Don’t Wait For An Emergency

Since 1991, the old Bellaire Bridge has been slowly decaying, posing an increasing danger to everything underneath it. That includes both traffic on the Ohio River and part of the city of Benwood.

It was that year when the bridge was closed. Later it was sold, then sold again to a succession of owners with plans for it. During recent years those plans have been to demolish the span and sell the steel from it.

But nothing has happened for some time, because of the tangled affairs of the span’s current owners, Lee and Krystal Chaklos.

As we have reported, the Chakloses, of Virginia Beach, Va., are in trouble with a federal judge in Columbus. In November 2013, he was accused of criminal contempt for not telling the judge about millions of dollars in liens against the bridge.

But the judge has not yet issued a ruling in that situation. What he decides may not matter to the bridge or those worried about its deteriorating condition. Though the Chakloses had pledged to remove the bridge, that does not seem likely, given their financial and legal trouble.

Meanwhile, the condition of the span is growing worse. Last week, Benwood Police Chief Frank Longwell told our reporter he and Mayor Ed Kuca inspected the bridge recently. The deterioration they noticed is worrisome. “The deck is really becoming treacherous to walk on,” Longwell noted.

He added that city leaders are “kind of curious why no decision (has been made) by the court …”

Again, unless the judge has something dramatic in mind, his ruling is not likely to expedite work to remove the bridge.

And, because of the intricacy and uncertainty about exactly who has rights to the bridge, it is not probable that a new owner with the resources to demolish the structure can be found.

At some point the conclusion may be reached that the task can no longer be left up to the private sector.

It would have been better had a private company undertaken the demolition work. But if that cannot be done, government may have to step in. Federal officials should begin looking into the situation.