Michigan DOT wins latest court battle against Ambassador Bridge co, but being appealed
By Peter Samuel
Michigan DOT won the latest round in the longrunning court battle over the US Gateway plaza project. Wayne Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards, without hearing any new evidence on the state of construction, reiterated previous rulings he'd made that the bridge company was in contempt of court for not followings orders he'd made on demolitions and construction in the Gateway area.
Since his last ruling the bridge company seem from photographs they've provided us (nearby), to have moved gasoline pumps and toll booths to make room for new paving of ramps. The photos also show earth retaining walls and major elevated bridging work for a new ramp to connect with MDOT interchange ramps to I-75 and I-96.
Bridge company president Dan Stamper told us earlier this week that this was work in response to the Judge's order, and that the works would all be complete by the January 10, 2012 deadline the judge had set.
But at the hearing today Judge Edwards heard no evidence on these recent and ongoing works from either the Bridge company or Michigan DOT. He condemned earlier behavior by the company and said: "There still remain significant differences between the construction, the proposed construction plans, and the approved design."
He referred to "clear and unequivocal evidence" that the bridge company failed to comply with an order he'd made in February 2010, but it was unclear whether or how he had taken into consideration the works of the past several months.
MDOT engineer comments afterwards
After the hearing a Michigan DOT engineer on the project Tony Kratofil in comments to local reporters acknowledged the recent works but belittled them saying:
"They... started doing some work on the gas pumps. They removed the canopy. They removed the pumps. That's like taking the faucets off the sink when you were told to take the house down. They've begun superficial work. But, clearly, they've had a couple years to really do this. If that's all they can get accomplished, then clearly their intent is not to get this done."
Michigan DOT wants fuel pumps removed and also apparently the company's duty-free store.
Kratofil made no reference to the ramp works.
New court dates set for Dec 1, Jan 12 2012
In today's court hearing Judge Edwards set a December 1 hearing on a Michigan DOT proposal to have a court-appointed receiver take control of all demolition/construction work away from the Bridge company.
And he set January 12, 2012 as a court date for his ruling on a penalty to be imposed for his contempt of court findings. Judge Edwards said bridge company owner 84-year old Manuel (Matty) Moroun as well as bridge company president Dan Stamper must attend the court for the sentencing hearing.
It wasn't spelled out but it seems that the sentencing date is set just two days after the compliance deadline date so that sentencing can be made, or suspended, in the context of whether the works under way now are seen to comply, or not comply, with legal requirements.
Bridge company to appeal
In a statement in the afternoon Dan Stamper, bridge company president, said they'd appeal today's ruling by Judge Edwards:
"The judge was seriously wrong and we will properly appeal. The evidence shows clearly that piers 11, 12, 13 and 19 were built properly. DIBC (the bridge company) is continuing to work hard to finish its portions of the Gateway Project by 1/10/2012, and it will do so."
Stamper went on to say that the bridge company has been doing the right thing while Michigan DOT has been creating the problems:
"We invite the public to review DIBC's actions over the past half year and MDOT's inactions, as any such review will make it clear that DIBC is doing what it is supposed to do and MDOT is consistently being obstructive."
They were confident, Stamper said, they'd win on appeal.
Judge Edwards opinion and order:
TOLLROADSnews 2011-11-03 ADDITION 15:00