County wants to halt activity beneath La. side of bridge|[12/18/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Warren County will ask a Louisiana court to declare that no one has a right to an easement or permission to cross under the U.S. 80 Mississippi River Bridge’s west approach.

The Vicksburg Terminal and Bridge Company bought the land when the bridge was privately constructed before it opened in 1930. The county bought the bridge and has operated it as a break-even business since the end of World War II.

Following an executive session Monday with Bobby Bailess, attorney for the Warren County Bridge Commission, supervisors authorized filing a lawsuit to resolve the matter of whether the county, which has a clear title and pays taxes to Madison Parish on the land, also has the authority to prohibit any activity underneath.

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A declaratory judgment, Bailess said, will also help insulate the county from liability, since anyone injured on bridge land will be trespassing, if the case is won.

One person owns land north and south of the county’s strip and at issue are trails that run beneath the bridge. Crossing under the bridge has been commonplace through the years, but ongoing work to the bridge’s unused road surface has resulted in falling concrete and steel debris, especially as trains cross.

Hunter Fordice, a Vicksburg resident and a member of the hunting camp that leases land north and south of the bridge, appeared before the board to discuss the matter several months ago, but no resolution came of the meeting. Bailess said Tallulah lawyer Edgar Lancaster is the registered agent for the group that owns the land.

Bailess said J.W. Sibert, a Vidalia, La., attorney, will file the suit before Jan. 1.

Also meeting Monday, the Warren County Port Commission approved pay raises for all its employees at 4 percent, the same increase supervisors approved for Warren County employees several months ago. The board also re-elected Johnny Moss as president. Staff evaluations will be discussed in 2008.