CRANE BURNS: Just weeks after repairs, out of commission again

Published 10:13 am Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The 40-year-old crane, which underwent extensive repair recently and has only been back in commission for a matter of weeks, caught fire and part of it burned Monday night.

Wayne Mansfield, executive director of the Warren County Port Commission, told Warren County supervisors Tuesday morning that a passing riverboat pilot saw smoke coming from the crane and called 9-1-1.

“The canopy of the crane did burn,” Mansfield said. He said the crane was not in use at the time of the fire and that firefighters had to cut the lock on a gate to get to the crane to fight the fire.

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“It’s a good thing it was not in use because someone could have been hurt,” Mansfield said.

The crane is leased to Watco Companies LLC, which owns the short line railroad that serves the port.

Mansfield said as part of the port’s lease with Watco, that company is required to keep a $6 million insurance policy that includes coverage of damage to the warehouse or crane.

“It appears any repair to the crane is the burden of Watco,” Mansfield said.

When the crane became inoperable in September 2015, the county declared an emergency. In mid-October, county supervisors approved the bid of Konecranes of West Monroe, La., for $171,508.55 to repair the crane.

Those repairs were completed three to four weeks ago, said John McKee, Warren County engineer.

Mansfield said he has not received a final report from the Vicksburg Fire Department and does not know the cause of Monday’s fire.

“I will be meeting in the morning with Watco officials and we will figure out a strategy to get the crane operable as soon as possible,” Mansfield said.

In other business Tuesday, the supervisors agreed to send a letter to the state parole board, objecting to the early release of former Warren County circuit clerk Shelly Palmertree.

Palmertree is serving a five-year sentence in the Central Mississippi Satellite Facility for Women in Flowood for embezzling $12,000 from her office’s civil and criminal accounts in 2012.

She pleaded guilty on March 30, 2015, to stealing an additional $103,736.75 meant for restitution of crime victims from an account under her care between Jan. 1, 2013, until supervisors removed her from office on March 15, 2014. The state auditor’s investigators turned up evidence she had declared residence in Madison in 2013.

Palmertree was sentenced to an additional five years on the second theft, which she is serving in conjunction with the first sentence.

Warren County attorney Blake Teller said the county received a letter from the state parole board about the possibility of early release for Palmertree.