Garyville to incorporate?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – For years, the idea of incorporating the town of Garyville into its own little growing city has been kicked around.

But never did it go past the talking stage.

Never, that is, until now.

What appears to be the most serious movement ever to incorporate the town of Garyville, including Mt. Airy and a small portion of Reserve, is now underway and seeking the necessary signatures to get Governor Bobby Jindal to put it on the ballot for the registered voters of that area to decide.

A committee of 10 people from those three regions has been meeting on a regular basis to head the project, and along with many volunteers, has been seeking signatures for a month to take the matter to the St. John registrar of voters for approval.

Should the necessary number of signatures be certified, the issue will go to Jindal, who must give the final approval for it to go on a ballot. Organizers are hoping that time might be as early as the late summer.

“It’s very exciting,” said Garyville attorney Geri Baloney, one of the key leaders of the movement. “This idea has been around for years, but now it’s going to happen. So many groups have now come together that we are very organized.”

The most recent incident in  Garyville that seemed to revive the idea of incorporation was the lack of any strong opposition by the Parish Council for a new tank farm to be built right next to the Garyville residential area.

“The tank farm was just one more example of how forgotten the town of Garyville is to the parish of St. John,” Carl Monica, one of the community leaders, said. “We continued to ask for public hearings, or an economic impact study, or anything to show they cared. We held meetings and asked the councilmen to come, and only a few ever showed.

“This is a matter of Garyville deserving the representative in government that we deserve,” he said. “The parish government hasn’t given it to us, but now we can get it ourselves. I think there is a very good chance of this happening.”

Baloney said that the movement really took off in recent months when many individuals, as well as several groups, continued to come and talk to her about it.

“I kept telling them that they had to get organized, and all get together,” she said. “And now they have. The bottom line for all this is that people want more. And this is a way to get it.”

Baloney said that the needs of Garyville are different, in some ways, than the needs of much of the rest of the parish.

“We have such a historic district that needs attention, and the parish hasn’t given us that. We are smaller, and a local government can better address the concerns we have. We have a terrible blighted housing problem, and that hasn’t been addressed either,” she said.

“But now we can address all these things and really see something good happen. I’m so excited to see what is a way to revive this community, and the people who live here. To become incorporated means we can have an economy that we can develop of our own,” she said. “That is going to change what has happened to so many of the families here, who were left out of all the big industry jobs, and the high paying checks that went with them.”

A key issue involved in the incorporation is what will happen with the multi-millions of dollars that go from the Marathon refinery to the parish. Marathon has paid near $10 million a year for property taxes alone, but it is currently in the midst of a $3.3 billion expansion project. Some estimates have placed the additional sales tax to the parish at over $40 million in just the next two years during the construction phase.

“We are still finding out how all that works,” Baloney said in reference to the money. “We certainly believe we would have a right to some of the money, but it would be worked out on a pro-rata share depending on population. As for future sales taxes, we are still looking into all that.”

Additionally, should Jindal put the matter on the ballot and Garyville residents approve the incorporation, a mayor and five-member board of aldermen would be appointed by the governor for one year until elections can be held.

Baloney said that her group believes they need 640 signatures, since the law calls for 25 percent of the registered voters to sign a petition calling for the election. She said they have over half that amount so far, and have only been seeking them for a month.  There are approximately 4,200 people, registered or not, living in that region.

“The people who have been out gathering signatures have told us that so far the response has been incredibly positive, and it has been very easy getting the signatures,” Baloney remarked. “But I think that’s because so many see the benefits for us all if this is approved.”

Baloney said that Garyville would still remain a part of the parish, so parish services such as sewer, water and police protection would still be provided as Garyville works out an inter-governmental agreement for that with the parish.

“The law is set up so that new towns get a lot of help to grow,” she said. “The benefit of this is that we have truly local government that would look out for the good of Garyville. That’s why the state makes this something which has good support.”