Road construction is a necessary inconvenience that usually pays dividends in the end.
But businesses along a section of Western Reserve Road in Mahoning County where road work has been underway for several weeks say the price they are paying far exceeds the tax dollars being spent on the infrastructure because No consideration was given to customer reach. Even some customers have been turned back by the road crew, leaving business owners now fearing for their livelihood.
There should never be any infrastructure upgrade at that cost.
Worse, the elected county officials in charge of the project have been unresponsive to efforts to discuss these concerns.
Specifically in question is a half-mile stretch of West Western Reserve Road between Hitchcock Road and Glenwood Avenue, which is the first part of a multiphase project to replace about 5 miles of sanitary sewer lines up to North Lima Road. We suspect this problem will continue in the next phases as well.
For now, work is underway in the area of Western Reserve Plaza, which includes Sparkle Market, Lemon Tree Florist, ShipOnSite, a package shipping store, and Razor Tavern & Grill. There is a pharmacy inside the grocery store. Glenwood Avenue has West Glen Plaza along with several other businesses.
This phase of work began on 31 October. It is expected to end the day before Thanksgiving, but the effects of losing business will be much longer in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
When our photographer was there, there were only about three cars visible in the usually busy grocery store parking lot. A spokeswoman for the retail plaza said Sparkle’s business was down about 60 percent.
“They’re hitting us and all these businesses pretty much for the holiday season, and obviously grocery stores are the biggest thing right now during the holidays,” said Nikki Ferry, spokeswoman for Ferry Vitullo Group and Village Plaza Sparkle. “Everyone is cooking, but you have people who want to send packages for the holidays, so shipOnsite is hurting, and everyone knows the night before Thanksgiving is the biggest time for everyone to go out. It’s a holiday.”
We were further shocked when Ferry said he has received reports from people trying to get into his store that the plaza is closed. She attempted to inquire with the county engineer about having Sparkle Plaza open, “but we have not received a response,” she said.
Multiple messages left by our reporter seeking comment from Ginetti also went unanswered.
Finally, businesses placed their own signs near the street in both plazas.
Less business means less need for employees. This brings a trickle-down effect to a post-pandemic economy that is still trying to recover.
Actually, Western Reserve Road is a high traffic road. Surely, this problem should have been anticipated. Rather than simply discouraging access and attempting to turn away motorists, plans should be put in place that are more suited to the needs of the public.
Let’s face it, the sole purpose of upgrading infrastructure is to improve access and services for residents and the traveling public, as well as businesses located there. None of this work is beneficial if it causes irreparable harm to the businesses these upgrades are supposed to help.
Frankly, this isn’t the first time Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginetti has turned a blind eye to complaints from business owners and the traveling public. It wasn’t long ago that Austintown businesses and motorists expressed their dismay over road construction on busy Mahoning Avenue. A request to do that work at night was denied.
We believe that road crews, supervisors, and especially elected officials who make these decisions should work hard to find compromises that keep roads and access open.
Why don’t you work at night? Why not make arrangements to ensure that at least one lane remains open during construction, and that road crews and on-site law enforcement make every effort to assist motorists in getting where they are going Are? Temporary traffic signals or flaggers at each end can easily achieve that goal.
And perhaps the broader question is why should this project be done now – the busiest shopping season of the year? Perhaps a very logistical reason, but attempts to reach Ginetti by the businesses and by our staff were not returned.
this is unacceptable. Elected officials must feel that they work for the public – not the other way around.
The installation of new infrastructure and road works should not come at the cost of businesses that are expected to operate for longer periods.