NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - A judge has sided with Maid of the Mist after hearing hours worth of arguments for and against new docks being built for the tour company at the old Schoellkopf power plant.
Justice Catherine Panepinto lifted the stop work order, issued late last week, after the state poked big holes in the case brought by a preservationist group formed just 45 days ago.
Attorney Brian Gwitt, representing Maid of the Mist, said, "That's exactly the right decision. We don't think it should have made it this far to begin with."
Gwitt says preservationists have put crews six days behind schedule.
"They were concerned about the rock scaling that needs to be done. They were concerned about some plant life that we're preserving," Gwitt said. "And they were concerned about some of the rubble which is being encapsulated and not being harmed. So the benefits to this project far outweigh any detriment."
|>> PHOTO GALLERY | Pictures from behind the scenes at the former power plant show little left aside from a stone wall that is falling apart|
The $32 million project needs to be completed by November to pull the Maid of the Mist boats out of the Niagara River before it freezes. Now that the judge dismissed that temporary restraining order, 300 people will be back to work, collecting their high paying salaries.
Preservationists see things much differently. Justice Panepinto had this exchange with attorney Linda Shaw, who represented the Niagara Preservation Coalition:
Justice Panepinto: What do you say to the workers who are sitting at home now who are not getting prevailing wages, what do you say to a company that's going to lose its living?
Shaw: What I say is, it should have been done right.
Justice Panepinto But here we are today.
Shaw: We are here today... you know, we're not trying to put people out of work.
Justice Panepinto: But you are effectively.
Shaw: that may be the affect of this but they're also eliminating a state resource and park.
But Justice Panepinto says the state did their due diligence and the preservationists did not provide enough proof for a ruling in their favor.
The Niagara Preservation Coalition will likely appeal this decision. But in the meantime, work at the site is expected to begin again on Saturday.
Even with this win, Maid of the Mist is not out of troubled waters just yet. Hornblower, the California company that won the contract to conduct tours on the Canadian side of the Falls, is preparing to challenge New York State's awarding Maid of the Mist with the tour boat contract for the American side, claiming it was never properly put out to bid.
Justice Panepinto has reserved decision on that part of the decision. If she rules in favor of Hornblower, it's possible the company could put Maid of the Mist out of business. Executives for Hornblower have already stated they would outbid Maid of the Mist by $100 million for the contract.
There is another Lake Effect Snow Warning in effect for Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties from Thursday through early Friday.
Lake Effect Snow Warnings return today with the chance for an additional foot for some areas.
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A Good Samaritan died Wednesday while trying to assist the driver of a tractor trailer who got stuck in the snow.
Viewers sent in photos from the snowfall around Western New York.
The Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office says a tractor trailer crashed on Route 39, in the Town of Eagle.