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St. George petition count underway

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BATON ROUGE - Voting officials began counting signatures Wednesday on a petition to incorporate the southern portion of East Baton Rouge Parish into its own city.

The petition was submitted by supporters of the movement to create the city of St. George. The proposed boundaries would stretch from the southwest corner of the parish up into the Shenandoah area between I-10 and I-12.

The EBR Registrar of Voters said they were delayed in counting the roughly 18,000 signatures on the petition because of the Dec. 6 runoff election, and that the process could take about a month to complete.

"It is going to be tedious and we just want to make sure that every signature is checked properly so we're gonna take our time," said Elaine Lamb, the registrar of voters. "We don't have a time limit so it may go into January or February before we can even finish checking this list."

The movement has faced criticism for potentially taking resources away from the city-parish, especially the school system. The St. George movement grew out of an earlier failed push to create a new school district in the Shenandoah area, and supporters said they want to get their children into better public schools than the parish can provide.

Earlier this year city-parish officials approved annexation requests from several high-profile businesses which lay within the original St. George boundaries, including the Mall of Louisiana and L'Auberge Casino. St. George organizers said those annexations were intended to remove potential tax revenue generators from their plans.

If the count doesn't gain enough names to put St. George on the ballot, supporters will have an additional 60 days to fill the gap.

"We've been gathering signatures up until this point, we've gathered an additional 400 signatures we will continue to gather signatures up until the point where the registrar says we've got enough and this is going to an election," said Lionel Rainey, spokesperson for St. George.

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