Bellaire Bridge owners face $1,000 per day fine

BENWOOD – Owners of the Bellaire Bridge must to secure a performance bond needed for the permit to take down the span by June 20, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled.

Benwood officials learned this week that if bridge owners Krystal and Lee Chaklos of KDC Investments and Delta Demolition fail to secure the bond by that time, they will have to pay a $1,000 per day fine. Also, once the bond is secured and a permit granted by the city of Benwood, demolition work must start within one week, according to a ruling issued by Judge Algenon L. Marbley.

The saga regarding the Chakloses, the Bellaire Bridge and the city of Benwood has been going on since 2009, when the couple purchased the span. Benwood officials initially wanted the owners to post a $5 million liability bond as a condition for obtaining the permit to demolish the span. Since that time, the city has reduced the requirement to a $500,000 cash bond to ensure completion of the bridge’s demolition.

There have been no discussions between the owners and Benwood officials since mid-December.

Marbley’s decree indicates his frustration with KDC Investments, which he said has failed to take sufficient steps to secure the needed performance bond.

On Feb. 26, he ordered the bridge owners to pay a fine of $5,000 as a sanction for what he termed “prior conduct” and misleading the court into thinking they were taking appropriate actions in their efforts to take down the bridge. The court had first ordered the couple to demolish the span by Dec. 21, 2011, and Marbley noted the court previously had cooperated with them and granted time extensions when requested.

The $5,000 was to be paid by Feb. 27, but the check was received two days late, according to court records. The Chakloses were fined an additional $1,000 per day, a total of $2,000, for the late receipt of the check.

Lawyer Dan Guida of Weirton has been retained by Benwood to handle matters pertaining to the Bellaire Bridge, and he said he discovered the federal court’s ruling this week.

“They’re not giving us a heads-up on what is happening, though I’m not sure who would be responsible for telling us,” he said. “We were not a party to the suit, but we were certainly interested.”

Police Chief Frank Longwell said if the city and the owners aren’t successful in getting the bridge demolished, a netting could be placed under the span to catch any falling debris. Pieces of metal and concrete have periodically fallen from the structure to the city streets below. The city could also look into having the concrete removed and leaving the bridge structure, which has been deemed as safe.

“We just can’t sit on our hands and wait for something to happen,” he added.