ou can’t be a successful shopkeeper if there aren’t any customers at your business shopping.
A downtown Platte City business owner is frustrated by what he believes is the slow pace of the street work being done downtown. The work in question is on Second St. between Ferrel and Main streets.
The current road improvements are: Second St. from Ferrel to High streets; High St. from First to Third streets; Ferrel St. from First to Fourth streets; First St. from Main to High streets; and Third Street from Main to Ferrel streets.
The roads contractor employed, St. Joseph Fuel Oil, has until the end of August to finish those roads according to the terms of the signed contract, said city administrator Keith Moody.
Bill Wade, owner of Platte City PC and Centerfire Central Gun Shop, has seen his walk-in customer traffic dry up to “almost nothing” since April 5, when construction began on the roads.
The construction equipment parked in front of his store and the dirt and gravel conditions, plus lack of good parking, are keeping customers out of his two businesses.
“They’re killing me. I’ve had people tell me that they didn’t come to my store because of all the hassle (of the road conditions and lack of parking),” Wade said.
“We all knew the road work would have an impact on our businesses, but, good God, get it done and move on,” Wade said.
The city’s contractor is widening the streets, re-surfacing the road top and building new curbs and gutters. It’s all a part of Platte City’s Capital Improvement Program (formalized in 1998), said Moody.
In addition to a temporary lack of decent parking, Wade complained about his business signage being blocked by heavy equipment and hay bales being set right in front of his business’ front door.
“At the beginning, they were parking their heavy machinery right in front of my building, and they were leaving it there overnight and over the weekend,” Wade said.
“I complained to the city about that because the machines were blocking my windows. I told the city, ‘I’m going to get robbed.’”
The contractor then began parking the equipment in the middle of the road area and away from the front of the businesses, Wade said.
“The more I complain, the slower the work goes,” Wade said.
Bill Knighton, owner of Knighton’s Body Shop, Inc., at 604 First St., located one block west of Wade’s businesses said his business is suffering from the street repairs, too. Knighton is also a Platte City alderman.
“I’m starting to get a little upset. You never know what’s going to be closed off from day to day. Yes, it’s hurting my business,” Knighton said.
Streets, alleys and parking lots and spaces seem randomly closed off from day-to-day, Knighton said.
Knighton’s receives calls from his customers “every day” asking how to “get to” Knighton’s Body Shop, Inc.
“I think the contractor’s been pretty lax in putting up detour signs and in communicating with local business owners and residents. Our foot traffic has really been reduced. Another few weeks of this, it’s going to really start hurting us,” Knighton said.
The city should have more say-so in what the contractor focuses its work on at any particular moment in time, Knighton believes.
In the contractor’s defense, “they seem to be moving along pretty well” (in terms of speed), Knighton said.
Bill Wade first opened Platte City PC and Centerfire Central Gun Shop in 2004. The original store location was on Third St., across from Wells Bank. Wade moved one block west to Second St. this past January.
“The move was an opportunity to make things better. I doubled the size of my business,” Wade said.
Walk-in business is so slow these days that Wade has quit taking his inventory of guns out of the safe every day to display them to potential buyers.
“I quit bothering because no one is going to come by to look at the guns because they can’t get here,” Wade said.
It takes Wade about 15-20 minutes to remove the guns, prep them, wipe them off and set them out in the morning, and about 15-20 minutes to replace them in the safe in the evening, he said.
Junior Mackey, owner of Mackey Auto Sales, whose offices are located in the same building as Wade’s businesses, moved his entire inventory of about 12 cars for sale up to his friend’s business’ lot on Highway 92 near Ferrel’s Auto Service.
City officials plan to have 95 percent of Platte City’s roads either constructed new or re-done by 2011, Moody said.
The goal for each street, said Moody, is to get them to the standards of a modern street.
According to the city administrator, a “modern” street is regarded as: 28-feet wide; includes curbs and gutters; full-depth asphalt and pavement (a minimum of 8 inches of asphalt); a sidewalk on at least one side of the street; if a sidewalk already exists—replace and repair the existing sidewalk sections that are deficient).
The contractor, according to the terms of the contract signed with the city, has the authority to prioritize the schedule of work based on their needs to get the project done to required standards and on time.
“We have the power to ask the contractor to place more emphasis on a specific road section,” Moody said.
St. Joseph Fuel Oil intends to lay the asphalt down in front of Wade’s business next on their list, Moody noted.
“The contractor is always shooting to get as much of the street covered with asphalt as quickly as possible,” Moody said.
“Once the base asphalt is in, we’ve eliminated the dust. We’re getting rid of the mud when it rains. Having the base asphalt sealed really cleans things up.”
Moody also noted that the city sends notices out to property owners on affected streets prior to the construction. The city invites property owners to attend the public works subcommittee meetings where the final design decisions are made.
Moody said there is good news for affected business owners on Second Street.
“The contractor is actually ahead of schedule. They anticipate being completed at the end of July, instead of the end of August,” Moody said.