Bridge Delay Not Benwood’s Fault

Benwood officials have tried hard to work with Lee Chaklos, who, with his wife, owns the wreckage that once was the Bellaire Bridge. As police Chief Frank Longwell put it during a City Council meeting this week, “We have done everything we have said we are going to do …”

Meanwhile, the Chaklos companies, Delta Demolition and KDC Investments, seem to have made very little progress toward removing the bridge. It has been nearly three years since they took ownership of the span.

Lee Chaklos was back before council Tuesday, asking for more concessions. Citing difficulty finding an insurance company willing to provide the $500,000 performance bond the city is requiring, Chaklos asked the amount be lowered. By a unanimous vote, council turned him down.

Initially, council had sought a $5 million liability bond from Chaklos, to cover any damage in Benwood resulting from bridge demolition work. At Chaklos’ request, that was changed to the $500,000 cash bond, to ensure work to remove the span is completed.

The Chakloses also expressed concern about the city keeping that money, even if the work is completed satisfactorily. To address that complaint, council agreed to have a Weirton attorney’s name listed along with the city on the bond escrow account.

At virtually every step of the way, however, Benwood officials’ compromises have been followed by more requests from Chaklos.

Now he is under a federal court order to begin demolition work by June 20 or pay $1,000 a day in fines.

Is Chaklos in over his head? Is he simply unable to make arrangements for the $500,000 bond? Answers to those questions will be coming soon, as the June 20 deadline nears.

Meanwhile, as much as they want to see the dilapidated old bridge removed, Benwood officials’ responsibility is to city residents. For three long, frustrating years, they have kept that in mind – and should continue to do so.