Should a municipality compensate business for losses incurred during construction?
That is the question that municipalities across the country face from business owners during any major construction project.
And as far as we can tell, in the vast majority of cases, the answer is no.
It is a tough decision for a council to make and it is one that Town of Barrhead councillors apparently discussed at some length during an in-camera debate before denying a request from a local business.
As mayor Dave McKenzie said, it is a fact of life that infrastructure will need to be replaced and as a result residents and businesses will be impacted, sometimes severely.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business about 65,000 businesses had been impacted by projects between 2012 and 2017 and needed to take loans, move or just completely shut down because of the factors associated with construction projects.
That being said we don’t want to debate whether or not the decision council made to deny compensation was the right one. It is a tough decision regardless of what side of the fence you fall on.
However, we would like to take issue with the mayor’s contention that the contractor did enough to minimize the impact. As we are not experts in construction we do not know if it was possible to complete the 50th Avenue infrastructure and road reconstruction project in any other way than it was done, but we do know they could have done a much better job in informing the public that not only were the businesses still open, but how to get there.
From our observation, the contractor’s only effort in letting residents know how to navigate around the construction was a few detour signs.
The town has also been negligent in this area with the only notices about all the town’s summer construction projects being relegated to a few notices directing them to its website, where the information is scant at best. For example, where is the estimated time of completion, or suggestions on potential detour routes?
Nor did we see the businesses on 50th Avenue do a whole lot themselves in terms of advertising, whether it is signs, print or otherwise, in letting their customers know how to get to their operations.
A few weeks ago managing editor Barry Kerton suggested in his column that an advertising component should be included in town and county construction tenders. We agree, but it is important to remember that the town and the businesses themselves have a responsibility in letting people know how to mitigate the inconveniences of construction projects.