Early voting begins Friday on tax, charter propositions

Early voting for St. Mary Parish begins Friday and lasts until Nov. 10. as Tri-City residents vote on taxes and charter amendments.

Berwick, Bayou Vista and Patterson residents will vote on the Wax Lake East Drainage District proposition, which calls for a 20-year continuation of a 2-mill property tax, which has been in place for the last 10 years.

“The funds from the renewed tax will be used for both maintenance and construction,” said William Hildago Jr., chairman of the Wax Lake East Drainage District.

Hildalgo said that the district has another 3.2-mill property tax that voters continued for 10 years in 2015, but those funds collected are strictly used for maintenance.

Hidalgo said that with the passing of the continuation, the district is currently looking at building a new pumping station at Calumet to help reduce the load on the pumping stations at Possum Bayou in Patterson and the Borrow Canal in Berwick.

The proposed tax is estimated to bring in a total of $280,000 per year, according to the Louisiana secretary of state website.

Patterson residents will also vote on four charter amendments.

The first two charter amendment propositions call for a separation of powers between the mayor and police chief.

The police chief will be given the power to hire, discipline and terminate employees within the police department with city council approval.

“The final decision chosen by the citizens of Patterson is paramount for the professional ethics and the growth of the police department,” said Patterson Police Chief Patrick LaSalle.

Currently, the city charter states that the mayor has the power to hire, discipline, and terminate all city employees, including those within the police department, with city council approval. LaSalle said that the current charter has left the police department with staff shortages in the past and conflicts between the current administration and the police department.

“The mayor is the one that pushed that the charter be amended, and I applaud him for that,” said LaSalle. “I think the people of Patterson wanted an elected police chief, and it would be a positive impact for the next police chief to run his or her department without interference.”

Mayor Rodney Grogan said the amendment propositions must pass with at least 51 percent of the vote or the charter stands as is. If passed, the amendments would go into effect instantly.

“If the ordinances pass, at 8:30 p.m. or when the final tally comes in, right then and there (LaSalle) can do what he wants,” said Grogan.

The third amendment proposition on the ballot for Patterson reduces the advance notice the city must give the media before meetings from four days to one, in alignment with the Louisiana Public Meeting Law.

Grogan said this charter amendment will allow for any last-minute additions that occur over the weekend prior to the monthly Tuesday meetings to be put on the agenda without being in violation of the city charter and state law.

The fourth amendment proposition on the ballot for Patterson amends Section 2-2-10(A) of the city charter, adding the words “immovable property” to provide clarification about which government property would need an ordinance from the council before a sale or lease.

Other parish races include runoff elections for state treasurer and city marshal for city court in Franklin.

Early voting hours are from 8:30 a.m. until 6p.m. St. Mary residents can early vote at the St. Mary Registrar of Voters Office at 301 Third St. in Morgan City or the third floor of the St. Mary Parish Courthouse, 101 Wilson St. in Franklin.

General election day is Nov.18.

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