Help ease businesses’ road work blues

Construction season is upon us as thick as ever this year. Main commercial thoroughfares have been closed on Broadway in downtown Saranac Lake and Sentinel Road (state Route 73) in Lake Placid, although the latter just reopened to cars Thursday afternoon. Some one-way closures will still be needed through mid-August for final paving there, however.

Broadway, meanwhile, is something else entirely. We’ve heard some say it looks like a war zone and others say it looks like the Wild West – they’re just waiting for horses to trot through.

The 10-week overhaul started with ripping up the road and sidewalks, and progressed to replacing 100-year-old sewer and water lines – the core reason for the job. It has now moved to putting in new curbs and sidewalks, and will soon finish with a new road surface. It’s expected to finally be done on the week of June 23, just after school lets out for the summer – which is when summer tourism season begins in earnest.

We dearly hope it doesn’t continue much past the last day of school.

It’s a necessary job, and this is the right time of year to do it: after the frost thaws and before school’s out. But boy, is it crushing the businesses on those three or four blocks.

We’re one of those. Fortunately for us, we’re the kind of business that can mostly serve its customers without needing them to physically get in our front door, but that’s not so with the retailers, restaurants, banks and post office that line Broadway. Like our employees, some patrons of those places have braved the obstacle course, which sometimes involves hopping over foot-high surveyor’s cords, trenches and wet concrete, all while dodging excavator buckets and dump trucks.

And that may be just to get or send your mail.

Most people, however, seem to be avoiding this part of town as much as possible, and hence, the stores are hurting – badly. Many of their owners say sales are fewer than ever.

The same goes for Sentinel Road in Lake Placid, where Chair 6 restaurant owner Charlie Levitz said his business volume this May was down 30 percent from the May before.

Local government could have done a better job of communicating construction details to these businesses. Mr. Levitz said he only got three days’ notice that the road would close. We did notice, however, signs posted there saying that the businesses were open. That wasn’t the case on Broadway.

Saranac Lake village Manager John Sweeney admitted Thursday that village officials like himself dropped the ball on communicating the daily details of construction to Broadway businesses, and he has started trying to improve lines of communication. Good. These merchants are seeing their livelihoods erode and have gotten testy. Jreck Subs manaher Brian Logan said he was sorely tempted to punch Mr. Sweeney the other day.

Village officials are in a tough spot, and this job is bound to upset plenty people. Hopefully, most of the the new infrastructure will hold up for another 100 years so we won’t have to do this again for a long time.

Local people can help this situation. Please brave the obstacles and do business on Broadway and Sentinel Road. Show them you care – but also, take advantage of some financial rewards. The Enterrpise and Lake Placid News have been offering free ads to businesses affected by the road work. Each of those ads is a coupon with a special offer from that business. Cut it out, take it in and take advantage.

Soon we’ll have beautiful new roads and sidewalks and brand-new, non-leaky sewer pipes. Until then, local residents need to pull together and support those having tough times.