Are you ready to vote for the first mayor of Garyville?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 18, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

For a small little community, the town of Garyville sure does enough to get lots of attention.

The community has gotten plenty of newspaper highlights in the last year or so just from the fact a tank farm wanted to build out there, followed by a small group of citizens forming a group called Save Our Neighborhood to stop the tank farm.

As most of you should know since L’Observateur has covered the happenings from start to finish, the tank farm is presently proceeding forward, albeit with some court action to keep things interesting.

But that’s just one of the headlines the little town is making.

More interesting of late was the news you read first in L’Observateur that another group of folks has decided to try and get the town incorporated.

I have been told by many people that the incorporation effort is hardly the first for the town. Apparently it has been tried a few times before, but never with enough overall support to get through.

For a town to become incorporated, they must get 25 percent of the registered voters to sign a petition asking the governor to call an election. Of course the signatures have to be verified by the local registrar of voters.

Once that is done, it goes to the governor’s office where it is checked again. Should all the T’s be crossed and the I’s be dotted, an election is called just for the people in the region that is trying to incorporate.

In this case, the area targeted is a little over 4,000 people in the town of Garyville, Mt. Airy, and also two small sections of Reserve known as Dutchtown and Lyons. In that area, there are about 2,400 registered voters, so organizers only need a little over 600 signatures to get the matter to a vote.

Of course things were kept quiet as long as possible, at least until you know who got wind of it and plastered it all over the front page of L’Observateur. Hey, that is what I’m paid to do!

So now the newest Garyville incorporation effort is out there for the world to see, and of course there is some opposition which is already making themselves known, even though they don’t all want to go on record in the paper about it. (Give me some time, I’ll get them.)

There really are two sides to this story, with some pros and some cons if this really happened.

Organizers, headed by Carl and Geri Baloney of Garyville, have apparently pulled several factions together in the region, and according to Geri Baloney, are now working together to make this incorporation happen.

As Geri says, the advantages are truly local government, which can look out for the welfare of that area more closely, something many people in Garyville don’t believe has happened. She said they are concerned about their historic district getting the attention for preservation that it needs, as well as more work being done on streets and drainage areas. Clearly the arrival of the tank farm recently on the western side of town, and the $3.3 billion expansion of Marathon on the eastern side of town, were big issues that made a lot of people think they had to try and handle the affairs of Garyville in a different way.

Honestly though, I don’t see that the parish had a lot of say in either of those matters since Marathon is a private business and needed little if any backing from the parish for their expansion, while the tank farm took a piece of property already zoned for such an industry, and simply got state permits to build.

The down side to the incorporation is a separation from the parish in a way that many people may see as detrimental to those who live out there.

If you think you didn’t get much attention from the St. John government before, go ahead and pass the incorporation and you’ll really understand what it is to not have support from the parish.

Not to say the parish will abandon Garyville, since they certainly cannot do that. But it does seem a little scary to me to think of having a town as small as Garyville suddenly responsible for all their own services and town functions.

Additionally, new Parish President Bill Hubbard has already impressed me with his work right out of the gate, addressing a lot of parish issues. He told me that he has every intention to make Garyville’s priorities those of his own. But a vote for incorporation doesn’t give Hubbard the time to start working in Garyville, and you’ll never know how things might have been different.

As I said, there are two sides to the issue, and it looks like the Garyville group plans to let the voters in that region decide the matter, should they get that far.

Right now I can see both sides of the issue, and I hope all those who live in the area will watch L’Observateur closely for more information about the two sides of the matter, so you can make an informed decision, should you find yourself at the ballot box trying to decide who the next mayor of Garyville might be.

Kevin Chiri is Publisher of L’Observateur and can be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at