ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Port Commission voted Monday to move forward with a couple of strategic steps in an effort to acquire Mississippi River-front land for a docking facility for riverboats.
Much of the discussion focused on the process of acquiring the property, beginning with an appraisal of 72 acres of land owned by commission President Paul “Pal” Lambert III and his family.
A legal battle over the land surrounding the old ferry landing at the end of La. 10 was resolved in May when 20th Judicial District Court Judge Betsy Jones ruled the heirs of Paul A. Lambert Sr. and the Lambert Gravel Company were in possession of the land. To date, West Feliciana Parish has spent nearly $700,000 on the litigation, which did not establish who actually owned the land.
The Port Commission also received a report from Commissioners Andrew Grezaffi and David Opperman, who met with the Lambert family and their attorney, Len Kilgore, on May 21. Among the issues discussed, the report says, was the potential of the Port Commission acquiring the property either through sale or expropriation.
The report concludes that an appraisal of the property’s value is necessary to determine the next course of action.
The Port Commission agreed at the meeting to hire appraiser Henry W. Tatje for $12,500 to conduct an appraisal that could take up to 60 days.
On the recommendation of District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla, the commission agreed to solicit an opinion from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office to clear up some of the procedural moves necessary to expropriate property and whether the West Feliciana Parish Council can fund the expropriation by the Port Commission.
There were some tense moments during the meeting, mainly when Oppermann questioned D’Aquilla’s definitions of “quick take” and expropriation. D’Aquilla contended the two terms are synonymous.
Then Commissioner David Duvic questioned acting Chairman Z. David DeLoach if the tension directed toward D’Aquilla was carryover from the previous election for district attorney, in which D’Aquilla defeated Oppermann. At that point, DeLoach uttered an obscenity.
Oppermann then attempted to clear the air, saying he has no animosity toward D’Aquilla. “Sam was my opponent,” DeLoach said, “but he is not my enemy.”
In the meantime, the panel agreed to form another committee with Duvic and Commissioner Andy Kirkpatrick to communicate with various riverboat companies about their needs to dock boats in West Feliciana Parish. They agreed to submit a preliminary report at the July 20 meeting and a final report at the Aug. 17 meeting.