In one of its final acts, the Cumberland County Charter Commission has proposed the boundaries of the five new districts from which the county’s board of commissioners will be elected.

Cumberland County’s first charter — its own rules for governance, approved by referendum in November — will take effect on Dec. 22, 30 days after the governor signed it into law. The charter gives the county more power, including greater latitude in borrowing money, and expands the board that oversees the regional government.

Currently, three commissioners oversee county government, which has a proposed budget of $41 million for 2011. The new board will have five members, each representing a district of about 56,000 people.

The charter commission has not formally adopted the five districts, and is publicizing them so residents can offer feedback when the commission meets in January to adopt them, said commission Chairman Claude Morgan. The date for that meeting has not been set.

The commission met last week to decide how to break up the county into equitable districts.

“It did feel a little bit like solving a Rubik’s Cube,” said Morgan. “Once we really nailed down what our objectives were, that limited the number of solutions.”

The board divided the county’s estimated population of 278,559 into five districts, with none having 2,786 more or less than the average. Each district had to be one contiguous area and minimize splitting communities into different districts.

As it turned out, only Portland had to be broken up, because its population is too large for one district. So, a portion of southern Portland would be in District 4 with South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Westbrook.

Mark Grover, a town councilor in Gray and a member of the county’s Budget Advisory Committee, said he attended last Saturday’s commission meeting because he was concerned that Gray might be split and therefore have its representation weakened.

He was pleased that Gray and other towns were not split.

The commission tried to form districts encompassing communities with an affinity for each other. For instance, Cumberland would be in the same district as Chebeague Island, which was part of Cumberland until 2007.

Some differences were unavoidable, Morgan said.

For example, District 1 includes the northernmost town of Harrison, the towns along the west shore of Sebago Lake and all the way south through Gorham into Scarborough.

Morgan said the alignment of districts was not political.

“We walked into this really setting aside any of our political agendas,” he said. “We did not ask each other, ‘What party are you affiliated with?’ We did not ever look on the map to see what voting patterns there were.”

The districts will be adopted in time for the political parties to select candidates through primaries, he said. The first election of the new county commissioners will be held next November.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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