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Owners say road project blocks business access, growth
Business owners along Silverdale Way claim they are taking a hit due to a water line project tearing up roadways.
The nighttime work occurs from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., but it still impacts businesses that stay open late or open early. The project falls under the responsibility of the Silverdale Water District and is a pipeline project to replace an asbestos-cement water pipeline. The work includes 87 water service replacements, 38 fire hydrant assembly replacements, valves, appurtenances, 14,392 linear feet of communication conduit and 40 vaults.
“It’s been frustrating to actually get to our location with the median blocked off. I hear it from our customers, too,” said Simply Sublime Espresso owner Nicole Pierce. “They’re used to flying in and getting their coffee and getting on the road.”
The small coffee stand — located in the Silver City Texaco parking lot — opens at 5 a.m. which is normally easily accessible when cones aren’t blocking the intersection when customers cut across lanes to pull into the parking lot. Pierce said that regular customers have been good about still stopping in, but the blockage prevents new customers from going out of their way.
“It is affecting the building of our business,” she said of the construction.
However, the owner said it is easier for her shop to recoup losses because there is a second Simply Sublime Espresso store in Bremerton. But not all of the other business owners have been so fortunate.
At least three business owners believed that there was no notification that the project would start, other than news articles. Not one business owner received a phone call, letter or visit from the Silverdale Water District to inform them of the large construction project. However, Silverdale Water District Manager Morgan Johnson noted that anyone who receives a bill should have also received the district’s newsletter which indicated that construction would be going on, including a June 2013 newsletter. The work started on Aug. 14. Johnson also said that anyone driving into the area would see the large, flashing signs indicating roadwork ahead, and that there were also two presentations open to residents to learn about the construction project and what it would entail. Johnson noted that the entire project is slated to end in Sept. 2014, and that everything seems to be on time.
“There’s (been) notification there’s a big project. It’s frustrating,” he said. “We’re trying to do the best we can do under the circumstances.” Johnson said the work schedule was set for overnight because not many businesses are open 24/7.
Silver City Texaco Manager Sang Na said that his employees frequently get stuck in the parking lot due to being blocked in by construction work. His customers have complained about the blockage and hassle it takes to get in and out of his station’s lot. As soon as construction started, Na noticed business declining.
“It’s like at nighttime, people aren’t going to come by. They just go by to some other place,” he said. “I wish they finish earlier. That’s what everybody’s looking for. They take too long.”
According to an earlier report, the contract went to a Port Orchard company, Stan Palmer Construction at a cost of $5.861 million, which would include replacement or extension of about 3.2 miles of regular water main. An additional 2.9 miles of pipe is also being added for reclaimed or treated water. The project is being done in sections, and it was earlier reported by Johnson that the project would be finished by the end of the year.
But the end of the year didn’t come soon enough for business owner Rick Hern. The Silver City Automotive owner closed his doors on Sept. 30 after three years of being in the used car business. As a result, he laid off eight employees and emptied his lot.
“Every merchant is affected by it,” Hern said, as he watched his last employee take down the vintage decor that filled his shop. “My business is off by 80 percent.”
Hern said he noticed the decline in customers when the work started back at the roundabout at the start of the water main project. On a really good day of business, he normally got 10 customers or so coming onto the lot. For a “good” day during construction, he would be about two customers driving up onto the lot, which is located near the intersection of Silverdale Way and Bucklin Hill. For Hern, the math didn’t add up for him to stay open, even for another month.
“When you leave a gaping wound in the main artery in Silverdale…,” Hern trailed off, tearing up. “Every night you open the wound and put a Band-Aid on it in the morning.”
On his business sign, he spelled out exactly why he believes he had to shut his business down: “Road construction killed us.” Yet on the other side is a more positive message. Perhaps to give other business owners hope: “When God closes one door, he opens another.”
As for his own next steps, Hern said he is unsure of what he will do. He and his wife will “regroup” and pray for the next direction to take in their lives.
Hern said he understands the need for progress and improvement, but the stakes are often high when all aspects are not considered. He also did not receive any notification from the water district about the project, he said, which frustrated him as an owner on a busy roadway in Silverdale.
“The biggest flaw was the gaping wound on Silverdale Way,” he said. “I’m sure there will be lots of businesses that can battle through it. We all experienced this bump in the road.”