Board seeks renewed control of Kings Point Ferry’s hours

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2008

The lifting of a court order setting operating hours for the Kings Point Ferry is being sought by Warren County supervisors who want that power returned to them.

The request for permanent injunctive relief was filed with 9th Chancery District Judge Vicki Roach Barnes, board attorney Paul Winfield said Thursday.

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. Spending on the ferry over the past 10 years has exceeded $3 million, according to the filed motion.

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“In another five years, it’ll cost $500,000 a year to operate that thing,” District 1 Supervisor David McDonald said.

Under a 1997 court order, the vessel that takes a very few vehicles a day to the island across the Yazoo Diversion Canal was required to operate at 15 hours a day. Principals in M&M Property, LP, a land-owning group on Kings Point Island, filed suit in August after the county reduced hours to 12 following an illness of one of three U.S. Coast Guard-certified pilots on the road department staff. Despite a return to 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. service, principals in the land group asked the court to find county supervisors in contempt for violating the court order.

A settlement was reached in that case, heard in the 15th Chancery District after Barnes recused herself from proceedings. Supervisors agreed to pay legal costs of the landowner group, about $4,000, and adhere to the court-set scheduled.

However, when a pilot quit suddenly this month, the board decided to head off any additional legal fights by seeking a lifting of the order. Applications to replace the departed pilot are being taken.

Hunting and tree farming have dominated activity in recent years on the island, which is cut off from the mainland of Warren County by the waterway dug in 1903. High stages on the Mississippi River flood the acreage occasionally.

In its court filing, the county referred to “an inadequate number of certified pilots, reduced farming operations on the island, sporadic use of the ferry and the current financial condition of the county” as a basis for setting hours. If a subsequent ruling is favorable, the board indicated it would consider keeping the ferry open to taking vehicles across the canal during historically busy periods, such as deer hunting season.

An Army Corps of Engineers plan was drafted in 2001 for a 10-mile levee with a road atop it for vehicular access, eliminating the ferry. Although that plan remains viable, supervisors opted to purchase a new ferry and push boat and continue paying the ferry expense rather than face the local share of what would have been an estimated $8 million project.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at