Saugatuck Business Owners Criticize City Over Timing, Duration Of Road Work
A number of local merchants showed up at Monday’s Saugatuck City Council meeting to express concern over the city’s ongoing road construction project.
They were critical of what they said is a project being done at an unsuitable time and with no preparedness (i.e. appropriate signage that informs visitors sidewalks and shops are open despite construction).
“Having attended the Roads Spring Construction Meeting on May 6th, I can assure all of you that the scope of the initial project and the subsequent work that ensued was grossly understated,” Maplewood Hotel Owner Catherine Simon read aloud, in part, from a prepared statement.
“The audience was assured the first phase of the roadwork would be completed by Memorial Day Weekend. My pictures document a different story,” added Simon.
The city’s spring construction project is costing some $800,000 and includes the reconstruction of parts of Main Street; reconstruction of parts of Hoffman Street, with storm sewer and sanitary sewer improvements; and repavement of parts of Water Street, with base and drainage repairs.
“As of Sunday morning shop owners noted approximately a half dozen people fell at the curb due to the lack of cones being placed,” noted Simon.
She further criticized what she said was the city’s lack of a plan to replace broken tiles, disregard for aesthetics and a master plan, as well as the city’s failure to inform visitors that the stores were still open.
“I think it’s important to work together and realize this town is a tourist town,” Sean Robinson, co-owner of the downtown business Groovy Paws, told council Monday.
Robinson said the local business community had a short window of time to do business and it was important not to have that window disrupted.
“We heard over and over again - I have a clientele that is local and out of town - ‘Why is the city starting now?’ and I think we (the local merchants) are asking the same question,” he said.
Unexplainably, although Robinson’s statements were uttered during the public comments section of the meeting, he asked The Local Observer not to use his name in print.
Wendy Wise Fisher, owner of downtown jewelry design studio and gallery Wendy Wise Originals, was the other business owner that spoke out against the city’s way of going about the infrastructure improvement project.
Fisher has had a long-standing, stormy relationship with city officials, particularly with Saugatuck City Manager Kirk Harrier and Saugatuck Council Member Jane Verplank, both of whom recently filed complaints with the local police alleging Fisher has been stalking them.
The council did not take up the issue other than Saugatuck Council Member Jeff Spangler saying he will soon be proposing measures to facilitate and enhance the communication between the city and the business community.
“The business community is such an important aspect of what makes Saugatuck, Saugatuck,” said Spangler.