Scuba Shop Goes Under
After nearly 20 years in business a local dive shop has decided to close it’s doors and the owner places the blame squarely on Phase Two of Cast Iron Water Main Replacement and the City of Moose Jaw.
Curtis Temple owns Scuba Guys Dive Shop at 235 High Street West and has just announced he will be wrapping up business by the end of November due to the impact the year long project had on his business.
“After the City started tearing up High Street my business was affected, customers could not get to my business as they had it all blocked off,” Temple said.
Lack of access cost him sales of $10,000 a month, forcing him to finally decide to call it quits.
“Now I can’t afford to stay in business.”
Temple spoke about the uniqueness of his business and how it was rewarding to build it up in Saskatchewan.
“We're at the very top in the field. To run this type of business in Saskatchewan and make it work was a lot of work. I’m highly respected in my field.”
His unique shop attracted customers to the city from places such as Regina, Saskatoon and even Winnipeg, which meant that many customers would stop in at other businesses for such things as meals, gas and hotel accommodation, in turn helping out other businesses around the city.
“It took years and years to build up a business and one year to shut it down. I really enjoyed my time down here until last year,” Temple said.
After closing his business and selling the building he plans to retire buy his retirement won’t be in the Friendly City.
“Having to deal with the City has left me quite bitter with the City.”
Communication was a major problem for Temple. Although the actual construction wasn’t on the 200 block where his shop is located there were major problems such as the roadway being blocked and no water to his building for one and a half months, he claimed.
The communication problems, for Temple, started when he contacted the water department after coming to his shop one morning and discovering that he had no running water. He said he was told to talk to the Engineering Department and then told he had to talk to the Contractor (Ungar Construction Limited) about it.
“I asked Engineering why on earth did I have to contact your contractor?” he said.
“I put my heart and soul into a business like this and the response from the City was nonchalant.”
Barricades indicating men were working had the effect of chasing customers away from his shop.
“When people see a barricade a block away they won’t come through,” he said.
“This is terrible planning on the City's part and terrible for people who were suppose to know what they are doing,” he said, adding “I don’t blame the contractor, I had many contacts with him.”
“I’m not putting the blame on them (Ungar Construction) this is the City's fault" he added.
Attempts to recoup losses through business insurance were denied because the construction was a deliberate act by the City and it was not on his property.
“I spoke to my insurance company and they said sue the City.”
Asked if legislation precluded affected businesses suing the City he said he had spoken to a lawyer who told him he was well within his rights to do so. He did not reveal whether or not he would be taking legal action.
On their side of the issue the City pointed out that no construction occurred on the 200 block of High Street West and there was always street access.
“While some traffic restrictions were in place in the affected blocks at various points during construction, no Water Main construction took place on the 200 block, though there was a service connection leak that was repaired. Access to the 200 block in at least one direction would have been provided at all times throughout the project,” Communications Director Craig Hemingway wrote in an email.
Despite Temple blaming the City Hemingway pointed out that the contractor was unable to complete the project on time. As a result of this, in May, the City removed the contractor and took control of the project.
“The Phase 2 contractor was unable to complete the project on schedule during the 2017 construction season as per the contract,” Hemingway wrote, adding “In May, the City took over the project from the contractor and work concluded earlier this month - less than 3 months late.”
Despite the project not being completed before the Winter months, the City pointed out that the street remained open.
“Though the 300-800 blocks were unpaved, High Street remained open through the winter and spring.”
Once the City took over control of completing High Street steps were taken to improve communication with affected business and property owners, Hemingway wrote.
“While portions of High Street had to be blocked to traffic at various points during construction, alternative access points to High St. Businesses and properties were available. This was communicated to media/residents weekly this summer, along with the notice that all businesses were open on High Street.”
At a June Executive Committee meeting when the Canadian Federation of Independent Business asked for some type of compensation for the most affected businesses the City admitted there were communication problems and they would rectify that problem.
Similar concerns were felt by the City regarding High Street and Phase Two of the Cast Iron Water Main replacement not being completed on time.
“The City sympathizes with affected property owners and residents, and shares frustration that the project was not completed on schedule in 2017.”
Asked about what the City's feelings were regarding the impact of Phase Two on High Street businesses and a business closure, the City said they hoped business would thrive in the city.
"It is our hope to see all businesses thrive in Moose Jaw. We remind residents and visitors that construction of High Street is complete and the roadway is in excellent shape for anyone wishing to frequent the great variety of businesses along the High Street corridor,” Hemingway wrote.
Asked about what the City has done to fix problems and concerns found in Phase Two to help ensure it doesn’t happen again, Hemingway wrote that changes have been made to keep people informed.
“The City, working with our Engineering consultants and contractors, has taken a more proactive approach to communication with property owners this construction season and we continue to work at providing timely and accurate information to all affected stakeholders.”
It needs to be noted that there has not been one published complaint in the media regarding Phase Three of Cast Iron Water Main Replacement.
Phase Two of Cast Iron Water Main Replacement project has been highly controversial with the project having negative impacts on businesses as well as area residents. With High Street being named the Worst Street in Saskatchewan in an on-line poll. The City took over the project citing the contractor Ungar Construction Ltd as not honouring the contract; a fact Ungar disputes.
Businesses have asked for some type of compensation which has been denied by the City.