Lawsuits illicit strong reaction

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – A parade of lawsuits has followed the initial move by Marathon Petroleum Company, all seeking to put a roadblock into the efforts by the organization from Garyville to incorporate their town.

After Marathon filed a lengthy piece of legal action in 40th Judicial District Court last Thursday, seeking to do whatever it takes so that they are excluded from the boundaries of the newly-proposed Town of Garyville, three more lawsuits were filed from late Friday through Monday.

Additionally, more suits are expected from other industry this week.

On Friday, a class action request for businesses and individuals from the Garyville and Reserve area was filed by attorney Danny Becnel Jr., seeking exclusion from the Garyville town limits.

Becnel claims in his suit that the committee drew what he says are incorrect boundaries listed in the petition, which

would lead to boundaries that are not contiguous.

“That means the entire petition is flawed and they have to start over from scratch,” he said.

Becnel’s class action request was followed on Monday by two more lawsuits by area industry.

Cargill and Nalco both filed lawsuits similar in scope to the one from Marathon, both asking for exclusion from the Garyville town boundaries, since both claim they filed industrial area paperwork years ago that should exclude them from the new municipality.

“This is not something we want to do,” Cargill Director of Communications Mark Klein said. “But we feel like we have to get this clarified before the election.”

Klein said that his company is “certain” they have the correct industrial area designation filed from years ago after Cargill began operation in the area.

“We believe we are an industrial area, per the state law, that would mean we cannot be part of the new town,” he noted. “We’ve always been a good neighbor in the Garyville area, and we’re taxpayers already. We don’t want to have to pay more taxes by becoming part of a town.”

Nalco Plant Manager Carl Pasquarelli said he supported Garyville’s effort to incorporate, just as long as it doesn’t include his company.

“We support the Garyville incorporation, but we don’t support our industry being part of the actual town,” he said. “We have always supported the area for the last 25 years, and regardless how this goes, we will continue to support them.

“But we don’t think we should be part of a municipality,” he said.

Pasquarelli said that Nalco has 1969 industrial area exemption paperwork for the majority of their plant, including all of the actual operating area. They are currently seeking exemption for a vacant plot of land, covering just over 70 acres.

Becnel filed a lawsuit on behalf of what he called “a couple hundred” individuals, and eight businesses, which also want to be excluded from the Garyville incorporation effort.

Even though the petition for incorporation is for the Town of Garyville, organizers drew boundaries that stretch into part of western Reserve, all the way to West 10th Street.

In his legal action, Becnel said that industry such as Marathon should not be part of the new town, based on having industrial area exclusion from any municipality. When you factor Marathon and other industry into the picture as they see it, the loss of those areas from the proposed town would make the boundaries non-contiguous.

Part of state law for a petition to incorporate says the boundaries must be contiguous.

“They have even drawn the boundaries for the town into large areas where there are not even any people living,” Becnel said. “We have heard from so many people who don’t want any part of this.”

Becnel is asking the court to make the Garyville Incorporation Committee “start from scratch” in redrawing new town boundaries, after all the lawsuits are settled, seeking clarification about which industry should be part of the town, if any at all.

“If this vote went through as it is, and the vote passed, you would see businesses go under since many of them would lose money when people quit doing business with them, due to higher taxes from the new town,” he explained. “Additionally, you might even see Marathon not build their entire new project due to the taxes they would have to pay.”