Business closure claims refuted

The City of Vernon denies allegations that road  construction has forced a business to close.

Baker’s Dozen shut its doors last week, throwing 30 people out of work. The owners have claimed that the decision was made based on changes to 29th Street.

“We tried to keep the streets open and there was signage to make customers aware that the businesses are open,” said Mayor Wayne Lippert, who admits construction may have disrupted some sales.

“The (economic) times have been tough on a lot of businesses and not just because of road work. We do work all around the city and businesses have survived and made it through.”

When contacted, Baker’s Dozen owner Maureen D’Angelo would only say, “We cannot survive on the design on 29th Street.”

The work between 43rd and 45th avenues began in the early fall and is part of the Polson Greenway, which will eventually extend from Polson Park to the Village Green Mall.

It will include bicycle paths, landscaping and road narrowing in places.

“City crews worked with merchants along the road and the works need to be done,” said Lippert of upgrades to the road surface as well as water and sewer lines.

“From what I understand, other businesses along there are hiring people.”

Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe doesn’t believe construction can be singled out for the closure, and says increased competition and the recession were likely factors.

“People aren’t spending disposable income in the way they used to,” she said.

“I don’t think the road is to blame for all of their woes but it probably compounded their situation. Road work wasn’t the only reason they suffered.”

O’Keefe is confident the upgrades, once completed, will draw potential customers to the area.

“It will be a much better roadway and it will benefit them,” she said of merchants.

In January, council denied a request from merchants for tax relief and $100,000 in marketing funds because of the construction.

The city stated that such a move would contravene provincial legislation.