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Barges used for river tour boat sold for $48,000

[03/22/01] Barges once used by Mississippi River Adventures for mooring, concessions and restrooms at City Front were officially sold Wednesday for a total of $47,701.79.

The city-owned barges were taken back from David and Peggy Schaeffer, who were leasing them to use as the staging point for the river tour business they closed last month.

Mayor Robert Walker said the lease was canceled because provisions weren’t met that exposed the city to lawsuits.

“The reason the barges were put on the city surplus was because they presented liability problems for us,” Walker said. “It’s in the condition it’s in because he (Schaeffer) failed to abide by the provisions in the agreement we had with him.”

The main safety problem was a hole in one barge caused in December 1998 when a Yazoo River Towing tank barge broke loose and slammed into the mooring barge. It was not fixed amid an apparent dispute over whether J.O. Smith, owner of Yazoo River Towing, should front the cost or be billed for repairs.

Alderman Gertrude Young said the Schaeffers could have fixed the barges themselves if they had wanted.

Wednesday was the date set to auction the barges. The fuel and water barge was sold to Southland Oil Co. in Vicksburg for $36,601.79. The flat deck quarterboat was sold to Southern Delta Marine for $8,600 and the boat deck was sold to Big River Shipbuilders, Inc. in Vicksburg for $2,500.

The boat tour was a good tour, Alderman Sam Habeeb said, but the city had sound financial reasons for selling the barges and the Schaeffers could have bid on the barges as well.

“The city doesn’t really need to own barges,” Habeeb said.

Walker said he feels the finger has been pointed at city officials for the loss of the adventure tour when it should be pointed elsewhere. The Schaeffers have made clear they don’t blame anyone.

The barges were sold “as is.”

When removed, they will leave City Front without a mooring facility.

The loss of the river tour has been lamented by the local tourism industry. River rides are promoted in brochures for the tourism season that officially kicks off Saturday. School children in Brookhaven have written letters saying they will miss an excursion onto the Mississippi when their annual field trip to Vicksburg is made.