City questioned about shabby service road The Policy and Procedures Committee of the Vermillion City Council agreed Monday to meet at the Comfort Inn Motel to more closely examine how the construction of a frontage road is having a negative impact on the business. Workers began building the road this fall, but stopped work approximately a month ago and aren't scheduled to return until spring. by David Lias The Policy and Procedures Committee of the Vermillion City Council agreed Monday to meet at the Comfort Inn Motel to more closely examine how the construction of a frontage road is having a negative impact on the business.
Joe Eckert, owner of the Comfort Inn Motel at 701 West Cherry Street, told members of the city council, that several factors make coping with the road�s construction difficult:
? Workers have torn out the driveway that has been the main traffic route to the Comfort Inn�s parking lot for the past six years.
? For at least a month now, the road project has more or less been abandoned. Eckert has been left with a rough, gravel and dirt covered route to his business, and is worried what may happen if the area receives heavy precipitation.
? The road project, which is sitting idle for now, is costing Eckert money in two ways, he said. His motel must pay a substantial amount of the cost of the road which he didn�t want in the first place. Its poor condition, he added, has discouraged people from lodging at the motel.
Eckert turned to City Engineer Bill Welk.
"It's my understanding, Bill, is that correct, that this is scheduled to be completed next June 2 to the point of a gravel road?"
"That�s the completion date," Welk replied.
"So next June we�ll have a gravel road intact, so meanwhile we have the rest of this winter to leave it like it is," Eckert said. "Is there any more construction that�s going to take place this year?"
"They (the construction crew) are shut down for the winter," Welk said.
"Is there any reason why in the last month they haven�t done any construction? We�ve had 50 degree days in December. Is there any reason why construction hasn�t taken place in the past month?"
"I don�t know why," Welk said.
Eckert reminded council members that he and his wife own the Comfort Inn. They pay a small percentage of each dollar they make to use the Comfort Inn name.
vThis is how we make our livelihood," he said. "You're doing this to Joe and Lisa Eckert. You're not doing this to Comfort Inn or Choice Hotels down in Silver Springs, MD. This road that is being proposed to go through there which eliminates my driveway is going to cost me somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000.
"And to further exasperate my frustration, I would invite each of you council people to walk from Princeton to Carr streets and see if the three businesses there are being treated fairly."
Pamida, Eckert said, has no road. They use what is an area of a frontage road to park semis on, Eckert said. Hy-Vee has a driveway in place, a resemblance of a frontage road. "There�s some curb and gutter there. I�m being asked to continue it from Hy-Vee's driveway west."
Eckert said he and his wife are spending $30,000 this year to make improvements to their business. �I guess I�m really troubled by the fact ? how you can leave me hanging like that , with the road all torn up and no access. I guess I�d just like to ask your advice and what you�d do if you were in my shoes.�
"Why did we tear that out?" Alderman Leo Powell asked. "Why didn�t we wait until next spring?"
Welk said construction workers used the fill removed from the area to build up the Carr Street approach.
"At any time during this in your discussion with contractor," Alderman Roger Kozak asked Welk, "did you consider the impact on the businesses?"
"Yes, I told them that they had to provide access. It's written right into the contract. They had to provide access to the storage units (recently constructed next to the Comfort Inn) and I made sure that they did it."
In further response to questions, Welk said outlets from the motel include the Hy-Vee parking lot, and Carr Street.
"You can use it (Carr Street), it's not gravel, it's just dirt right now. Basically, it�s going to be a dead end to the storage unit at this point. Traffic can get in and out of Comfort Inn, can drive in there and turn around."
"Would it be safe to say that if there is any type of moisture, it's not going to be very convenient to go to there and turn around in the mud?"
"Well, once you're in by the storage units, that�s off our city property," Welk said.
"What I'm thinking is, if a large vehicle comes into the Comfort Inn parking lot, are they trapped?" Kozak asked.
"No, they can loop around through the Comfort Inn parking lot," Welk said. "They can drive around through the Comfort Inn parking lot, come out onto the frontage road, or they can come in off of the frontage road and go out the other way."
"Bill, what's going to happen when I have a semi or a car or a customer drive down there and they get stuck in it this winter when the frost goes out. What are you going to do about that, and that probably will happen. What will happen if a customer of mine, trying to get to the motel, gets stuck, not to mention they are going to get their car full of mud and slop."
"It shouldn't be different from any gravel road," Welk said.
Eckert told the council that his business, from November 1998 to November 1999, has dropped over 9 percent. He believes it�s because of the incomplete road work in front of the motel.
Eckert also countered Welk's attempts to minimize the effects of the gravel and dirt road in front of his business.
"A customer that I have had for six years is staying at a competitor�s house tonight, because they don't want to travel that road you�re talking about," Eckert said. "The only paved entrance I have right now is to meander through Hy-Vee�s parking lot, zig-zag across there, and then come upon some little dirt minimum maintenance road that you call decent access. What's going to be done about compensating me for the loss of business I�m currently experiencing? And then you�re not going to come back to this until next year?"
Mayor Bill Radigan told council members that he drove around the area of the motel Monday.
"I looked at it from Joe's standpoint. I sat there in his parking lot and I looked at it, and we have handed Joe a six or eight month problem."
Radigan added that Welk shouldn�t be held to blame. "It really doesn�t haven't anything to do with Bill. I think we should get away from that, because he pretty much was doing it according to the procedures you should follow."
Radigan suggested that the Policy and Procedures Committee examine the problem, and come back to the council in two weeks with recommendations. Members of the council unanimously agreed.
"I don't think we can resolve it here tonight," Radigan said. "I think we have to sit down and have a thorough discussion."
Alderman Richard Burbach, chairman of the committee, suggested the meeting be held at the motel. "That way if we have a question we can walk out and take a look at the road again."