Resist Pressure Over Old Bridge

It appears the owners of the Bellaire Bridge have decided to make the proverbial federal case – literally – out of a dispute with Benwood officials over demolition of the span. Intervention by the U.S. Department of Transportation is being sought.

As local residents weary of delays in taking down the bridge know, the whole thing comes down to Benwood officials’ insistence on safeguarding residents and businesses.

Delta Demolition and KDC Investments, owned respectively by Lee Chaklos and his wife, Krystal, own the old bridge. They refuse to comply with the city’s demand that a $500,000 cash bond be posted to ensure the bridge is demolished properly and safely. A performance bond is reasonable, in view of the fact much of the bridge passes over the community.

A federal judge had given KDC and Delta until June 20 to secure the bond required by Benwood officials. He ordered $1,000 a day in fines be levied if the companies failed to comply.

But June 20 came and went. A court teleconference on the matter reportedly has been scheduled for Thursday.

In the meantime, Lee Chaklos apparently decided to get the congressman who represents him, U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., involved. Chaklos said Rigell has contacted Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, seeking that agency’s intervention. “This is probably going to reach the Obama administration,” Chaklos told our reporter. LaHood is a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

It is unclear what Chaklos expects his congressman and LaHood to do about the situation. Clearly, they cannot in good conscience expect Benwood officials to abandon their responsibility to city residents and businesses.

It would be nice if LaHood can find some way to move the project forward – but not at the cost of pressuring Benwood officials over their stance. They have attempted to compromise with KDC and Delta, but to no avail.

The old bridge needs to come down. But demolition work needs to be done responsibly. Benwood officials are right to stick to their stance on that, regardless of who pressures them to back down.