Bridge’s Future Now in Question

It may be that Lee and Krystal Chaklos have gotten in way over their financial heads with the Bellaire Bridge. If so, they may be unable to demolish it, as they have promised for more than three years.

That would leave local residents back where we have been for more than two decades since the span was closed to traffic, wondering what is to become of the rusting mass of girders and other steel.

Given the history of the Chaklos’ ownership of the bridge through their KDC Investments company, it came as no great surprise to learn this week that they have been keeping a $1.5 million secret.

For some time, Lee Chaklos has been trying to make arrangements with the city of Benwood to begin tearing the bridge down, through another of his companies, Delta Demolition. But Chaklos has not meet the city’s requirements, including posting a performance bond to ensure he does not start but not complete the work.

Several months ago, U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley, of Columbus, got involved. He ordered Chaklos to pay fines for not complying with court orders, including one that he obtain the bond sought by Benwood officials.

But during a mediation hearing on the matter this week, a bombshell was dropped. It seems there are $1.5 million in liens against the bridge – and Chaklos had not told Benwood officials or the judge about them.

That prompted Marbley to schedule a hearing in September, on a criminal contempt of court charge against Chaklos.

Chaklos, in angering a federal judge, has gotten involved in very serious business. But, at least from a financial standpoint, it may be no more of a problem than the $1.5 million in liens.

Again, the Chakloses may be financially unable to demolish the bridge. At some point, whether that is so may come out during court proceedings.

If so, they have delayed demolition of the span for more than three years.

The bridge simply cannot be ignored. Pieces of it already fall off from time to time. Soon, it will become a serious threat to anything under it, including people and buildings in Benwood and boats on the Ohio River.

It is not too early for local, state and federal officials to begin wondering how to proceed.

At the very earliest indication the Chakloses will not be able to do the work, government officials should begin considering what to do next to have the bridge removed.