Kings Point Ferry case heads to court Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Opening arguments are set for Tuesday in the case of Kings Point landowners seeking to have Warren County supervisors declared in contempt of court over operating hours of Kings Point Ferry.

Chancellor Edward Patten will preside in Hazlehurst, Court Administrator Bethany V. Lewis said.

Patten was named special judge in the case by the Mississippi Supreme Court when Chancellor Vicki Roach Barnes of Vicksburg recused herself. Discussions on both sides appeared to favor a settlement to avoid the court date, but no further case event was on the court docket, Lewis said.

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The case grew out of a suit filed in 1997, in which the plaintiffs, M&M Property LP, filed suit against the county over how long each day the ferry should take vehicles to and from Kings Point, across the Yazoo Diversion Canal in northwest Warren County.

A mandate was issued for 15 hours of service after that case, the rest of which was dismissed. Earlier this year, hours were cut to 12 after an illness of one of three U.S. Coast Guard-certified pilots on the road department staff. The plaintiffs riled a legal action in August despite the return of 15-hour ferry service, 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Principals in the land group asked the court to find county supervisors in contempt for cutting the hours. 

Hunting and tree farming have dominated the commercial activity on the island, cut off from the county’s mainland by the completion of the canal in 1903 and flooded occasionally by high stages on the canal and in the Mississippi River.

A plan was drafted for a 10-mile levee with a road atop it for vehicular access, eliminating the ferry. Supervisors last year gave a green light to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, though no final draft is expected for some time. Costs of the project were estimated at $8 million when a study was done in 2001.

The current ferry barge and push boat cost more than $600,000 when purchased in 2005. Annual maintenance of the vessel for this fiscal year will run about $365,000, including fuel, according to figures in this year’s budget. That means if the road option were taken and the ferry eliminated, assuming no federal aid, the costs would equalize in 20 years.