High Street Businesses Frustrated and Seeking Answers
After months of reduced traffic and business due to Phase Two Cast Iron Replacement, business owners on High Street West just want a few straight answers from City Hall.
“This has been a living nightmare since day one dealing with these guys,” said Todd Shymanski owner of EZ Tech Computers, about trying to get information from the City.
Shymanski said the way Phase Two has been handled is “unacceptable”, with often idle construction, seemingly lengthy delays and had a “horrendous” effect upon his High Street computer business.
The effect of the lengthy construction project, so far ten months in running after not finishing early enough to complete paving, nearly forced him to close his doors after 14 years.
“The thing I built in 14 years previously is gone. I am basically starting over again,” Shymanski said.
He spoke about almost closing his shop, remembering what his former business mentor taught him “there is a fine line between dedication and stupidity…you can only take so much.”
He said he only survived through savings, his wife’s good job and determination. Both love Moose Jaw after living in the city for 25 years and they hung in there because they didn’t want to move away.
The lengthy construction zone, at one point with traffic blocked completely, saw a reduction of traffic and resultant lost sales. Shymanski presented detailed sales figures, which proved and demonstrated the major effect Phase Two had upon his business. He asked for the figures not be released due to competitive reasons.
The lack of communication from the City has been a great source of frustration for not only Shymanski but another High Street business owner who asked not to be identified, as he just wants “to forget the nightmare and move on. But it would be nice to know when.”
“According to the City, we have been in contact with business owners’ bullshit, they have been in contact with business owners,” Shymanski stated. He provided all of the documentation the City and contractor provided plus a lengthy list of dates and times he called or emailed the City looking for answers to his questions.
He said “I feel for the girls at Engineering answering all of the calls.”
One of the biggest unanswered questions for Shymanski was why High Street W cast iron water mains were even replaced in the first place.
“Why would they do the ones on High Street when we weren’t suffering any of the water main breaks? Why would they do us instead of other areas with high numbers of breaks? I couldn’t find out.”
Shymanski saw the entire project and City’s reactions to concerns as irresponsible.
“I am so frustrated with the City Administration and the apathy they have to the business community.”
He felt that in a measure of good will the City could have done some small gesture, such as wave the 2018 $125 business license fee.
Upon hooking up the service connections to an adjacent property, Shymanski telephoned the City on nine different occasions about a leak with no response. In the first week of January, a major leak developed, causing inches of thick ice on the sidewalk and street. As a result a customer carrying a computer fell on the sidewalk.
“After the contractor left (in December), I called nine times until it was resolved in January. The only reason why it was resolved is we had a client fall outside with his computer in my eyes.”
Additionally, despite having the new water main in the ground, the rough road from the project being incomplete had reduced traffic on High Street W to 30 percent of what it usually was, harming his and other area businesses in the area.
He said he had no objections to the City tendering out Phase Three of the cast iron water main replacement but felt the City should “finish Phase Two before starting Phase Three.”
Despite the disastrous effects to his business, Shymanski would like to find out when the work will be completed to allow him to make advance plans for his business, such as scheduling holidays during the work to lessen the costs to his business.
“I would just like to find out what is going on out front there and find a definite plan of what’s happening so I can make business plans in advance.”
The Phone Doctor was one High Street West business which did not survive Phase Two of Cast Iron Watermain Replacement. The former owner, in a written statement, said several factors, independent of the construction contributed to the closure, but the lengthy construction did their business no favour.
“We never sought assistance from the city, and phone repair was suffering due to phone design and cost, so we're hesitant to pin blame on anyone for anything. That said, there is simply no question that High street's lengthy operation was a detriment. The current condition of the western stretch of High Street just adds insult to injury,” former owner Nick Hughes wrote.
Hughes wrote that the business never sought communication from the City but the information they had been provided was basic such as your water will be off for two hours.
Responding by email, City Engineer Josh Mickelborough addressed many of the High Street West businesses’ questions, he wrote that the City was aware of communication problems but much of the problem laid with the contractor.
“We did have some issues with the contractor, with communication being one of those. We have stated on a few occasions that the paving of High Street would occur in Spring. When we get more details on that project we will advise High Street property owners and the entire City,” Mickelborough wrote.
Questioned on the, seemingly, lengthy delays of the project, Mickelborough wrote that the City empathized with High Street businesses and the effects of Phase Two.
"The delay in the project has been an inconvenience and hasn’t been positive for anybody in the city,” he wrote.
Once a pavement schedule is available, property owners will be informed. No details were provided approximating when the schedule would be released.
“There isn’t much to communicate until we are able to secure a paving schedule,” he wrote, adding “when we have more information we will advise property owners.”
Problems in December and January, which led to Shymanski's client falling on an icy sidewalk was dealt with when the City became aware of the situation.
“The city became aware of this and took steps to have the contractor rectify faulty workmanship. The city also took steps to ensure the site was safe,” Mickelborough wrote.
Although both Phase Two and Phase Three involve replacing cast iron water mains, the projects are not interconnected, involve different contractors and are independent projects.
“Phase 2 is not connected to Phase 3. Phase 3 is a different contractor" he said.
The reasons for completing High Street West, in Phase Two, were attributed to breaks in the area and the need to replace the cast iron mains in the future.
“Some blocks of High St. were identified as more problematic than others, but the decision was made to tackle the entire stretch at once, knowing that eventually those other blocks would also need pipe replacement,” Mickleborough wrote.
Phase Two has a legal angle, as the City attempts to get the project completed.
“The city continues to apply pressure on the contractor and lawyers to ensure that this situation is addressed to the benefit of the community,” Mickelborough wrote.