Garyville decision Saturday

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2008


Editor and Publisher

GARYVILLE – Over 2,000 residents of the Garyville area are eligible to go to the polls Saturday to vote on whether Garyville will become its own municipality.

They will do so following a judge’s ruling on Tuesday excluding most major industry from the proposed Garyville boundaries for this election. And they will do so as attorneys and public officials from St. John Parish and Marathon Petroleum claim there is gross misinformation being put out by the incorporators.

But even with that opposition against them, little appears to be stopping the Garyville Incorporation Committee from continuing to use “big money” for their town as a way to try and sway the voters.

Polls open at 6 a.m. Saturday and close at 8 p.m. for those who are eligible to vote in the Garyville issue. Eligible voters are only residents who live in the proposed town’s boundaries, which is in Garyville, Mt. Airy and a portion of Reserve.

On Tuesday, Judge Anne Simon ruled in 40th Judicial District Court that five major industries in the region did, in fact, have legitimate industrial area exemption and should not be part of the proposed town’s boundaries. That did still leave the door open for

lawsuits in the future, should the town be formed, when they could again challenge those exemptions from various other points.

But even with the judge issuing an injunction in favor of Marathon, Cargill, Nalco, Stockhausen and Gramercy Alumina, incorporation leader Geri Baloney came out late this week offering a multitude of ways she claims Garyville could still net some big money.

“Even if we don’t have the industry currently in question, we could have $16 million a year in taxes, should we get the Safeland tank farm taxes, which we should get,” she said. “But I still contend we have every chance to get money from industry, if we are just given a chance to get to a full trial on the matter.”

St. John Parish Attorney Jeff Perilloux and Marathon attorney Daniel Wellons both reacted to those claims by saying Baloney is grabbing at straws at the least, and grossly misleading the public at the worst.

“Ms. Baloney should be ashamed of herself for the way she is conducting herself throughout this election,” said Perilloux, perhaps the most outspoken critic of the incorporation committee rhetoric. “The judge was very clear in her ruling, and the law is very clear. If the areas were declared industrial status by the parish—which they were almost 40 years ago—then they cannot be part of the city. Yet she keeps trying to say over and over that it isn’t true.”

Wellons agreed that the judge’s ruling made it almost certain that the Town of Garyville, if it is formed, will never get the current tax money from industry that is going to the parish.

“Geri is missing the point on purpose, all putting false hope in people who have to vote on this,” Wellons stated. “The judge told us at the beginning of the trial that we had to meet a higher standard for proof of our industrial status to get this injunction, and that’s what we did. For the injunction to be issued, we have proven that we have a high probability of winning at any future trial.”

Nonetheless, Baloney issued a press release on Thursday, headed by “Incorporators Claim Victory!” and highlighting what she says is over $16 million in tax money Garyville will have. However $14 million of that is counting on coming from the still-unbuilt Safeland Storage tank farm.

“The tank farm hasn’t even begun construction, and you don’t even know whether that money will go to Garyville or what,” Perilloux pointed out. “This is all just more spinning from the committee. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

Additionally, St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard issued a letter this week saying he was finally going public against the incorporators, saying that he was not opposed to the incorporation, but only to misleading information.

“I am opposed to a committee presenting information not based on facts,” he said. “And as for the industry tax money going from the parish to the city, they could not get that money since it is tied to pay off bonds, and law claims that no money dedicated to such a thing can be changed to a new source.”

Hubbard had issue with the fact the incorporators had contended there would be no new taxes in the town. However the parish president said there would, in all likelihood, be a 7 mill tax immediately put on the residents, as well as the loss of homestead exemption, which would cost residents even more of their money. Should that happen, all those who currently enjoy the $75,000 homestead exemption would lose it, since that is state law for any municipality.

Baloney was quoted after the Tuesday trial saying that the town will “go after every penny it can get” from industry, if the Town of Garyville is formed, and still claimed it can be “Christmas in July” if voters back the incorporation.

“Any way you look at this, big industry will still work with a new town,” she said. “They have always been a good neighbor in our parish, and if they have to deal with Garyville, then they will continue to work with us…I’m sure of it.”

Regardless how the final vote comes out, most observers have said they expect plenty of litigation on the issue one way or another.

One unnamed source said that one group is standing by, ready to file a lawsuit if the town is passed, since the vote is now on what has been called “an illegal petition” since the industry was originally included in the boundaries that the governor approved in the petition.