St. George responds to news that mall may be annexed into BR city limits

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Are businesses around the city really choosing sides, St. George versus Baton Rouge? Or is the recent news of three places being annexed into the city just a ploy by councilmen to say - look who's choosing Baton Rouge. Supporters of the St. George movement say if one major retailer goes, it could mean trouble.

Organizers with St. George spoke at a lunch meeting Tuesday afternoon, on a variety of subjects. Including four bills making their way through the legislative process at the Louisiana State Capitol.

"Every bit of this legislation is to block the city of St. George," said Norman Browning, one of the people involved in the St. George movement.

For example, Senate Bill 674, proposed by Senator Ben Nevers, of Bogalusa, would put a two year moratorium on any incorporation efforts. That bill, if passed, would not only affect St. George, but also the movement to incorporate Watson.

"They're not proposing stopping annexations, just incorporations," said Lionel Rainey III, the group's spokesman.

He says if the legislation doesn't affect them, businesses asking Baton Rouge to be annexed into city limits, could have some impact.

Last week, 9News reported Celtic Studios and Costco were being annexed into Baton Rouge limits. Tuesday, Metro Councilman Ryan Heck said that deal had been in negotiations for years before the St. George efforts began. Heck said it's possible other council members are turning this into a "look at all these businesses coming into the City of Baton Rouge" deal.

Right now, $67 million of sales tax is included in the City of St. George proposed budget. That includes revenue from the Mall of Louisiana. But, word is, that the mall is considering annexation into Baton Rouge.

"I have it on good authority that there are negotiations underway," said Heck. He added, Baton Rouge General Medical Center is also in those negotiations.

If that happens, Baton Rouge would keep those tax dollars. Something that could have an impact on St. George.

"St. George Fire Department would be hit in a substantial way. It could be as much as having to shut down a fire station," Rainey said.

He says they are waiting to see how much revenue the mall contributes to the fire department.

If the mall is annexed in to Baton Rouge, Rainey says St. George would need to reevaluate what they contribute to the parish's constitutional offices.

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