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Main Street merchants feel the pinch from construction

Published 5:40 pm, Wednesday, May 16, 2012
  • Employees of Colonna Concrete and Asphalt Paving work May 14, 2012 on a construction project along the west side of Main Street in New Milford. Photo: Carol Kaliff / The News-Times
    Employees of Colonna Concrete and Asphalt Paving work May 14, 2012 on a construction project along the west side of Main Street in New Milford. Photo: Carol Kaliff

 

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Business owners on the west side of Main Street in New Milford are upset

Since May 4, the street has been closed from the north end of the Village Green to the Bank Street intersection due to a construction project on the road and sidewalk.

The roadwork is scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day. Sidewalks crossing the Village Green will be installed after that date.

Some 1,400 feet of the street along the Green is being dug up and reconstructed. In hopes of slowing motor vehicular traffic, raised crosswalks -- constructed in a ramp style with a flat platform area on top -- will be installed at three points leading to the Green.

Business owners along the Green said this week the work couldn't come at a more inconvenient time.

"The week up to Mother's Day, outside of December, is our busiest time of the year," said Larry Schneider, owner of the gift shop Down on Main Street.

"I've been lucky," he said. "Up until Friday (May 11), they didn't have the street torn up in front of my store."

"Customers could go from Railroad Street, up and through parking lots to come out by the post office and turn right on Main Street to get down to us," said Mr. Schneider, whose store is located near the Bank Street intersection. "Now they can't do that."

Brad Tranfield, owner of Robertson Jewelers at 43 Main St., said his business was completely blocked last week, and will be again this week and beyond, because of a torn-up roadbed and construction equipment.

"I understand this work has to be done, but I question the timing," Mr. Tranfield said. "This is a very busy time of year for us, Mother's Day, graduations, weddings, and we're essentially shut down and prevented from serving customers."

At the Village Green Cleaners, counter associate Elaine Krause was shepherding customers through the rear door, past the cleaning equipment and to the front counter to drop off and pick up their clothes.

"Our steady customers are still coming in, but folks who want to drop off prom dresses who can't easily get here are going someplace else, I'm sure," Ms. Krause said.

Mayor Pat Murphy apologized Monday for "the inconvenience," but added, "It's always a bad time to do road work."

The work will be done, however, in time for scheduled festivities on and around the town green, she said.

"We have a small window to work in," the mayor said. "The blacktop plants don't open until the last week of April, and they close by November."

"We were going to do the work last year," she said, "but had to wait for the Department of Transportation to get the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to respond. By then, it was winter."

Add to that a deadline for using the town's $200,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program Grant awarded for the project, and the Public Works Department had no choice but to initiate the project this month, Mayor Murphy said.

The work was awarded to Colonna Concrete & Asphalt Paving of West Haven, which bid $353,157.

For Mr. Tranfield and Star Nails owner Lee Sun, having the street torn up in front of their businesses through May makes no sense.

"The center of town is filled with empty stores," Mr. Tranfield said. "Those of us who are still open are working hard to keep the synergy of getting people into downtown and into our stores."

"This couldn't come at a worse time for me," Ms. Sun said, as she sat in her empty nail salon at 45 Main St. because people bought Mother's Day gift certificates for manicures to be done this week.

She remarked, "We do a lot of business now with proms and school graduations."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322

"The center of town is filled with empty stores. Those of us who are still open are working hard to keep the synergy of getting people into downtown and into our stores."

Brad Tranfield, owner of Robertson Jewelers