Watermain looping irks business owners

by Phil Ambroziak

A recent decrease in water pressure also resulted in a halt to the traffic flow at two Meadow Lake businesses.

Both KFC and the Subway restaurant located on 9th Street West were forced to close their doors early Friday, Oct. 3 and for all of Saturday, Oct. 4 when they were informed water to their respective buildings would be shut off to accommodate the ongoing watermain looping project. While neither business was pleased about being inconvenienced, managers, owners and employees alike were outraged when they later found out the water had actually remained on throughout the weekend.

“This is a joke if you ask me,” remarked Subway owner Yvonne Von Grad. “They (city workers) came in and told the girls we’d have to close Friday (Oct. 3) around 1 p.m. and remain closed all day Saturday. On Monday morning, we phoned the city for an update and were told the water had never even been shut off. We lost two days worth of sales because of that, and it happened right at the end of the month when it’s one of our busiest times.”

KFC manager Mona Arnold concurred, stating a similar situation was also experienced recently at her restaurant.

“We did get a notice on Thursday afternoon (Oct. 2) that work in our area would begin on Friday, but what a bad time that was,” Arnold said. “We closed at 2 p.m. on Friday, were closed all day Saturday, but we did open on Sunday even though we only had half our normal water pressure. We closed early on Monday and, on Tuesday, had no water until around 4:30 p.m.”

When contacted Oct. 8, Arnold said the issue was still ongoing with the water expected to be shut off some time later that day. Staff was on hand, however, to do some cleaning.

“We will be leaving soon – as soon as we turn on the tap and there’s no water,” she said. “This is a pain in the butt and the owner in North Battleford is 100 per cent peeved.”

Arnold went on to note KFC had to close right when it was pay day for a lot of potential customers.

“But, the streets were blocked,” she added. “Overall, between the two days, we probably lost out on $30,000 to $40,000 in sales.”

Von Grad, meanwhile, believes Subway lost at least $10,000 in sales including Oct. 7 when work near the intersection of Highways 4 and 55 again posed problems with local water service.

“I don’t even know why they would pick a Friday to start this whole thing,” Von Grad said. “The businesses around here rely on the income from that day. What’s worse is how poorly things were communicated. We could have ended up staying open.”

Both Von Grad and Arnold said their employees would also have to bear the brunt of the situation. Von Grad said she can’t afford to pay her workers their regular wages after taking a hit like she did while Arnold used three letters to describe the plight of her staff.

“They’re SOL,” she said. “This has caused so much confusion, no one knew when they were supposed to be here and when they were not. It caused a lot of hard feelings. The city said this project was something that was scheduled a long time ago. If so, why is it we weren’t warned about it a long time ago?”

This past summer, the city tendered the watermain looping project to Bacon Holdings Inc. of Meadow Lake for $347,480. The purpose of the project, which is being completed at two other locations throughout the community, is to allow for an increase in pressure and to address such issues as chlorine residual. Typically, it is done where a water line dead-ends. The loop connects the dead-end to another section of the water system so the continuous flow of water can help increase pressure and allow for other improvements.

According to city manager Diana Burton, the miscommunication between the city and the business owners was not intentional.

“To reconnect the pipe, they had to shut off the water in that area,” Burton said. “On that Friday, the public works crew and the contractors did notify nearby businesses of this, but later discovered the valve was damaged and could not the be turned off as planned.”

That’s why the water remained on, Burton added, noting the valve was repaired on Monday (Oct. 6) and all work in that area necessitating a water shut off has since been completed.

“We understand the concerns of the business owners and do apologize,” Burton continued. “Sometimes when dealing with infrastructure, especially when it’s as old as ours, these kinds of things can happen.”

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