Defiant after his six-hour jail stay for contempt of court, the president of Detroit International Bridge Co. said the company remained determined to expand the DIBC-owned Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit with Windsor, Ontario.
“[Michigan Department of Transportation] bureaucrats are doing everything they can to stop our successful 80-year-old private-sector business from building our new bridge with our own money,” company president Dan Stamper said in a statement after his release late Monday (Jan. 10).
“They will lose. This won’t stop us, and our new bridge will be built and serve the public well.”
Demolition Order Defied
Stamper was handcuffed and jailed Monday in a years-long dispute involving his company’s bridge.
In February 2010, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards ruled that DIBC had illegally built fuel pumps, toll booths and part of a duty-free shop on the bridge’s plaza and ordered the company to demolish the structures.
The company has refused to comply, saying that the demolition was unnecessary and MDOT’s requirements are unclear. After a hearing Monday, Edwards found Stamper in contempt of court and ordered that he remain in jail until the company complied with the demolition order.
The structures are holding up completion of ramps and roads to the bridge that MDOT built as part of the $230 million Gateway Project. MDOT says it is ready to open the ramps as soon as the structures are cleared.
In addition, the bridge company was 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. The truck ramp would block the area where bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun wants to build a second span on the 81-year-old bridge.
Fines, Meetings Ordered
The judge also fined the company $7,500 and ordered it to pay MDOT’s legal costs from the contempt proceedings. The company was then ordered to immediately set up regular meetings with MDOT and construction firms overseeing the demolition and to submit biweekly update reports to the court.
It was not clear what change in circumstances led to Stamper’s release from jail late Monday. No demolition has begun.
Stamper’s statement said: “It’s a shame that this situation had to occur and that the court had to order scheduled meetings between our company and MDOT, under the supervision of a court-ordered monitor, so we could move forward to complete the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project. We’ve been asking MDOT for these meetings for many months now, with no response.”
He added: “Our company recently purchased Lafayette Bait & Tackle, which is the property that was MDOT’s excuse for not opening the completed bridge access ramps from I-75 and I-96. Although we disagreed, the bait shop is no longer an issue standing in the way of finishing the Gateway Project. Nevertheless, as long as MDOT seeks to construct a bridge of its own right next to ours, reasonable discussions are difficult.”