Fighting the flu, Douglas County Commissioner Jim Chappell rested up before a town meeting in Baldwin on Thursday night. He figured he would need the energy.
When eight inches of snow fell on the area late Wednesday, canceling the forum crossed his mind.
But if Chappell had failed to show up at a meeting intended to clear the air about a lack of rural representation, the consequences could be severe, he said. He went.
"It was worth it," he said this morning.
Chappell said the meeting did not persuade him to divide the county into five commission districts, as proposed in a recent bill introduced in the Legislature.
"I'm still of the opinion that increasing to five districts would probably hurt rural unincorporated areas," he said.
Population figures imply that at least four of five commissioners would come from Lawrence, he said. Two of the three present commissioners live outside Lawrence city limits.
Although he opposes the bill, Chappell said it has brought rural representation to the forefront. About 20 rural residents attended Thursday's meeting.
Chappell pledged to continue organizing public forums in rural communities throughout the county. He said he would like to have one in Eudora in about two weeks.
Richard Rodewald, who lives in a rural unincorporated area east of Baldwin, agreed that there should be only three districts.
"Baldwin is in the best position possible," he said. "Chappell lives in Palmyra Township, and they do have his attention."
Rodewald instead put the blame on Baldwin residents.
"They always wait until something happens and then gripe," he said. "All people in the state have got to become more involved."
Chappell said the meeting became more than a discussion of the proposed legislation.
"Whenever you have a meeting like this, it becomes a springboard for other issues," he said.
Residents addressed two problems they would like to see commissioners relieve: slow ambulance service and an illegal tire dump in south Palmyra township.
Chappell said he would try to hire services from adjacent counties, whose ambulance services are closer to Baldwin than the one in Lawrence.
He eventually would like to propose a second county station at U.S. Highway 59 and the future South Lawrence Trafficway.
Chappell said the state was looking into the tire dump, and the commission would seek ways to help clean it up as well.