Bellaire Bridge removal still in question

BENWOOD – City officials still want the Bellaire Bridge to come down, but they say they haven’t heard back from the bridge’s owners regarding their most recent proposal.

City leaders now are offering to allow the name of a third, independent party – attorney Dan Guida of Weirton – to join the city of Benwood’s as the only ones on a $500,000 escrow account being required of the bridge owners as a condition for the bridge’s demolition. Husband and wife bridge owners Krystal Chaklos of KDC Investments and Lee Chaklos of Delta Demolition had objected to a prior agreement passed by Benwood City Council in which only Benwood’s name was on the account.

“The city requested the $500,000 escrow account because of the amount of work required,” said Benwood City Attorney Eric Gordon. “The city’s access to the industrial park will be closed for a period of time, and Eighth Street will be closed for months.

“Many buildings sit directly under the bridge itself. There are utilities and a flood wall there,” he continued. “The city requested a bond be posted” to ensure completion of the demolition.

The last communication with the Chakloses and their counsel, Jeremy Domozick, all residents of Virginia Beach, Va., was about the escrow account money, according to Gordon.

“They wanted the money in their name, and we wanted it in ours,” he said. “Because they are not a local company, we wanted it in the city’s name. … Once the project was completed, the money would be returned to them.”

The owners had seemed receptive to the idea of putting a third party’s name on the account, Gordon continued. But he said he has not heard from them or Domozick in about six weeks.

Guida was selected because “he has done something similar before,” Gordon said.

Domozick did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Police Chief Frank Longwell said if Benwood could make a New Year’s wish, it would be that “this time next year the bridge will be out of there.”

“I think when it closed years ago, the governments in Benwood and Bellaire should have gotten together and got a ramp to it,” he said. “It’s in such bad shape now there’s no consideration for a ramp to put it into operation. The bridge kept the Benwood and Bellaire communities alive. I think the bridge had a big effect on both Bellaire and Benwood, and it represented the marriage of Bellaire and Benwood.”

Longwell added it probably is no coincidence that since the bridge ceased operation, many of the businesses in both communities also closed.

“The city’s main thing is to team up with a partner and get it out of there,” he said. “It’s like we don’t have a true partner in what is going on.”