Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Roadwork bites into business

Restaurateur demands more notice from city

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A West End restaurant owner wants the city to give businesses advance notice before starting major construction projects after he alleges he lost nearly $5,000 of income during city roadwork last fall.

Victor Polson, owner of Juliana Pizza located at the corner of Victor Street and Ellice Avenue, said he received a letter on Sept. 11, 2012, from the city, which advised crews would close a portion of Victor Street for six weeks for construction. The letter said construction was slated to start Sept. 10 and the street would be closed to traffic and parking until the roadwork was done.

There is a paved parking lot adjacent to Polson's pizza place customers can access off Victor Street. Polson claims there was no parking in the immediate area for six weeks, and city gravel trucks and other construction vehicles encroached on his property, damaging part of the parking lot.

In total, Polson said, he lost $4,970 in business when he compared his earnings to the same time period the previous year.

Polson filed a claim against the city over the loss in income and damage to his property, which was later denied. In a letter, city officials said Winnipeg "does not provide compensation for interruption to businesses" for necessary roadwork.

Polson appealed the city's decision, and the city hired an independent claims adjuster who determined there was no negligence on behalf of the city. Last month, the city told Polson Winnipeg has the authority to perform necessary street repairs and "is not legally required to consult with property owners prior to performing this work," according to a letter sent to Polson.

Polson said he's frustrated, since he could have taken steps to mitigate the effects on his business if the city had given him advance warning.

"Everything could've been avoided had they consulted (us) in the first instance," Polson said, noting he could have made a temporary entrance into his restaurant's parking lot.

City spokeswoman Tammy Melesko said in an email statement the city notifies residents in advance of proposed planned work that will have an impact on their day-to-day activities and provide a contact person whom they can speak with if they have concerns. If there are unforeseen revisions to the project start or the duration of construction, the city would issue additional notices, she said.

Melanie Matheson, chairwoman of the communications committee for the West End Biz, was unable to comment on the Victor Street situation, but said the Biz tries to get as much information as it can about upcoming construction. Matheson said the organization plans to do a public-service announcement this year to publicize upcoming roadwork for the public and business owners so they can prepare for imminent disruptions.

"There are always concerns and what we try to do is mitigate as much as possible," she said.

Polson said one of the city's claim forms encourages applicants to seek legal advice, which gave him the impression "it will be a legal battle if you're going to take on the city."

"This typifies the biggest disdain the city has for the biggest income drivers in the city -- small businesses like mine."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 22, 2013 B1


Updated on Monday, April 22, 2013 at 6:59 AM CDT: replaces photo

7:24 AM: fixes deck

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