Road construction is a necessary inconvenience that usually pays off in the end.
But businesses along Mahoning County’s Western Reserve Highway say roadwork has been going on for weeks and they are paying far more than the tax money spent on infrastructure because customer visits are not accounted for. Some customers have even been turned away by road crews, leaving business owners now fearing for their livelihoods.
No infrastructure upgrade should be undertaken at such a cost.
Worse, the elected county officials in charge of the program have been slow to respond to attempts to discuss these issues.
Particularly problematic is the half-mile section of West Western Reserve Road between Hitchcock Road and Glenwood Avenue, the first part of a multi-phase project to replace about five miles of domestic sewer lines all the way to North Lima Road . We suspect this problem will continue in the next phase as well.
Construction is currently underway in the Western Reserve Plaza area, which includes Sparkle Market, Lemon Tree florist, ShipOnSite, Parcel Delivery, and Risers Tavern & Grill. Inside the grocery store is a pharmacy. Closer to Glenwood Avenue is West Glen Plaza, which has many other businesses.
Work on this phase began in October. 31. It is expected to end the day before Thanksgiving, but the impact of losing business in the weeks leading up to the holiday could linger longer.
When our photographer was there, only about three cars could be seen in the usually busy grocery store parking lot. A spokeswoman for Retail Square said Sparkle’s business was down about 60%.
“They hit us and all these businesses hard over the holiday season, and obviously the grocery store is the biggest thing right now during the holiday season,” said Nikky Furrie, a spokeswoman for the Furrie Vitullo Group and Village Plaza Sparkle. Cooking, but some people want to ship packages for the holidays, so ShipOnSite is hurting, and everyone knows that the night before Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday for everyone to go out.”
We were even more confused when Furrie said they had received reports of people trying to get to their store being told the plaza was closed. She tried asking the county engineer if there was a sign posted stating that Sparkle Plaza was open, “but we didn’t get any response,” she said.
Multiple messages left by CNN reporters seeking comment from Ginnetti also went unanswered.
In the end, the merchants erected their own signs near the roads in both squares.
Less business means less demand for staff. This has a trickle-down effect on a post-pandemic economy that is still struggling to recover.
In fact, Western Reserve Road is a busy thoroughfare. Of course, this problem should have been anticipated. There should be programs that are more responsive to the needs of the public than just blocking access and trying to keep motorists out.
Let’s face it, the sole purpose of upgrading infrastructure is to improve transportation and services for the businesses there as well as the resident and traveling public. None of this work is good if it does irreparable damage to the businesses these upgrades are supposed to help.
Frankly, this isn’t the first time Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti has fallen on deaf ears to complaints from business owners and the traveling public. Not so long ago, Austin Township businesses and motorists expressed dismay at roadworks on busy Mahoning Avenue. A request to have the work done in the evening was denied.
We believe that road workers, regulators, and especially elected officials who make these decisions should work harder to find compromises that keep roads smooth and accessible.
Why not work at night? Why aren’t arrangements made to ensure that at least one lane remains clear during construction, and that road crews and law enforcement on site do everything they can to help motorists get where they want to go? Temporary traffic signals or flags at either end can easily accomplish this.
Perhaps the most important question is why does this project have to be done now – the busiest shopping season of the year? There may be a very logical reason, but attempts by both the business and our employees to contact Ginnetti have gone unrewarded.
This is unacceptable. Elected officials must realize that they work for the public — not the other way around.
In the long run, the installation of new infrastructure and roadworks should not come at the expense of the businesses these works are intended to serve.