SP Merchants Push for Delay in Paving Project
BY TED M. NATT JR.
Tony Grausso spent five hours Thursday walking up and down Broad Street in downtown Southern Pines polling fellow merchants about the timing of a planned repaving project.
"Unanimously, everyone is saying after the holiday shopping season," said Grausso, who visited 48 businesses on both sides of the railroad tracks. "Everybody understands that Broad Street needs to be repaved, but there's so much at stake. People's livelihoods are at risk."
Grausso, who co-owns Seagrove Candle Co., added that gathering consensus is one thing - bringing about change is quite another.
"We've got to have favorable action," he said. "Our tax money is being used to undermine our businesses. We just want them to wait until after our high season to make the project happen.
"It's going to affect sales no matter what. We just want the project to have minimal impact on our businesses."
The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has awarded a $1 million contract to S.T. Wooten Corp., of Wilson, to repave Broad Street from Morganton Road to Vermont Avenue and four other roads in Moore County. The work can begin at any time and must be completed by the end of November.
Reade Dawson, general manager of the asphalt division for S.T. Wooten, said last week that the company could either pave Broad Street first - most likely in middle-to-late October - or delay it until after March 15. NCDOT typically does not allow repaving projects between Dec. 15 and March 15 because of winter temperatures.
The construction timetable is typically laid out at the pre-construction conference, which has not been scheduled.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons sent an email Thursday updating merchants on the status of the project, noting that NCDOT did not intend to reschedule the project due to factors such as:
n Costs of contract extension.
n It moves the contract to a new fiscal year.
n March 15 would not necessarily represent the date on which work would begin.
n Within the current contract, both AutumnFest and Thanksgiving week would be "blacked out" from any work occurring.
"Town representatives will be participants in the pre-construction meeting, and I have also secured 'places at the table' for three to five merchant representatives for purposes of greater communication and understanding of both the project and the specific concerns," Parsons wrote in the email.
Tim Johnson, division engineer at the NCDOT office in Aberdeen, said he would prefer an interactive meeting.
"We can talk about all the options available, but I hope people come forth with realistic, practical ideas that don't drive up the project cost," Johnson said. "Bring your ideas and we'll see what happens."
Merchants are mainly concerned that road construction will limit access to businesses, create loud noises and foul the air when the asphalt is laid down. As a result, they want to know project details as soon as possible.
State Rep. Jamie Boles, who owns Boles Funeral Home on Pennsylvania Avenue near downtown Southern Pines, sympathizes with their plight.
"I do share the concerns of the merchants," said Boles, who is monitoring the situation through almost daily contact with NCDOT officials in Aberdeen. "I also agree that these are different economic times that all of us have never seen to this degree.
"I don't see any reason why the affected parties can't sit down at the table and work out a compromise."
Dawson has said that S.T. Wooten would comply with any changes implemented by NCDOT.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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