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Batavia considering utility rebates for business hurt by construction

Updated: November 16, 2012 6:06AM

BATAVIA — Aldermen argued about whether the city should provide $25,000 in utility billing assistance to businesses that incurred major disruptions through the North River streetscape project over the summer.

City Administrator Bill McGrath said aside from the many changes to pedestrian walkways, dust and noise, there were surprises associated with the location of the original underground utilities. McGrath said the analysis of assistance may not be what aldermen were looking for, but he asked members of the Community Development Committee this week to consider it part of the cost of the $3.5 million project.

McGrath said city officials spoke with the businesses owners to review records that showed a “significant” drop in revenue. He said while they have no way of knowing what is related to the general economy, the operations of the business or the impact of the work, staff is convinced that the project had a significant negative impact.

Staff recommended a one-time, six-month reimbursement of city utility bills to five businesses: El Taco Grande, Katrina Salon and Spa, Tusk Thai, Rhino Room and O’Brien’s Pub.

While the initial stages of the project began with the expected disruptions, the work intensified and caused some of the businesses to close for hours at a time. Access became increasingly difficult for customers and deliveries.

Alderman Alan Wolff suggested offering business owners an extension for payment on the city utility bills. Wolf pointed out that everyone knew this would affect businesses and the payments might be more appropriate if the project run past the scheduled completion date.

Alderman Susan Stark said eventually the businesses will benefit from the streetscape improvements.

“We didn’t do anything for businesses during the Wilson Street Bridge construction,” she said. “I have received calls from people asking why the city is handing out money. The residents are getting tired of seeing this.”

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