Metro Council avoids votes on St. George issues

The Metro Council punted votes Wednesday on two issues that have raised the ire of St. George supporters.

The council was set to vote on codifying a local revenue-sharing agreement in the budget that some council members and St. George officials describe as an attempt to prevent the proposed city from accessing funds in the event that it successfully incorporates.

The council also deferred appointing three commissioners to the St. George Fire Protection District’s board. Earlier this month, Metro Councilman John Delgado attempted to have the longtime commissioners replaced, because he said they’ve improperly allowed St. George’s public facilities to be used for political campaign purposes.

Despite being a consolidated form of government, the city-parish budget has for years contained “local service agreements” between Baton Rouge and the unincorporated parts of the parish to jointly fund the local government.

The measure before the council Wednesday was to codify the agreement into an ordinance.

The unincorporated areas of the parish will provide $52.5 million to fund city services in the 2014 budget, according to the local service agreement.

The city-parish’s general fund budget is just less than $300 million.

William Daniel, chief administrative officer for the mayor-president, said there has been “a lot of misunderstanding about what this does and doesn’t do,” and maintained that the item would have no impact on St. George. The item was deferred for two weeks, after a vote to approve the item failed to garner a majority.

Those voting against approving the measure were Trae Welch, Scott Wilson, Chandler Loupe, Buddy Amoroso and Ryan Heck. Voting in favor were Chauna Banks-Daniel, Ronnie Edwards, Donna Collins-Lewis, C. Denise Marcelle, Tara Wicker and John Delgado. Joel Boé was absent.

Loupe said after the meeting that he doesn’t believe Daniel, and feels the measure is entirely geared toward St. George.

“I think it’s all St. George-related,” he said. “My interpretation is that somebody went back and looked at it and said, ‘We need to make this law before St. George happens.’ ”

Loupe said the St. George fire commissioner appointments were deferred because Boé was absent, and he represents much of the district.

Earlier this week, St. George officials circulated emails to supporters telling them the two items would be coming before the council in an attempt to undermine the new city. They asked residents to write the council to express their displeasure. Council members said they received hundreds of emails related to the items.