TOP 2010 STORIES: Despite Pledges, No Demolition

BELLAIRE – The dilapidated Bellaire Bridge still spans the Ohio River as 2010 draws to a close, despite voiced intent this year to demolish it.

The bridge changed owners not once, but twice during 2010. And the matter of who now owns the bridge appears to be heading to an Idaho court in 2011.

In May, Advanced Explosives Demolition of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho – stars of the reality television show The Imploders – purchased the bridge from Bellaire businessman Roger Barack for $1.

Days later, AED reportedly sold the span to Delta Demolition and KDC Investments of Newton Falls, Ohio for $25,000.

Representatives of both Delta Demolition and AED went before Benwood City Council on June 8 to speak of their plans to take down the bridge.

Lee Chaklos of Delta Demolition told council members the demolition project would take 120 days, and he noted that the U.S. Coast Guard that day had approved the first phase of his plans to dismantle the bridge. This phase involved taking out the toll booth on the Bellaire side of the bridge, then working east across the bridge toward Benwood to remove the steel grating.

And AED was to work with Delta Demolition to explode the remaining structure of the bridge once grating was removed.

Council, though, didn’t grant the firms the necessary permits that night to start work on the bridge. City officials wanted Chaklos’ first phase plan in writing, along with certified copies of his pertinent insurance policies and licenses.

Police Chief Frank Longwell informed Chaklos then that as soon the documents were received in Benwood, city officials would work quickly to review them and expedite the permit process.

But no documents pertaining to the bridge demolition have been received in Benwood.

On July 12, Chaklos announced he wouldn’t be using AED and its owners, Eric and Lisa Kelly, as subcontractors for the project.

“We are no longer working with Eric Kelly – not anymore,” Chaklos said. “We did not have a contract. We’re going to be putting the blasting out for bid.”

The timeline for demolishing the bridge was moved from Labor Day weekend to the first week of October.

On Aug. 18, Chaklos announced explosives would not be used at all to take down the Bellaire Bridge.

It was also at this time that AED informed the city of Benwood that AED owned the bridge and would be submitting its own plan for demolishing the span.

“There are questions as to the ownership,” Longwell said in August. “Unlike in real property, there is no deed. Once either side gets what they need, we will have to have our city attorney research to determine who owns the bridge. It’s now a civil matter between folks who say they own it.

“We’re anxious to get it down, but right now these two guys have made a mess of the whole thing. It’s sad for them to put false hope on the city. They can’t come up with the required documents, then there is a squabble,” he added. “It’s embarrassing to be involved with project.”

In September, AED filed a legal complaint in the Kootenai County, Idaho, court against Delta Demolition and KDC Investments. The complaint pertained to matters of ownership and which firm had the right to take down the span, according to Jeremy Domoczik, attorney for Delta Demolition.

No court date had been set in case by December. But Domoczik now says Delta Demolition plans to petition the Idaho court for permission to begin work on the bridge while the ownership issue is decided.