W. Feliciana Police Jury panel split on deal over land dispute

Advocate staff photo by JAMES MINTON -- Buses await passengers from the riverboat American Queen at the old St. Francisville ferry landing Thursday. A majority of the West Feliciana Parish Police Jury is disputing  ownership claims of the heirs of the late Paul A. Lambert Sr. to some of the land bordering the old ferry road, including the property where these cars are parked. A jury committee approved a tentative interim agreement on a 2-1 vote Thursday, rejecting an offer from the Lambert family that was sent Friday. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by JAMES MINTON -- Buses await passengers from the riverboat American Queen at the old St. Francisville ferry landing Thursday. A majority of the West Feliciana Parish Police Jury is disputing ownership claims of the heirs of the late Paul A. Lambert Sr. to some of the land bordering the old ferry road, including the property where these cars are parked. A jury committee approved a tentative interim agreement on a 2-1 vote Thursday, rejecting an offer from the Lambert family that was sent Friday.

A West Feliciana Parish Police Jury committee voted 2-1 Thursday to offer a temporary solution to a dispute with the jury president’s family over land bordering the old Mississippi River ferry landing.

A dispute over the land’s ownership arose last year between some jurors and the heirs of the late Paul A. Lambert Sr., among them jury President Ricky Lambert.

Ricky Lambert has not participated in the jury’s strategy sessions on the dispute.

Jurors John Kean and Lea Williams voted to approve the agreement offer Thursday, while Juror Mel Percy voted against it.

Both Williams and Percy, who got into a verbal spat at the meeting’s end, later predicted the Lamberts will reject the jury’s version of a temporary, four-month agreement.

The site, which now includes a jury-built concrete slab extending into the river, is used as a docking site for riverboats that bring tourists to St. Francisville and as a boat launch pad for fishermen and recreational boaters.

Twentieth Judicial District Judge George H. Ware Jr. suggested on March 13 that the two sides settle their dispute, which led to the Lamberts filing suit against the jury. Ware said continued litigation will pile up costs for both sides, as a variety of expert witnesses would be needed to research the claims.

The committee held its first announced meeting after apparently discussing the issues with jury attorney Gary L. Keyser in unofficial meetings. District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla recently called on the panel members to conduct their meetings in accordance with the state Open Meetings Law.

Most of the Thursday’s meeting, which included a trip to the old ferry landing, was conducted in an executive session, however, as the jurors discussed the pending litigation.

When Percy later voted against the interim agreement offer, Williams expressed her disgust with him.

“You’re so surprising,” Williams said, adding that Percy had spoken favorably of the offer as the meeting proceeded.

“What’s so surprising? I’ve been saying all along that I wanted to sign the old agreement,” Percy replied, referring to an offer he said the Lamberts made last Friday.

Both proposals specify that the jury will provide insurance to cover the Lamberts for any liability associated with the public use of the disputed property, but the property area differs widely.

The Lamberts proposed giving access to a strip of land 40 feet wide on the west side of the old ferry landing road and a larger area, including river frontage, on the east side of the road.

The jury proposal includes an area 600 feet east of the road and north to River Road, plus all of the land between the ferry road and Bayou Sara.

Leonard Kilgore, attorney for the Lambert estate, said Thursday afternoon that he had not seen the jury’s proposal and would withhold comment until he receives it.