Bellaire bridge demo eyed

BENWOOD – U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley asked questions Thursday about the permit issues surrounding the proposed demolition of the Bellaire Bridge, its owners and the city of Benwood.

A scheduled teleconference set by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio involving Benwood leaders, bridge owner Lee Chaklos of Delta Demolition, Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., and legal professionals was canceled Thursday, Benwood Mayor Ed Kuca said. Judge Algenon L. Marbley has rescheduled the teleconference for 5 p.m. Tuesday.

On Feb. 11, the court gave KDC Investments and Delta Demolition 120 days – until June 20 – to secure the $1 million performance bond needed to obtain the permit, or face a $1,000-per-day fine. Benwood officials have since reduced the requested bond amount to $500,000 cash, but Chaklos has yet to obtain the bond or receive the required permit as the deadline has come and gone.

Kuca said McKinley now is slated to participate in Tuesday’s teleconference.

“When the meeting didn’t happen (on Thursday), we did get to speak by phone with Rep. McKinley,” Kuca said. “We made a few statements on the situation, and on the liability insurance we would require. We also talked about the bridge permits.

“Rep. McKinley didn’t know all of what was needed, and that’s why he wanted to talk to (Police Chief Frank Longwell) and me. It also seems like he will be talking to the congressman from Virginia (Rigell).”

Chaklos has enlisted the help of Rigell, who has sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation asking the agency to intervene in the Bellaire Bridge issue. McKinley’s office on Thursday acknowledged McKinley – also a civil engineer – had spoken with Kuca and Longwell.

“Our office is aware of the issue, and we’ve discussed it with city officials, but that’s the extent of our involvement,” said Jim Forbes, spokesman for McKinley.

In 2005, former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, included $1.7 million for the demolition of the Bellaire Bridge in a federal transportation bill. He later withdrew the request from the measure amid criticism of spending public funds to demolish private property, and that the bridge was not in his district.