By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Once again, a road improvement project along River Road in Fair Haven is causing business disruptions, and a growing number of merchants is voicing frustration over a lack of communication and coordination between the Monmouth County and the borough.
Store owners say they took an unexpected hit in sales when most of River Road was closed to traffic Tuesday, a move made, apparently unannounced, by the county, which is overseeing the $886,000, federally-funded streetscape makeover.
Coming at the peak of a cut-throat holiday season, the timing of the shutdown was “terrible,” said Dean Ross, owner of the Doc Shoppe.
“Four days before Christmas, you count on it,” Ross said. “Retail’s tough enough. You need everything.”
The closure, from Fair Haven Road to Harrison Avenue, lasted all day, and Ross said he felt the effects. Same next door, at Bike Haven, where owner Cliff Wittenberg said it’s been hard enough to get customers in the door the last two years.
“It’s not good, between that and the couple weeks they were working on the sidewalks,” he said. “It makes it inconvenient for people.”
What’s more puzzling to the business owners is the timing, and lack of notice, of the closure. The borough wasn’t even clued in that River Road would be shut down for the day, said Mayor Mike Halfacre.
“I didn’t know about it until after the fact,” he said. “We had no notice at all. Our first notice was a complaint.”
Halfacre said county officials told him that the weather dictated Tuesday’s closing, because it has been too cold at night to get street paving done, leaving the daylight hours as the best option. River Road is a county-owned road, so the borough is out of any decision making.
“It is frustrating for two reasons: one, we don’t have any control over the job and how it’s run, and two, they’re not telling us how it’s being run,” Halfacre said.
Calls to the county engineering department Tuesday afternoon were not returned.
This is not the first complaint of the project lodged by merchants. Last month, Shutters Cottage Home owner Christine DeVincens huffed over a longer-than-expected closing of her parking lot, which she said hurt her business right in the beginning rush of holiday shopping season.
Prior to that, Krauszer’s owner Tony Akbar voiced safety concerns over the new layout of some of the sidewalks being installed along River Road. Part of his driveway entrance was replaced by curbing without any notice to him.
A county worker on the site told redbankgreen that the road would be reopened late Tuesday afternoon and there would be no more closures.
But that one day could have a lasting effect on the local businesses, Ross said.
“We’re in an age of convenience. If you inconvenience people for whatever reason, they’re going to go to plan B,” he said. “Once you lose a customer, you never get it back.”