Kings Point Ferry suit is thrown out of court

Published 11:38 am Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The lawsuit over how many hours each day the Kings Point Ferry must operate was thrown out of court Tuesday.

Special Chancery Court Judge Ray H. Montgomery of Canton dismissed the third attempt in 15 years by M&M Property LP to force Warren County to keep the vessel open 15½ hours daily. Montgomery, appointed by the state Supreme Court to hear the case after all three chancellors in the 9th District recused themselves, ruled the case was already dismissed without prejudice in 2002 and the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

Filed originally in 1997, the landowning company had settled with the county in 2008, contingent on the ferry running 15½ hours instead of 12. Two U.S. Coast Guard-certified pilots paid about $16 an hour and a contract backup paid $25 an hour when needed have steered the ferry since 2010. Through each incarnation of the suit, county supervisors have argued that budget constraints keep the county at a competitive disadvantage in terms of pay and daily service.

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M&M refiled briefs in the dormant case last September, with support from Paradise Hunting Club and Louisiana-based Riverland Planation. The group’s members sought damages from the county to pay for flood damage from the Mississippi River Flood of 2011 they said was caused by the ferry running shorter days.

Hunting and tree farming dominate activity on Kings Point Island, which was cut off from mainland Warren County when the Mississippi River changed course in the late 19th century and prompted construction of the Yazoo Diversion Canal, which opened in 1903. The current vessel, purchased in 2005 for more than $600,000, is the lone access hunters, loggers and the island’s part-time residents have to the vast, remote brush.

Alternatives to the ferry have never grown out of concept phase. A road atop a raised levee across the canal proposed a decade ago was estimated to cost $8 million. Funding issues caused most recent study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a road to be halted in 2008.