Another Hurdle

THE BELLAIRE Toll Bridge was again in the limelight this week. The fate of the long-dormant span stepped into U.S. District Court Tuesday.

The mediation hearing yielded no definitive demolition plans. It did, however, uncover some facts concerning the bridge not previously known.

Judge Algenon L. Marbley scheduled a criminal contempt hearing for Bellaire Bridge owner Lee Chaklos. The judge did so after learning Chaklos apparently failed to disclose that there are $1.5 million in liens against the span.

Such a discovery is a major development in the ongoing quest by Benwood officials to have the span razed, as it poses a safety risk to nearby structures.

Documents presented at the hearing revealed three separate liens against the bridge totaling $1.5 million. Moreover, had Chaklos begun the project and not been able to complete it, money from an insurance bond would have gone first to the three entities with liens against the structure. Benwood would have been fourth on the list to get any money, which seems unfair.

The disclosure of the liens further clouds the continuing saga of the bridge. The last thing the razing scenario needed was further legal issues.

The criminal contempt hearing is set for Sept. 10, where Chaklos will have to show why he shouldn’t be held in criminal contempt. The judge also could refer the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

The liens were reportedly filed by groups who had invested in the bridge with Chaklos more than two years ago with the intent of making a profit on the sale of the scrap metal from the bridge.

Now the razing of the bridge takes a backseat to the legal issues surrounding Chaklos, which may have a lengthy shelf life. It is just another roadblock on a journey which may have no end.