DETROIT, MI — A team of nine lawyers for the Ambassador Bridge company made a last-ditch plea Thursday to Detroit judge Prentis Edwards not to appoint a receiver to complete court-ordered construction work on the bridge’s U.S. plaza.
‘You can’t plug in a party with no background on this and yet somehow has the ability to complete this project,’ said lawyer Phillip Alber.
‘There are innumerable details that are the source of this impasse. I don’t believe removing (the bridge company) and plugging in someone else would lead to completion of the project.’
Edwards deferred his decision until Jan. 12.
Billionaire bridge owner Matty Moroun has failed to complete a redesign of the Detroit plaza in accordance with a ruling by the judge in February 2010.
Edwards ordered the bridge company to remove toll booths, gas pumps and several bridge piers after ruling that the company illegally constructed them on city property and in violation of a state government agreement under the $230-million Gateway Project.
Moroun is facing contempt of court penalties for failing to comply and has been ordered — along with other bridge executives — to appear at the Jan. 12 hearing to face sanctions that could include imprisonment.
The judge listened to arguments Thursday from lawyers for the bridge and the Michigan Department of Transportation regarding whether a receiver should be appointed to complete the court-ordered work.
Alber urged the judge to appoint a mediator who could sit down with both parties ‘all day and every day until every issue is resolved.’
Another bridge lawyer, Craig John, urged Edwards to carefully weigh who best offers the greatest likelihood of ‘getting to the goal-line’ on the project’s completion.
‘There is no reason to appoint a receiver because progress is being made,’ John said. ‘The project is close to completion and the bridge company should be allowed to complete it with due diligence.’
But the state’s Assistant Attorney General Robert Mol, representing MDOT, told Edwards the bridge company and its lawyers have become adept at ‘lots of talking and no action’ when it comes to finishing the project under the court order.
‘(The bridge company) has not built what this court ordered it to build,’ Mol said. ‘The conflict here is that (the bridge company) refuses to accept that and they keep arguing for a whole new design.’
Thanks to the legal impasse and lack of completion by Moroun under the court order, trucks entering the U.S. have been forced to reach I-75 and I-96 in Detroit by using local streets.
And nearly two years after the ruling, car drivers are forced to weave through a maze of local streets, service drives and lanes through Moroun’s massive new duty free complex in order to get on the bridge.
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