After months of construction, barriers to vehicles were removed in downtown North Battleford yesterday, but some of the affected business owners are "really upset" over the length of time it took for the project to be completed.
“Members came to us at our meeting [Tuesday night] and there was a lot of frustration from businesses,” said Warren Williams, president of the Battleford's Chamber of Commerce.
Earlier this month, North Battleford administration said it was pleased with how construction went, but according to Williams, several downtown chamber members don't share the city's opinion.
“They thought it took a lot longer than it was scheduled to take. From what I understand it took 10 days over the scheduled end date, but a lot of businesses were under the impression [the construction] would only be a six-week project. What I see is perhaps a lack of communication that went to the store owners," said Williams.
The City of North Battleford held a ribbon cutting ceremony earlier this week, signifying the grand reopening of the “downtown T” from 100 St. to 102 St. on 12 Ave. and 11 Ave. to 12 Ave. on 101 St. The roads weren’t predicted to be open for vehicles until the weekend, but are now officially open to all traffic. The overall project was a combination of Underground Pipes and Asphalt Replacement (UPAR) and the Downtown Revitalization Master Plan.
Williams said there wasn't a lot of business owners who have voiced their displeasure, but of those who have, he said they are “really upset.”
“And I empathize with them,” Williams said. “That is their livelihood. You’re hitting close to home.”
Aside from how long the project took, Williams added businesses felt there were stretches where it appeared no work was being done, but said he understood there were reasons for some of that, including time for sidewalks to cure among others.
Williams also sympathized with the city though. He said there was work downtown that simply needed to be done.
“What are they going to do? Do nothing? That isn’t an option for the city,” Williams said. “They had to do something... I hope we will be able to look past the pain of this summer and next year we will say ‘oh this is awesome,’ but we won’t know that until next year."
Williams added things could have been a lot worse for the downtown businesses. He said in the past when improvements were done to streets, all of the tenants were charged by the city to help pay for them.
“That’s not the case now,” Williams said. “We all share in the cost of the downtown improvements now.”
Ultimately, Williams said he couldn’t speak for all the businesses downtown, because the chamber is a membership-based organization and only represents those who are part of the chamber. He didn’t have a number for how much revenue members downtown have lost due to the construction, but didn’t rule out asking about the city for compensation.
“We are considering what we can perhaps get the city to take a look at,” Williams said. “Do we have anything concrete in mind? Frankly we don’t.”
Ryan Bater, Mayor of North Battleford, did not respond to a request for comment.
On Twitter @realgreghiggins
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