St. George controversy could limit efforts to incorporate Watson

WATSON, LA (WAFB) - They have a lot in common with the movement underway to incorporate St. George, but Neighbors In Action or NIA, the group that wants to incorporate part of Livingston Parish says they already have the schools they want. What they need now is to manage growth.

Monday evening, NIA had it's first public forum to discuss the petition they are passing around. Organizers say the St. George ordeal is drawing attention to their efforts as well.

Neighbors In Action have described Watson as a bedroom community with good schools, low crime and relative ease of access to jobs. They say people were attracted to the rural community and that is attracting more subdivision builders and shopping centers and more traffic. On Highway 16, for example, construction crews are putting up a new strip mall.

Darla Steagall, with NIA, says what is happening there will continue as the area attracts more people.

"The 25,000 people will turn to 50,000 in 10 years. That's what we've been told," Steagall said. "If we're not incorporated, we'll miss out on a whole lot of things we could benefit from."

Things, she says, like better drainage. Right now, new home builders follow the parish guidelines of creating drainage systems to have a ten year storm. NIA says if they incorporate, the city can tell those builders to put in a system that would handle a 100 year flood.

There's also grants for recreation parks the city could apply for, and a sheriff substation, as well as more equipment for fire stations, Steagall says.

Steagall and another NIA member, Gene Baker, say there are advertisements promoting Watson as a good area to build because of unrestricted zoning.

"In this area, we pay 22 percent of the property taxes in Livingston Parish and 15% of the people live here," said Baker. "So we're paying more than our share and in effect, we've had no voice to defend how that money might be spent."

Both say it's time Watson had a voice. They believe creating a city is the way to do so and the St. George movement is giving their efforts attention.

Steagall has spent many days at the Louisiana State Capitol, listening to bills aimed at hindering St. George. Some of those bills would also affect Watson. For example, Senator Ben Nevers bill to put a two-year moratorium on all incorporation efforts.

"I was there to discuss it with some of the legislators and they weren't aware Watson was trying to incorporate," Steagall said. "The only thing they had on their minds was St. George."

Lawmakers have since agreed to remove Watson from the moratorium.

Steagall believes now is the time to incorporate, to better manage the growth.

"Some of them are starting to find out, we better do something."

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