Bellaire Bridge would be useful today

FINALLY, after two decades of looking at a decaying eyesore, it appears the end is near for the Bellaire Toll Bridge.

Closed since 1991, all it took to make it happen was for reality television to become involved.

An Idaho-based firm — Advanced Explosives Demolition Inc. — recently purchased the bridge from Roger Barack. The company is known for its TLC television show “The Imploders.” The program features the inside workings of structure demolition.

It makes sense for a company like Advanced Explosives Demolition to buy the Bellaire Bridge. It may be able to make money on the deal via its television show. Otherwise, the bridge was a white elephant.

The demolition work may play out quickly.

Eric Kelly, the company’s director, plans to begin the razing project immediately after Memorial Day. A Newton Falls, Ohio, company — Delta Demolition — will assist with the demolition.

After the explosives are put in place and eventually detonated, cleanup will take only a few days.

The bridge’s removal needs to become a reality, due to its poor condition. It has become a safety hazard in Benwood.

The demolition will also spawn some sadness throughout Bellaire. The span made interstate travel easy and quick. The toll was no hardship.

With the constant work on the Wheeling Tunnel and the constant bottleneck at the Ohio 7-Interstate 470 interchange these days, the Bellaire Bridge would have been a major player in today’s congested traffic patterns. It would have provided a useful entity.

When Ohio 7 construction made its way through Bellaire, ODOT officials dropped the ball for not incorporating the bridge into the grand scheme of things. As a result, a piece of Bellaire’s rich history is about to come crashing down.

PREP DRUG TESTING

WHEN IT comes to board of education members, Dick Vannelle is as good as you get. He served on the Bellaire BOE for countless years. He has our utmost respect.

He and I had an insightful discussion on drug testing in high schools this past week. Martins Ferry has opted to institute student-athlete drug testing with the inception of the 2010-2011 school year. Ferry is the first school district in the immediate area to implement such a program.

Dick noted back in the 80s while he was a board member that Bellaire schools were all set to become the trend-setter with drug testing. He said the majority of the board was in favor and everything was in place to make it become reality.

However, Dick said that opposition from a board member and possible costly litigation fueled by the ACLU thwarted the board’s plans. If such was not the case and the Bellaire BOE’s plans had come to fruition, it is likely that drug testing would be widespread throughout the Ohio Valley.

FERRY CHAMBER

THE MARTINS Ferry Soap Box Derby’s Great Race will be staged on June 13 and the prize packages for the winners have been established.

The winner will receives four passes to King’s Island and $250 in spending money. The runnerup will receive four tickets to the Wilds and $125 in spending money. The third and fourth place finishers will receive $75 and $50, respectively.

As of Tuesday, 42 drivers have expressed interest in participating.

MEANWHILE, the chamber’s annual academic awards banquet proved a major success. It was held May 4 at WesBanco Arena with more than 800 in attendance, with more than 250 being honor students. The chamber also awarded three $500 scholarships at the fete.

It was noted at the chamber meeting that State Rep. John Domenick will be holding a town meeting in Martins Ferry on July 7.

Councilman Paul Riethmiller reported that $2,300 from the city receipt from the sale of the former high school property has been targeted for painting at the rec center. He also said the city has received paving money from the county.

Riethmiller, also a Lions Club officer, said the newly formed group recently planted 800 flowers in five hours.

BUBBA’S BITS

BOB KRAMER was a most deserving choice as OVAC Coach of the Year. He led Madonna to an unbeaten record and state grid title this past year. The Blue Dons did so in dominating fashion. While the state championship may have been Kramer’s crowning glory, I credit him more for saving the program which was all but dead when he took over a dozen years ago. To bring the Blue Dons gridders off their death bed to state champs is the ultimate comeback story.

WE SEND our congratulations to Ryan Caldwell. The former Beallsville High athletic standout is moving up in the educational administrative ranks. Ryan was recently appointed as both superintendent of the Conotton Valley School District as well as principal of Conotton junior and senior high schools for the coming year. He is currently Beallsville High principal.

STEUBENVILLE BIG RED has opted not to accept an offer to join the ECOL for all sports. I agree with that decision. The travel for weekday events would be brutal. If I was a parent, player or coach I wouldn’t want to travel from Steubenville to Marietta for a mid-week basketball or volleyball game and return near midnight. For football it could have been workable, but for all sports it would create too many hardships.

GEORGE KARVELLIS is stepping up for the beautification of Bellaire. The retired Wheeling-Pitt crane operator and part-time building supervisor for Hughes Xerographic decided one day the parking meter in front of Hughes was looking weathered. George secured some red and black paint and gave the meter a facelift. George was pleased with his work, so he started going up and down the street painting them all. George, after talking with St. John Central partisans, got some green paint and made some meters green for the Irish faction. George has spent nearly $200 on his meter painting. We thank him.

A FORMER ST. John Central head football coach is the new superintendent of the Indian Creek School District. Mark Furda was hired this past week. He guided the Fighting Irish to a 6-4 mark in 1995. After one season at SJC, he left for Southern Local.

THE BELLAIRE Chamber welcomed Susan Douglass to its luncheon Thursday. The Belmont County CIC executive director praised the chamber for its networking and communication efforts. Also in attendance was Port Authority Director Larry Merry.

Kapral may be reached at bkapral@timesleader online.com