A year ago, we praised Marblehead’s town officials and its business community for their ability to work together to ease the disruption caused by much needed downtown drainage improvements.
“We don’t want to hurt the merchants,” Amy McHugh, Marblehead’s water and sewer department director said almost a year ago.
“We’re going to deal with it,” Nuggets owner Dave Cawthron said at the same time. “I think it’s going to be an off-and-on thing. And I am confident that the chief of police will look after us. After all, the merchants are the town.”
A year later, that cooperative spirit seems to have evaporated. Downtown merchants, stung by a construction-related drop in business last year, say the town is unwilling to make accommodations to ease their pain during the height of the 2014 tourist season.
In short, business owners want the town to delay the repaving of Atlantic Avenue this summer. September would be a better start date, they said.
“There are businesses right now that are on the ropes,” George Shube of Shubies’s Marketplace told reporter Alan Burke. “We took a bath last summer.”
The town has not committed to changing the paving schedule, citing the needs of the contractor, the vagaries of the weather and the wishes of local residents.
The schedule for the three-year, $4.9 million project may not be able to be changed. If that’s the case, the town needs to do a better job explaining the reasons why and offering a plan to mitigate the worst of the disruption.
More importantly, town officials need to do a much better job of listening to members of the downtown business community. There’s no excuse for the rude, dismissive actions of members of the Water and Sewer Commission at the panel’s June 3 meeting.