Last month, it was Mary Murphy, owner of Gold & Guns. This month, it was Marty Williams, owner of the popular Weber City eatery Burgers R Us.
“If this is going to go on for another year and a half, we may be a former business,” Williams said. “I hate to think that. I’d like to say we’ll survive and that we’re going to continue to thrive, but we’ve got to have help. Something has to be done.”
An ongoing problem
Williams expressed his concerns to the Scott County Board of Supervisors at its meeting on Wednesday. He said the project, which will replace the current Route 23 bridges over the North Fork of the Holston River, started affecting his business the moment it began.
“When October (of 2016) came and the contractors started putting up their orange barrels in the median, at that time we started noticing our business declining right then,” Williams said. “Then as soon as they started bringing out their equipment and digging up the medians, it just got worse.”
A few months prior to that, a VDOT representative asked Williams for permission to use some of his business’ property as a passage down to the river to build a work bridge. In exchange, VDOT offered to pay him $6,000, Williams said.
Since then, Williams said, VDOT has taken more of his property than was originally discussed, and no final amount of compensation has been agreed upon. Meanwhile, he has seen a $60,000 decline in sales from 2016 to 2017.
“I don’t know very many people or businesses that can survive that kind of a loss. … They have such a mess and such a nightmare in front of our restaurant, people drive by without even being able to see where to turn in at,” Williams said. “That has been a major problem for us.”
Seeking a solution
Like last month, VDOT representative Allan Sumpter said he couldn’t do anything to ease the construction problems himself, but he would pass Williams’ concerns along to the district construction engineer that helps administer the project.
BOS Chairman David Redwine said that since the last meeting, the board has reached out to the Scott County Economic Development Authority. Together, the BOS and the EDA are working to find support for these struggling businesses until the construction ends, which is expected to be in the summer of 2019.
“We feel for you, your business, your family and the other tenants down there,” Redwine told Williams. “I assure you that this board hates it terribly what’s going on, and we will do anything we can.”