough Council he believes the proposal is a political move.

"My personal belief is this plan stinks of raw politics in that it is a Republican attempt to gerrymander the large amount of democratic voters of Summit Hill from the district," he said.

"Summit Hill had a long and rich history as a valued part of the 122nd District," said O'Gurek.

"To take Summit Hill out of its place in the 122nd District, I think, is robbing it of its deserved piece in our history and our future," he remarked.

The commissioner told the council and about a dozen residents in attendance at the meeting, "I believe Summit Hill residents should be very concerned about being disenfranchised in the voting process. After all, what impact will one town from Carbon County have in the future as just a small piece of a larger district that encompasses Schuylkill and Berks counties?"

O'Gurek encouraged the council and borough residents to contact state Rep. Heffley and Knowles about the proposal.

He suggested residents ask Knowles, "why he would allow his proposed district - clearly drawn by the Republican Party - to include eight municipalities in Berks County and 19 municipalities in Schuylkill County, and one in Carbon County."

It was pointed out by O'Gurek that the borough of Lansford would remain as part of the 122nd District. He suggested that because it abuts Schuylkill County, that if a town must be moved out of the 122nd Legislative District to the district represented by Knowles that it be Lansford.

He told the council that no matter which way he travels, Heffley can't visit Lansford without going through Summit Hill, unless he goes through Coaldale - which would be going through Schuylkill County.

The two highways leading into Lansford are Route 902, which goes directly through Summit Hill proper, and 209, which has a tentacle of Summit Hill in the vicinity of Panther Valley High School.

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