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Slick sidewalks are hurting business, some Belleville store-owners say

badsidewalks [1]

Some Belleville businesses say they have been been affected by snow and ice pileup on the sidewalks. Photo by Shelden Rogers

By Shelden Rogers [2]

BELLEVILLE – With consistent snow and freezing rain this winter, city sidewalks have been hard to navigate, causing a problem for some businesses.

City crews have had their work cut out for them, with a fresh dumping of snow almost coming on a weekly if not daily basis.

Andy Vadhera, the owner of Roluf’s [3], a travel store on Front Street, said this is the worst winter he has ever seen since he took over the business in 2004. Customers have been complaining about the sidewalk conditions in front of his store, he said.

“People are always complaining, saying there is too much snow. I cannot clean it all. I just do mine,” Vadhera said.

Business has taken a hit due to the conditions, he said.

“People don’t want to come in this heavy snow because all of the sidewalks are so full.”

Vadhera said he doesn’t see city crews coming to clean in front of his store until after 8:30 a.m. He opens the store at 7 a.m., so he has to clear the sidewalk himself when it snows, he said.

“They never come on time. So we have to clean our own snow. We have to put salt down and everything. They will come around 8:30, 9.”

He would do anything to get crews to come earlier, but nothing would change, he said.

“I would stand out front of City Hall and say, ‘You’re doing nothing.’ ”

Vadhera said the least the city could do is come earlier.

“I would just tell them to start at 7 o’clock. It affects our business. They don’t care.”

Gaye Hammond, an employee at Finkle Electric [4] on Pinnacle Street, said there isn’t a problem with the sidewalk in front of the store, but with the piling of snow. Snow piles have restricted parking in front of the business, she said.

“It’s not so much an issue with the sidewalk, more with the curb. There isn’t enough room for customers to stop and park on the side of the road out front. So it’s been kind of slow this year,” said Hammond.

Rebecca Burlington, the owner of Flowers by Dustin [5] on Front Street, also said she would have liked to see more removal of snowbanks. But with this winter’s weather, she didn’t have high standards, she said.

“There was so much snow this winter, so I didn’t have high expectations for removal. They did their best.”

Kevin Bongard, an employee at the Stephen Licence [6] bicycle and hobby store on Front Street, makes the most out of whenever the sidewalk is slick in front of his store.

“I don’t mind at all. If I’m out shovelling, that just gives me an opportunity to talk to people,” said Bongard.

His dad, the owner of the downtown store, shares the same point of view, he said.

“My dad wakes up at 5:30 every day and shovels out front. He enjoys it. He sees it as his exercise.”

Steve Gordon, a city sidewalk-machine operator, said crews have been on the streets 24/7 since Christmas. The complaints and concerns allow the crews to do a better job, he said.

“It lets us know where the bad spots are. I don’t call them complaints – I call them work. But we have done the best we can with what we are dealing with,” said Gordon.