EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, La. (WAFB) - A nearly six-year battle to incorporate the southeast portion of East Baton Rouge Parish into a new city named St. George ended during Louisiana’s Primary Election held Saturday, Oct. 12.
Voters in the proposed city limits decided for incorporation.
St. George becomes the parish’s fifth municipality, joining Baton Rouge, Baker, Zachary, and Central.
Nearly 25% of voters who live within the proposed city limits early voted, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Mayor Broome released a statement after news broke of the incorporation. Read it below:
"Tonight, citizens in the southeastern portion of our City-Parish made a significant statement about the future of our community. It is truly unfortunate that only a portion of our community was able to participate in a decision that will ultimately affect everyone.
The most important thing is, we are still neighbors who will continue to work and live among each other. This will continue to be a diverse and inclusive community where we will grow and prosper. I will continue to represent everyone in East Baton Rouge Parish as the Mayor-President. Whether it be issues like drainage, or transportation or our economy, we will have the highest level of success the more we stay united."
HOW THE PROPOSAL TO INCORPORATE ST. GEORGE BEGAN
The battle over the potential city has raged on for years after the original effort fell just short of heading to voters back in 2015.
A second petition was filed in October of 2018. Over 25% of people living within the proposed city limits signed the petition to incorporate. At over 14,500 signatures in less than seven months, it was the largest incorporation effort in the state’s history, according to St. George spokesman, Andrew Murrell.
WHERE ARE THE PROPOSED CITY LIMITS FOR ST. GEORGE?
Around 80,000 people will live in the proposed City of St. George, should it pass on Election Day.
Proposed city limits in October of 2018:
Most recent city limits proposal, updated in February of 2019:
WHAT IMPACT WILL ST. GEORGE HAVE ON THE HOUSING MARKET?
Realtors say the incorporation of St. George could be a good thing for the housing market in the area. Because of supporters’ push for their own school system, buyers could see that as attractive and could drive the value of homes up.
WHAT IMPACT WILL ST. GEORGE HAVE ON DRAINAGE?
Parish leaders are concerned the incorporation of St. George may complicate existing plans to improve water flow in the parish.
St. George organizers plan to privatize drainage management, a move that would keep them off the hook for benefits and retirement costs that EBR must pay to its civil employees. It would also allow them to fire Republic Services, a waste management company under fire recently for not producing satisfactory results.
Changes to one portion of a drainage canal can adversely impact other portions. EBR drainage director, Fred Raiford, says it’s important to plan these types of things with the entire area in mind. Raiford also questions if St. George would be able and willing to pay for long-term maintenance to channels already set to be improved in the parish through the recently-funded EBR flood control plan.
WHAT IMPACT WILL ST. GEORGE HAVE ON SCHOOL DISTRICTS?
Some 3,000 Baton Rouge children could find themselves enrolled in different schools if St. George incorporates on Election Day.
Nearly 2,000 St. George kids attend magnet schools or participate in gifted programs outside the proposed city limits. The parish school board would likely have the final say on whether those students could continue at their current schools.
Roughly another 1,000 live in Baton Rouge proper and attend magnet schools inside the proposed city limits. Their future is also uncertain.
East Baton Rouge school leaders have been relatively quiet on the issue, though they’ve created new magnet programs at schools like Woodlawn to try to ease concerns about the system.
“If the incorporation happens and a new school district is formed, I will move,” said Branden Barker, a magnet school parent who lives inside the proposed St. George limits. “I’m that committed in wanting to stay in the EBR school system.”
Barker acknowledges there are issues with area schools, but says he would rather invest his time to improve the current system instead of starting over.
A few neighborhoods over, Valerie Gibson says she’s willing to leave magnet schools behind if it means a new school system in a new city.
WHAT DO SUPPORTERS OF ST. GEORGE SAY?
Supports of the proposed city want to model what the City of Central did. They want to create a small, streamlined government that “listens to the voice of the people.”
WHAT DO OPPONENTS OF ST. GEORGE SAY?
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome is spearheading the opposition of St. George, urging voters to remain united as a parish.
“Great cities don’t splinter. They don’t balkanize. That’s not a way to be great. You know Baton Rouge is a great city and on its way to being better, and I just can’t see a ‘yes’ vote, taking us in the direction of continuing that momentum,” said Sean Riley, CEO of Lamar Advertising.