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St. George organizers racing to get signatures

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BATON ROUGE - Backers of a new city in East Baton Rouge Parish are pushing hard for more signatures while a make-or-break deadline looms closer.

The group got word two days ago their petition to ask voters to incorporate the City of St. George is more than 2,600 signatures short and they have less than 60 days to collect. The registrar certified just over 15,000 of the signatures that were turned in last year, leaving them 2,700 short.

"I don't think we'll have a problem getting signatures," said Ted Chicola, a St. George supporter who has collected signatures for more than a year. "A lot of people believe in it plus we have a lot of people coming to the area that are understanding it."

Organizers turned in the signatures last October and continued their efforts but it wasn't enough. Now they're on a mad dash to get support in writing. They say they're going door to door, holding sign drives and even bringing the petition to you if you ask.

Since October organizers have collected an additional 1,500 signatures. They say their biggest concern is making sure they are all legit, after the registrar found fraudulent signatures.

"There were a few mistakes," Chicola said. "But they'll be corrected that won't be a problem. People are signing, it's working."

City leaders disagree and want supporters to focus their energy on making Baton Rouge better instead of trying to break away.

"This effort is doomed to fail," said long-time St. George opponent, Councilman John Delgado, "and quite frankly they should stop trying to collect signatures, put down their pens and come to the table, work with myself and other civic leaders to fix the problem with education in East Baton Rouge Parish."

Chicola says they are more interested in forming their own city than working to improve the one they live in now.

"It seems like city leaders are putting it off out here," Chicola said. "They're not letting it expand out here as fast as it needs to be."

"Millions and millions of dollars have been spent on improving that area," Delgado said. "I don't think it's fair to say that we have neglected that area, in fact if anything we've focused on that."

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