GREENFIELD — Some business owners near the heart of downtown are feeling the pinch as a major gas pipe replacement project along North State Street continues to churn along.
“It’s stressful, to put it mildly,” said Rebecca Teeguarden, owner of the Nutty Mutt pet boutique near the corner of North and State streets. “It’s just one of those things that hopefully will get done soon.”
In March, Vectren Corp. began a project to retire some 3.5 miles of bare steel and cast iron pipeline in Greenfield, replacing the mains and service lines to approximately 243 customers with a polyethylene plastic system, according to a company news release.
“We’ve replaced about seven miles of pipe since 2011 as part of our multi-year infrastructure modernization plan,” said Vectren spokeswoman Natalie Hedde from the company’s headquarters in Evansville Wednesday.
The company expects to have this year’s portion of the project completed, including all restorative work from the construction, within the next two weeks, weather permitting, Hedde said.
That is welcome news to some business owners along State Street, where trucks and traffic have been funneled through a construction area that in some cases abuts their storefronts.
During the first week of June, crews arrived in front of HEY Café at 16A N. State St., and Monday, workers and heavy equipment were still outside co-owner John Cary’s door.
“All day long, the machines have been cranking,” Cary said. “It sounds like a war zone. It’s insane.”
Cary said the work has hit his lunchtime traffic hard, with business down signficantly.
“My lunch business has been cut almost in half about half the time,” he said. “It’s cost me $400 per week, conservatively. It’s really, really affected me, and I’m so small I can’t afford this.”
Teeguarden, whose shop is around the corner from the heaviest of the cutting and pipe laying, said by and large, her customers can still get to her – even if they have to make a return trip.
“I’m just so thankful for my loyal customers,” she said. “They continue to come.”
Teeguarden said she feels the economy’s retail sector remains sluggish, “and throw in a couple of construction projects, and it just adds to the stress,” she said.
Compounding the problem is the continuing flow of heavy trucks north and south along State Street that are now being squeezed through a construction zone at the city’s main intersection, Teeguarden said.
However, not every business in the area has been slammed by the construction as hard as those depending upon walkup traffic to ring the register.
Audiologist Christina McQueeney of Greenleaf Hearing Healthcare at 24 N. State St. said her business hasn’t been hurt.
“I can’t say that it has really affected my business,” McQueeney said. “My clients need to hear and need my services. If it’s a store or restaurant, I can see how it might affect them, but with a medical office, I think there’s a different take on it.”
Donnie Reimer of Baker-Reimer Insurance Agency on the northwest corner of the State/North street intersection said though the work has been disruptive, especially getting in and out of his parking lot at times, his business has not suffered a loss.
Reimer said he was not as reliant on walk-in traffic as some other establishments in the area, and the customers who required an office visit had parking access along both streets.
“The (contractors) have also really communicated with me well,” Reimer said. “If they know they’re going to start something that’s going to take all day, they come in and tell us about it.”
Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell said he acknowledges the impact the project has had on local business owners in the area, but he hopes they understood that improvements were being made.
“I really hate to inconvenience people,” Fewell said, “but when you’re making progress and improvements, sometimes there’s an inconvenience. But when it’s done, it’s all for the better.
“We’re going to be following that restorative process,” Fewell said. “We want to get the city back to attractive, and Vectren’s been very good to work with.”