Bridge Date Comes, Goes

BENWOOD – Owners of the Bellaire Bridge have enlisted the help of their congressman in Virginia to ask the U.S. Department of Transportation to intervene as they seek a permit from the city of Benwood to begin demolishing the span.

On Feb. 11, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ordered that KDC Investments and Delta Demolition had 120 days – until June 20 – to secure the necessary $1 million performance bond needed for the permit. Otherwise, they would face a $1,000-a-day fine.

Benwood officials have since reduced the requested amount, requiring a $500,000 cash bond.

The deadline has come and gone, and the court has scheduled a teleconference for 4:30 p.m. Thursday for all parties involved, said Lee Chaklos of Delta Demolition. Chaklos and his wife, Krystal Chaklos of KDC Investments, are the owners of the Bellaire Bridge.

Lee Chaklos noted that among those likely to be on the conference call will be representatives of Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.

Chaklos said the issue of the $500,000 performance bond continues to be the stumbling block.

“Giving a $500,000 cash deposit to Benwood with only their name on it is not an option,” he said.

But Benwood officials have agreed to allow the name of a third, independent party – lawyer Dan Guida of Weirton – to also be placed on the escrow account.

The court has required Chaklos to submit bi-weekly status updates, and in most of these he has indicated there has been “no progress” regarding the Bellaire Bridge demolition.

But a June 14 report filed with the court states that “KDC has been in further contact with Rep. Scott Rigell’s office,” and that Rigell’s office had been in touch with the office of Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va.

No workers in McKinley’s office recall having any recent discussions about the bridge, according to Jim Forbes, spokesman for McKinley. Rigell’s office was closed for the evening and could not be reached for comment late Monday.

The last report from Chaklos, filed on June 20, contains a letter from Rigell to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“Although unnecessary, the town is requesting a $500,000 cash security bond in its name and is unwilling to permit work to begin … ,” Rigell states. “An offer was recently submitted to the city council to allow work to be done on the Ohio side with a lowered cash security bond … this was rejected by Benwood’s city council.

“Because an agreement has not been completed, the federal court is fining Delta Demolition Inc. in the amount of $1,000 per day unless progress is shown. This bridge must be taken down, and your intervention is needed immediately.”

Chaklos said Rigell “has been meeting with the right people” to get the issue resolved.

“His office calls me on a daily basis,” Chaklos said. “This is probably going to reach the Obama administration.”