Location of Parish Seat on October ballotMay 4th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: news
The Plaqumeines Parish Council voted 5 -4 to hold a public vote in the coming October elections on moving the Plaquemines Parish Seat out of Pointe-a-la-Hache. The proposed referendum sparked discussion on both sides of the debate, those Plaquemines residents who want to see the courthouse on the Eastbank—with over one hundred years of history in the area— rebuilt at the site, and those who believe the population shift away from that area into Belle Chasse should be recognized over the history.
The courthouse that stood in Pointe-a-la-Hache had held the parish seat, until that courthouse was destroyed by an arsonist in 2002.
When the courthouse was originally constructed in the 19th Century, much of Plaquemines’ population was centered in Pointe-a-la-Hache and the surrounding area. The building and the seat remained in that area for well over a hundred years before it was destroyed. In that time, the seat became a vital part of the area with a piece of the local economy having been built around serving that courthouse, and the location itself is considered an integral part of parish history.
However, in recent years, especially since Hurricane Katrina, the Belle Chasse area of Plaquemines has seen a rise in its population. As talk about rebuilding the courthouse emerged, proponents of moving the courthouse have said building a new structure to accommodate this shift in population is the practical choice.
The split in the debate over moving the courthouse has not necessarily divided the residents of Plaquemines between Eastbank and Belle Chasse. Though some were surprised, even members of the Council, that Jeff Edgecombe, District 7, was the one to author and offer the resolution to the council calling for the public vote.
Edgecombe’s resolution would have voters choose if the parish seat should be moved to F. Edward Hebert Boulevard in Belle Chasse.
Councilman Percy Griffin, District 1, brought up the fact that there have been three votes held since 2001 that had the potential to move the parish seat.
The previous attempts to move the seat were to West Pointe-a-la-Hache in 2001, Port Sulphur in 2003, and Myrtle Grove in 2004. All three failed to meet the two-thirds majority, or 66 percent, needed to move the seat. Though in those elections 63.38 percent voted to move the seat to West Pointe-a-la-Hache, 62.31 percent voted for the move to Myrtle Grove, and 45.90 percent for the move to Port Sulphur.
“It failed three times [too],” Griffin said. “The people already spoke three times.” He went on to say, “The court has been there since the 1800′s, and should be there…it would be unjust to move our history.”
Councilman Burghart Turner, District 6, expressed his surprise that one of the area’s own council representatives would be the one to introduce this idea.
“I think this is wrong that we’re doing this…a whole section of the community is going to be disregarded,” Turner said.
The People Speak
Members of the community on both sides of the vote were passionate about the move.
“We [on the East Bank] deserve that courthouse,” Rev. Tyronne Edwards said. “We deserve to have a piece of Plaquemines Parish.”
Norris Babin, who is also a co-owner of The Plaquemines Gazette, spoke on behalf of the group “Moving Plaquemines Forward,”a broad-based group of parish citizens that campaign on various issues parish-wide. Babin countered the claims that this vote had already been held.
“We’ve never had a vote for [the Seat] in Belle Chasse,” Babin said, who continued to assert that the population shift toward Belle Chasse be recognized.
Either way the vote goes, Babin said it has simply been too long the area has been without a courthouse.
The Council approved adding the additional referendum to the October ballot by a vote of 5-4, with Councilman Percy Griffin, District 1, Councilman Burghart Turner, District 6, Councilman Byron Marinovich, District 8, and Councilman Maria Cooper, District 9, voting no.