Breckenridge St. closure causes issues for small business owner

December 4, 2018 | 3:07 am

Updated December 4, 2018 | 5:23 am

Photo courtesy of Gordon Wilcher

While the area of Breckenridge Street between 18th Street and Parrish Avenue has been closed for a number of days already, it appears the originally slated period of a two-week closure will be extended for at least another four weeks.

One business in particular, Owensboro Music Center, is sitting at the center of the roadwork issue at 1303 Breckenridge Street and has already suffered monetary losses due to both lanes of Breckenridge St. being closed off to traffic. In the eight days since the closure, owner Gordon Wilcher says his store has seen a significant drop in sales.

“This is our most critical time in retail,” Wilcher said of the holiday shopping season. “Our business is the only one directly affected.”

Wilcher made a heartfelt Facebook post explaining the issue as well as his frustration to his regular and potential customers. He took issue with the City of Owensboro for negatively affecting his business without proper warning.

“I’m not 100 percent sure what the issue is. I have to believe it’s sewer because you can smell it,” Wilcher said. “The way they’ve got it blocked off right now, you’ve got to go to 16th Street [to reach my business].”

Wilcher argued that in the eight days since the street’s closure, he’d only seen workers at the site two or three times, insinuating that not much work was being done, and that his business would only suffer an elongated financial setback as a result.

The issue does revolve around the sewer system, according to Regional Water Resource Center (RWRA) Interim Executive Director Dean Behnke. As for workers not being present at the site, Behnke says its because they are forced to work at night, but didn’t comment why daytime work wasn’t possible.

“I know we’re in there working on it–it’s the kind of work that goes on at night, so that’s why most people don’t see it,” Behnke said.

The reason for the extended timeframe of repairs is partly due to the weather and the rising Ohio River, Behnke said. Both aspects create hardships for workers repairing the sewers, and repairs cannot be conducted when it’s raining.

Wilcher said his shop wasn’t given much of a notice for the repairs being done, and Behnke said there’s some truth to that.

“I think there was a notice put out, but it was an emergency situation in closing the roads, so there wasn’t a whole lot of notice, no,” Behnke said.

According to Wilcher, there’s enough room for the workers to open up one of the lanes on Breckenridge St., but Behnke says while that’s not possible right now, they could look into that at some point.

As Wilcher tries to remain positive despite the setbacks, it’s hard to overlook the way the closure has affected his sales.

“It’s going to affect gift buyers who aren’t regular customers. We’ve already seen a 20 percent drop in sales in one week,” Wilcher said. “We’ve been here 45 years, and we’ve had a lot of people make the effort [to come to the store via a different route]. I want to thank them for their patronage.”

In a Facebook post from Owensboro Music Center, made on Monday evening, the business said they were informed by RWRA that work would be conducted during the evenings. Owensboro Music Center also thanked Mayor Tom Watson, Owensboro Public Works Director Wayne Shelton and the Owensboro City Commission.

In the last couple of days, Owensboro City Commissioner Larry Conder said he made some phone calls to City Manager Nate Pagan and Owensboro Public Works to see if there was any way Wilcher’s issue could be resolved.

“You know, it’s Christmastime, and it’s his busiest time of the year,” Conder said.

Conder also said RWRA, a separate entity from the City of Owensboro, is dealing with some pretty major issues that are requiring them to work 40 feet underground. According to Conder, the aging infrastructure beneath the city’s streets, some of which were built 100 years ago, are problems that require a lot of hands and time to fix.

Nonetheless, Conder felt it was important to see if there was anything that could be done to assist Wilcher with his business. Owensboro Public Works came through and has recently set up signs, redirecting traffic and providing customers with alternate directions to Owensboro Music Center.

Conder said, while construction and infrastructure repairs affect businesses in different ways, what most people in Wilcher’s situation truly want is simple — communication.

“They want you to talk to them and let them know what’s going on — I think [with Wilcher] that was really it more than anything,” Conder said. “He might not like the answer he’s given, but people just want to know. So they can plan their business, know where things are at and they can know what to tell their customers.”

December 4, 2018 | 3:07 am

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