Metro Councilman wants to delay annexation decision

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Stand down. That is what one metro councilman says his colleagues need to do, when it comes to annexing businesses into the city.

Wednesday, the Baton Rouge Metro Council is supposed to decide whether to make the Mall of Louisiana and the Baton Rouge General part of the city. One councilman wants to know how that will affect public safety.

"I have 352 emails against annexation, about 150 in favor," said councilman Buddy Amaroso.

Amaroso wants the metro council to defer the decision for 30 days, to allow the St. George fire chief to report how the annexation would affect its services.

"Annexations take revenue from us," said Gerard Tarleton, St. George Fire Chief. "Nobody's worried about that but me, and some council people."

The chief says they recieve no money from the parish. The majority of their operating revenue comes from property taxes in St. George. The mall and BR General, which are at the center of the latest annexation dispute, are two of the biggest property tax payers.

"That's $270,000. Can we absorb that? I don't want to, but we'll have to ... Will that cause us to go out of business? No. Is it a concern for the future? Certainly," said Tarleton.

Until recently, the St. George Fire Department has been silent on the issue, saying as long as the City of Baton Rouge's efforts to block the St. George Incorporation did not affect their ability to protect its citizens, they would remain neutral.

But after getting questioned by citizens, the fire chief sent out a letter earlier this week.

On how much the annexations will impact them, he writes, "We don't know because there is no telling where it stops."

The chief says for years, there's been an agreement with the Baton Rouge city administration, that the St. George tax base would not be encroached upon.

"Since I have been fire chief, the system, through the City of Baton Rouge has encroached upon our boundaries," Tarleton said.

He goes on in the letter saying, "the administration is not hesitating to inflict permanent damage" on the services the fire department provides.

Tarleton says he's sure the annexations will pass and he stresses his firefighters will continue to do what they can, to protect the public.

However, the decision to annex is not one everyone is ready to make.

"If we rush into this situation, we could be harming people in that area with fire protection," said Councilman Amaroso.

Tarleton says he has not spoken with the city administration on the issue. He says he did meet with the Baton Rouge fire chief about signing a cooperative agreement to make sure everyone has fire protection.

Tarleton says this brings back the issue from 2008, when all the fire chiefs in the parish did a study for the administration, on consolidating fire districts in the parish. He says there are nine different fire districts in the parish.

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