NEWPORT CITY – On Monday evening, the Newport City Council came under fire from East Main Street business owners who were upset the city closed the street for much of last week. The work entailed working on and updating the sewer system. The city plans to pave the street later this week.
Ken Stocker from the Brown Cow Restaurant said business owners are upset the city didn’t notify them about the closure. He said there had to be some forethought because the city put up stenciled signs that read the street was open to East Main Auto and Lapierre’s Decorating Center.
“For all of us to wake up Monday morning and found our businesses were interrupted - it's a little disturbing; it’s a lot disturbing,” said Stocker. “I would really like to know why.”
Mark Guyette, owner of East Main Auto, who agreed with Stocker, said he wasn’t aware the work was taking place until his customers called to say they couldn’t get to his business.
The city does work based on the weather and availability of the crew, Ward said. He added the standard procedure is for Tom Bernier, director of the Public Works, to notify people, but that didn’t happen.
“Tom knew he was supposed to notify people and he chose not to,” said Ward. “He has reasons, which I am not going to discuss here because of other issues.”
Bernier, however, said he didn’t know of any issues and that it was not a general practice in the past to notify businesses of street repairs.
Ward said he was willing to discuss it in executive session. He said he spoke to Bernier about not letting it happen again. Ward added the city has a small crew and work is not usually planned out a week ahead.
The city could have rerouted traffic around the construction site without closing off the entire street, Stocker said. However, Ward disagreed.
“We have big trucks and they’re bringing in dirt,” said Ward. “It was set up for the safety of the public and our crew.”
On the issue of safety, local residents noted that since East Main was closed from the Causeway to Sias Avenue, everyone who lived in that neighborhood had to go home by going the wrong way up a one way street, from Indian Point to Northern Avenue. It was the only available route.
Nancy Moore from Moore Dry Cleaners said that there could have been a generic sign that said that East Main Street businesses were open for business instead of naming a select few. She said the merchants put up a sign on Thursday to take care of their needs and, she said, it’s important to be “very detailed.”
Mayor Paul Monette suggested in the future that the city post a notice on the website.