Businesses brace for street work

Two years of road reconstruction factored into a decision by one business owner to relocate, while other business owners along East Auglaize Street have decided to stay the course.
Deb Kiser, who started New Beginnings Decorating with her sisters, Jennifer Hixenbaugh and Darlene McElroy, and then purchased D. Lynn Moon Florist, said several issued factored into their decision to relocate the combined business from the intersection of Auglaize and Water streets to downtown Wapakoneta.
The issue having the most influence on their decision, Kiser said, is the fact the city will have to shut down East Auglaize Street for the summer of 2013 as crews reconstruct the roadway. They just endured an interruption of their business during some of their busiest months when a large part of the summer of 2010 was needed to reconstruct Bellefontaine Street and a section of Water Street, which borders their business.
“We are going to move,” Kiser said. “We wouldn’t be able to survive it — that is the biggest reason we are moving. In order to stay solvent, we needed to move.”
The move returns their business to downtown Wapakoneta. They first opened in a location at the intersection of Park and East Auglaize streets, and now they will conduct business in a building at the intersection of Perry and West Auglaize streets.
While they are moving because of the street project, Kiser said the reconstruction of one of the main entryways into the downtown area is needed.
“I am sure it needs it and that it will be very nice when it is done,” Kiser said. “The project should enhance the city, we just couldn’t survive another summer like the one we experienced last year — that is why we are moving.”
When the project is done in 2013, East Auglaize Street business owners and residents should notice big differences after the $2 million reconstructed street and $559,680 in streetscape improvements is spent on the improvements. The reconstruction project extends from the CSX railroad tracks to Wood Street and is set to be bid in 2012.
When the work begins, construction crews will separate stormwater and sanitary sewer lines and install new water lines. The natural gas company is to replace lines in the street for new taps customers during the full-depth reconstruction project.
The streetscape grant includes new lighting, signage and landscaping along the roadway. Plans call for extending the look of the downtown area with paving bricks in the tree lawn with smaller growing trees.
Auglaize Street from South Blackhoof Street to the CSX railroad tracks was reconstructed in the late 1980s. West Auglaize Street from South Blackhoof Street to the Pearl Street intersection is planned for 2015.
A grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) pays for $1.34 million of the $2.1 million street reconstruction project, while the streetscape improvements are paid with funds through an ODOT Transportation Enhancement grant. Both require a 20 percent local match from the city.
Since plans for the roadway full-depth reconstruction have been approved by ODOT officials, the scope of work cannot be changed without jeopardizing the grant. Enhancements to the streetscape can still be changed, and Streets, Alleys and Sidewalks Committee Chair and 4th Ward Councilor Dan Graf and Mayor Rodney Metz are working to schedule a meeting with Urban Forester Stephanie Miller to discuss the project.
Craig Speckman, owner of Speckman Automotive in St. Marys and Wapakoneta, agreed with Kiser and said the street reconstruction is a project that needs done.
“I think it is a great idea,” Speckman told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “They redid Water Street and it was a great improvement.
“It will probably be an inconvenience for a while, but I can see it will make a big difference when it is done.”
Speckman said he welcomes the additional parking when it becomes available on both sides of the street because it should help his customers.
He said the East Auglaize Street project should not be as disruptive to the business as the Water Street project was to his business.
“We definitely were more inconvenienced with the Water Street project because the only truck access and the overhead door for receiving deliveries is on Water Street,” Speckman said. “For a period of time, we couldn’t accept deliveries so we had to carry the stock down the street.
“The Auglaize Street won’t be as big of a disruption,” he said.
Dave Hale of the Trading Post, 302 E. Auglaize St., also said he felt the street needed reconstructed.
“I don’t have a problem with them improving the street,” Hale said. “I heard they were going to repave Seltzer Street, too. They have to continue to make improvements.”
He encouraged city officials to do more, but he understands they cannot in this economy.
“Wapak needs to improve a lot of areas in the city,” Hale said. “They try to, but the money only goes so far.”
Two business owners, who survived the Auglaize Street reconstruction project of the 1980s, provided advice on the best way to deal with the limited access to their shops.
“You need to have specials and have some back entrance to the business that patrons can use,” J.P. Metz, co-owner of Dad’s Toy Shop, said. “You won’t be shutdown all the time — it all depends on what happens with the sidewalk.”
Metz said they had their sidewalk removed and people had to walk on gravel to reach their front entrance.
“It wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” Metz said. “We received a lot of cooperation from the city doing the work in phases, from the newspaper sharing our story and from residents continuing to patronize us.”
Lange Photographics owner Dennis Lange had a fledgling business when the work in the late 1980s started.
“We were fortunate to have an alternative entrance on the side of the building,” Lange said. “You also need to give people a reason to come to your business by having specials and sales. You really need to concentrate on new marketing methods to entice people to patronize your business.”
He said develop an alternate route to enter the shop and have it well marked so patrons know how to get there.
“You need to have a lot of patience,” Lange said, “and have faith in how nice it is going to be when it is done. You need to realize it will be so much better when the roadway and the sidewalk is completely done.”