Glancing at a map of St. George, it’s not immediately clear that the northern boundary of the proposed municipality butts up against the city of Central. But, in fact, it does.
While it appears the northernmost corner of St. George is where Honeycut Bayou meets the Amite River near Shenandoah, zoom in tightly on a map and you find the boundary actually snakes, literally, along the river, about four miles north then across Florida Boulevard, where it ends at the BREC French Settlement Conservation Area adjacent to Central.
Is there any reason the two cities, both carved from parts of unincorporated East Baton Rouge Parish, were intended to be contiguous?
Yes, according to a spokesman for the proposed city, who says the boundaries were drawn that way intentionally to give St. George—should it become a reality—options in the future.
“It would free us up, if we’re touching Central, to negotiate deals with them,” says St. George Spokesman Drew Murrell. “So if our neighbors in Central are doing something with schools or sanitation service, for instance, we could potentially partner with them.”
Granted, there doesn’t appear to be anything in state law that requires municipalities to be contiguous in order to share services. But Murrell says that may not always be the case.
“I think the idea was if something required us to be contiguous—if a law was written that way in the future, we’d already have that requirement met,” he says.
Contiguous boundaries would also make it possible for the two cities to consolidate, should that ever become an issue. State law provides that contiguous cities in the same parish can consolidate if approved by a majority of voters in both municipalities, though Murrell says he doesn’t envision that ever happening.
State Sen. Bodie White, R-Central, who helped draw the boundaries for St. George, won’t say specifically what he had in mind by making the proposed city contiguous with Central. But he says it potentially opens lots of doors.
“There are all sorts of things you can do,” he says. “You can partner on economic development, on schools, on recreation. Don’t forget, I’m thinking years out into the future.”
Opponents of the proposed city, however, say the effort to connect St. George to Central smacks of something disingenuous, especially given the sinewy route the border connecting the two travels.
“Nothing the St. George folks represent or put out has been found to be truthful,” says Michael Beychok, who represents the group One Baton Rouge. “Now, as we get close to the election, we find out their real plan is to be a partner with Central. So the new schools and new municipality they have promised is not new at all—it’s a partnership with Central.”