by Will Gottlieb
Coastal Journal staff
BRUNSWICK — The small businesses that line the Bath Road between Wal-Mart and Cook’s Corner in Brunswick have been in purgatory since just after Easter, given the amount of work that contractor Pratt & Sons Inc. of Minot has put into breaking up the road and putting in a drainage line, as well as widening the Bath Road between Cook’s Corner and Tibbett’s Road, the entrance to Wal-Mart. The disruption has brought a lot of dust and noise to the area, and has effectively kept out business in the interim – or at least some people’s business. That should all change when the road gets paved, but some of those business owners are wondering if the town has done enough to protect their livelihoods.
“Conditions suck,” said Scott Rieneau of Party Plan-It, 220 Bath Road. “[Customers] don’t want to come around here, they can’t get through the intersection, the road conditions are awful, beating up people’s vehicles, so people are avoiding and staying away.”
The road conditions are not the only thing hurting business, said Rieneau. One of the big problems, in his view, has been the way the town approached educating the public about the project.
“That’s the tone that the town set in the paper when they started the project,” said Rieneau. “It was ‘Avoid, go around, stay away, seek alternative routes.’ No mention of the small businesses, that we’re here. It’s been significantly hampering business. I am down thousands I’m down more than $2,000 just in the last two weeks, and that’s during graduation period. My average sale is $15, so you can add up how many people that is. That’s a lot of people that are avoiding and staying away from here, because it’s a difficult situation to get through … We’re all hurting.”
Rieneau said he’s been trying to get the town to tweak the setup, but the town hasn’t been listening. The automated signs that Pratt & Sons have set up to update travelers now tell drivers that those small businesses are open, and they no longer tell drivers to expect “long delays.” But that’s about it for improvements.
“The town doesn’t want to take some suggestions that I’ve given,” said Rieneau, “such as a police detail at Cook’s Corner, instead of running the lights and people sitting there for six turns, you shut the lights off and you have a police detail out at the corner, and you have them directing the traffic. No, they thought about doing it, but they didn’t.”
John Foster of Brunswick Public Works has heard of this suggestion, but doesn’t know if it ever reached Brunswick Police.
“I guess I’d have to run that by the police chief to think what they thought of it,” said Foster. “The project did require a police detail when they are working in or at that intersection, and they did do that.”
Foster says that travelers, residents and business owners will have to show just a little more patience, because good things are about to happen at Cook’s Corner.
“[We’re] just about done with the underground work,” said Foster, “and by sometime next week, the road’s going to be repaved, the full 50-foot wide, almost. And so traffic will be much better accommodated. There’s still work to be done, the granite curb and a sidewalk for one side. So there’s more work to take place. But as far as digging across the roadway and disruptions like we’ve had, bumpy road or whatever, we’ll be done here shortly.
“So we see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we think things are going to be a lot better pretty quick.”
And it hasn’t been a total wash for area business owners. Calvin Taylor of Taylor-Made signs, located at 210 Bath Road, said he hasn’t seen much difference in his business.
“I thought it was going to have a devastating effect,” said Taylor, “but surprisingly, I don’t think it’s had hardly any. People seem to be able to get in here like they’ve done in the past, and I can’t see any significant effect on business, to tell you the truth. Of course, I’ve got a lot of customers that I’ve had for years. I’ve been at this 56 years, so I’ve got a lot of repeat business.”
And some of those improvements represent answers to Taylor’s own complaints to the city, particularly the drainage problem.
“Water problems,” said Taylor, “that’s been what I’ve been fighting with the town for well over 10 years, closer to 15 I guess, trying to get that resolved. Because actually the entire yard fills with water after every heavy rain storm, and it’s up to 18 inches deep. Hopefully, this is going to solve that problem, because they are putting in a drain line, which I have been wanting for years, and I’m hoping that’s going to solve the problem.”
He should know soon enough. Meanwhile, Taylor says he’s looking forward to getting the road paved real soon – provided, of course, that no delays crop up.
“They were supposed to start breaking up the hot top today, start shredding that, but they haven’t done it,” said Taylor. “They’re not working on that at all today.”