The president of the Detroit International Bridge Company was handcuffed and jailed Monday (Jan. 10) in a long-running dispute involving the DIBC-owned Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit with Windsor, Ontario.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards found DIBC president Dan Stamper in contempt of court and ordered that he remain in jail until the company complied with the judge’s February 2010 order to remove fuel pumps, toll booths and part of a duty-free shop that had all been built illegally on the bridge’s plaza.
The structures are holding up completion of ramps and roads to the bridge built by the Michigan Department of Transportation as part of the $230 million Gateway Project.
Stamper was led away in handcuffs and confined in a holding cell after the judge refused to delay action until DIBC’s lawyers could file an appeal.
|The privately financed bridge, with a 1,850-foot center span, was the world’s longest suspension bridge when it opened in 1929.|
‘Stringent Sanctions are Needed’
“It appears that stringent sanctions are needed to bring about compliance,” Edwards said, according to The Detroit News. “I find that DIBC is in civil contempt of the court and the failure to comply impedes the function of the court.”
The judge fined the company $7,500 and ordered it to pay MDOT’s legal costs from the contempt proceedings. The company was also ordered to immediately set up regular meetings with MDOT and construction firms overseeing the demolition and to submit biweekly update reports to the court.
That first report is due Jan. 24.
DIBC and MDOT attorneys declined comment after the hearing, news reports said.
Indefinite Jail Term
Stamper will remain in jail until “the DIBC begins to comply with the Feb. 1, 2010, order, or he no longer has the power to comply with the Feb. 1, 2010, order,” Edwards ruled.
DIBC unsuccessfully appealed Edwards’ 2010 decision to the Michigan Supreme Court and the U.S. District Court last year. MDOT brought the case back to Edwards’ court last month, saying DIBC had deviated from its portion of the project, The Detroit News reported.
The bridge company had been previously ordered to build an elevated truck ramp over 23rd Street, but the company testified that it had bought property within the plaza that would eliminate the need for the ramp.
|Detroit International Bridge Company wants to add a second span (bottom) to the one-lane crossing (top) between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.|
The truck ramp would block the area where bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun wants to build a second span on the bridge.
Stamper also testified that the company couldn’t proceed with Edwards’ ruling because MDOT’s requirements were unclear, the newspaper reported.
Ramps Await DIBC
“We’re certainly encouraged that the judge wants to see the project completed,” MDOT Metro Region Chief Engineer Tony Kratofil told The Detroit News. “We’re sorry to see that it had to come to such serious action.”
Kratofil said MDOT would open the new ramps to the Ambassador Bridge Plaza “as quickly as we can, based on DIBC’s progress.”