The road to improvement

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The week before last, I was in Saskatchewan attending my brother’s wedding not too far from Prince Albert.

One of the first things I said when I drove through Barrhead on Sept. 4 was, “Sweet Christmas*, are they still working on 50th Avenue? When is that project getting done?”

(* I did not actually say Sweet Christmas, as I am not Marvel superhero Luke Cage. My actual phrasing was somewhat inappropriate for publication in a community newspaper.)

From what I’ve read on Facebook, I think most of Barrhead is pretty sick of that construction project. But what’s an inconvenience for most of us is potentially a business-killer for the shops and restaurants along that street.

That’s why I’m definitely sympathetic to Leals and Teal restaurant owner Samira Mahmoud, who came to the Town of Barrhead mid-August asking for some financial compensation and was denied.

Likewise, my sympathies also go to Calvin Schultz, owner of the Classic Furniture Gallery. Calvin contacted me last week to express his frustrations with the total lack of actual work being done on the street, and told me that since the project had began, he had lost an estimated $50,000 in sales.

You can read more about Calvin’s struggles on Page 6 of this week’s Town & Country if you’re inclined, along with some recommendations from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) that I thought was relevant.

See, the CFIB actually did a survey earlier this year and determined that Barrhead businesses are hardly unique when it comes to a loss in revenue as a result of roadwork.

In fact, it’s a scenario that’s played out across the country; of the 65,000 businesses polled, seven out of 10 were dissatisfied with how local municipalities handled the negative impact of construction projects.

The CFIB has pushed for more municipalities to implement a compensation program to assist businesses that have lost revenue, either in the form of a tax break or a straight cash payment. They also called for better communication, better management of these infrastructure projects, better planning to avoid “they tear up my street every two years” repeat scenarios and the establishment of a “no surprises” rule.

I think that last point is the most relevant to this situation, as I have heard the businesses along 50th Avenue were given very little notice.

If the town is reluctant to give out money to businesses because of the bad precedent it sets, that’s one thing. But I think this project could have been managed a lot better at the outset.

I don’t know when the bid for the 50th Avenue road rehabilitation was awarded, but it couldn’t have been a week before the work actually started. And if the town is actually pushing the contractor to get done, I see no indication of that in the stationary construction equipment simply sitting along the street.

I hate to be too harsh to the town, but I really think they’ve wronged some local businesses. If the damage can’t be rectified, then they need to take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

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