Sunday, May 29, 2005

Something smells fishy on the banks of the Ohio

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Bridge removal divides Ohio region: Plea for feds' help pits two congressmen):

Washington- Decades ago, the Bellaire Bridge was a commuter link between southern Ohio bordertowns and West Virginia's steel mills. Nowadays, the Ohio River span is a decrepit nuisance that residents of both states are eager to demolish.

The question is: Who should pay for it?


Even though the bridge is privately owned, U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, a St. Clairsville Republican, wants the federal government to step in. The Bellaire native has obtained $1.7 million for the demolition in a transportation bill that's working its way through Congress.

Ney has received campaign donations from the bridge owner and rented an office from him.

"It seems puzzling to me that public dollars would be used to tear down a bridge that is owned by an individual," said Bellaire's current congressman, Democratic Rep. Ted Strickland.

Constituents have told Strickland they believe the bridge owner, a local businessman named Roger Barack whom they describe as a longtime friend of Ney's, should foot the bill.

Ney says the federal money will resolve a longtime safety problem.

"Every day that we continue to do nothing, this decaying bridge becomes more of a liability to the safety of those who live near it and an economic liability to the region as a whole," said Ney spokesman Brian Walsh, to whom the congressman deferred comment. "The easy thing to do would be to sit on the sidelines and criticize, as others are doing."

Before Bellaire switched from Ney's district to Strickland's as a result of census-driven redistricting, Ney rented congressional office space from Barack for $1,800 a month. Barack and his wife have donated more than $6,000 to Ney's congressional campaigns, most recently in 1997. Ney also nominated Barack's son for an Air Force Academy appointment.

Hat Tip: Bring Ohio Home


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