The Madison City Council again tabled action Tuesday night on a city redistricting plan, inching closer and closer to the state-imposed deadline of Dec. 31.

The delay is over the question of whether inmates at the Madison Correctional Facility can be included in the redistricting.

The proposed ordinance is awaiting a vote on the third reading. If passed, the redistricting would include prisoners in the redistricting numbers.

Council members received fliers earlier this year from a Massachusetts-based group that hopes to get all states and cities to exclude prisoners from redistricting because it creates unbalanced districts.

Councilman Dick Jones said state statute requires cities to redraw their district boundaries based on the most recent census, and in 2010, the prison was listed as having 717 inmates.

Jones offered several reasons why he felt inmates should be included in the redistricting. He said all council members represent people who cannot vote, including prisoners, people younger than 18 and mentally handicapped people.

"We represent all the constituents, not just those who can help us on Election Day," Jones said.

Councilman Rick Berry said a majority of the prisoners are not from Madison and have their own addresses where they have also been counted in the census.

Several council members said they have attempted to contact the Attorney General's office to determine if excluding inmates could get them into any legal issues. So far, no one has heard back.

The New Projects Committee, which includes Jones, Berry and Jim Lee, unanimously passed the redistricting plan in October, but it hit snags upon being introduced to the full council.

Bob Cooke, aide to the mayor, said a new redistricting study would take two weeks to finish and cost between $1,200 and $1,600.

Lee, who came out in favor of the current proposal, said the city should proceed with caution to avoid conducting a new study and having the Attorney General provide the contrary decision, which would render the new maps moot.

The council is expected to make a decision at its Dec. 18 meeting. If needed, city attorney Joe Jenner said they could suspend the rules to pass a revised redistricting plan that excluded inmates.

In other business:

• Mayor Damon Welch said a draft report from a Wabash County consultant to provide economic development advice would be presented following the council's next meeting.

• The council approved establishing a conservancy fund for money that would be specifically used for improvements to John Paul Park.

• Building inspector Mark Johnson said he has received state approval for the city to require FEMA approval for storm shelters. The concern arose when the city received information that a family was using a septic tank as a storm shelter.

• The council unanimously approved the proposed compensation for elected officials.

• The council recognized Aaron Kelsey for his work on the city's Christmas parade.