A.G. backs Garyville vote still on
Published 12:00 am Friday, May 30, 2008
By KEVIN CHIRI
Editor and Publisher
LAPLACE – A new, detailed, three-page opinion from the Louisiana attorney general concerning the matter of incorporating the Town of Garyville will do nothing to slow the march towards a July 19 vote on the matter.
However, Attorney General “Buddy” Caldwell did use the newly revised opinion, as requested from St. John Parish Attorney Jeff Perilloux, as a vehicle to offer lots of advice to both parties in the heated matter of whether industry in the region will, or will not, be included in the proposed town.
Caldwell issued his latest opinion on the matter on Friday, and again reiterated the fact that the Garyville Incorporation Committee met all the requirements of state law 33:1, which seeks the chance to vote on incorporating. That vote will still take place on July 19.
However this time, unlike the previous two opinions he issued, Caldwell took three pages to talk about a previous industry dispute in the town of Geismar which went to the courts, since industry was also included in those proposed boundaries. In that eventual ruling, industry was excluded from the town.
Caldwell went on to make it clear that his office would not be the place to get a ruling on whether industry in the Garyville area should be included in the towns boundaries, but rather, that industry itself, the parish, or even private individuals would do well to seek a court ruling to clarify the matter.
St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard agreed, noting “a final determination must be made before the election. The people of the Garyville and Reserve area affected by this incorporation effort must be
able to vote on July 19 knowing who will pay the majority of the taxes needed to fund the city: the major industries of the area or the people themselves.”
The matter of the industry inclusion in the proposed town continues to generate the most interest in the Garyville vote. Organizers of the plan have included all major industry in the area, including Marathon, Cargill and Gramercy Alumina, which could bring tens of millions of dollars into the Town of Garyville, should those industries be part of the town.
However parish officials have contended all along, and some of those industries have provided paperwork, which shows they should be excluded from the town due to meeting state criteria on that matter many years ago.
The question of whether that industry will be part of the town remains a big issue for those who will vote on July 19, since it could mean millions of dollars for the town in tax money, or it could leave the town with a much smaller base to draw revenue from.
Meanwhile, Garyville Incorporation Committee Chairwoman Geri Baloney issued a statement making it clear her group is not focusing on the industry matter anyway.
“It does not matter greatly if some of industry is included,” she said. “We were told by other mayors of the combined 80+ million dollars in grants to their towns. These are not taxes, loans or bonds, but grants which cities and towns are entitled to.”
Baloney continued to point to what she believes is the real key issue in this entire matter.
“If the people of Mt. Airy, Garyville, Dutch Bayou and Lions believe that they would benefit from a smaller, closer government; if they believe that the one or two councilman out of nine would benefit from having the support of a united town with a mayor and board of alderman; if they want the tax dollars that are generated in their area spent where they live; then the decision to incorporate should be an easy one,” she noted.
The newest opinion by the attorney general also made it clear that an earlier controversy about whether the A.G. was backing industry as part of the town, was misunderstood. Caldwell said in his ruling that his office must decide on the incorporation vote assuming “that the information contained in the petition for incorporation is true and correct.”
However Perilloux says that is the whole problem in the incorporation petition.
“First of all, let me say that I’m glad the A.G. clarified his earlier ruling and made it clear that he is not backing the position of industry being included in the boundaries,” Perilloux said. “But we still have a petition that is misleading the voters to believe industry will be included in the town. This whole thing may be asking for a vote on something that is a fallacy.”
Caldwell went to great length to cite the case of Allied Signal, Inc. v. Jackson, a case very similar to St. John Parish where various industries were drawn into a new municipality. But the courts ruled in that case that the industries could be excluded from the town.
Caldwell encouraged local parties to use the courts to settle this question before the vote comes to the people on July 19.
“It would be beneficial to the parish governing authority and to the people who own land in the area to be incorporated, for any declaration to be made early,” Caldwell wrote, referring to the declaration of industry exemption.
He went on to suggest that the town of Garyville might take a long, hard look at whether incorporation is the best route, should industry not be included.
“This is particularly true if the industrial areas are declared exempt from incorporation, since it is questionable whether incorporation of the remaining property would then be feasible or desirable,” Caldwell added.
Parish officials say that if the industry is not included as part of the town, then current figures obtained from the St. John Assessor’s Office indicate only $133,000 of revenue would be available from present tax avenues.
However Baloney continued to point to what she believes is millions of dollars in state and federal grants that would help the Town of Garyville thrive, regardless if industry money is included or not.