Pemberton businesses deal with a dusty summer 

Owner of Grimm's Deli calls out contractor, wants Village to foot the bill for 'deep clean'

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JOEL BARDE
  • Photo by Joel Barde

While Pemberton may have escaped another very dry summer, downtown businesses have still been contending with plenty of dust created by the ongoing downtown enhancement project.

In a recent letter to Village of Pemberton (VOP) council, Mark Mendonca, owner of Grimm's Gourmet & Deli, said that the contractor and VOP have not done enough to mitigate the effects of the construction.

According to Mendonca, business owners were told that a sprinkler truck would pass over problem areas five times a day and that hasn't been the case.

"Many, many emails were sent informing the Village [that] either no water [had been sprayed] or the area to be covered was inadequate," wrote Mendonca. "It is unfortunate that the contractor cannot respect the direction given by the Village."

Local businesses can't be expected to keep their doors closed all the time, he added.

"Closing doors all the time is not an option, as most eateries in town work with inviting, open doors," said Mendonca. "When we see the wind picking up, we move to close doors as soon as possible."

Over at Blackbird Bakery, manager Kristine Olson said that coordinating with the contractor—Nanaimo's Hazelwood Construction Services Inc.—about garbage and recycling pickup has been a challenge.

"That's kind of been our biggest problem," said Olson. "But everyone seems to be pretty positive about it. They're keeping their chins up."

Moreover, despite the challenges, customers continue to support the bakery, she added.

"We have a pretty loyal following of regular customers," she said. "Even if it's hard parking out front, they will still come in the back door."

VOP Mayor Mike Richman said the dust issue has been top of mind for staff throughout the project, which is nearing completion.

"There's no question, it's been a struggle for many downtown business owners to keep up with the dust," said Richman. "We've tried to stay on top of the contractors, as much as possible, to make sure they are doing as much mitigation as possible."

Richman said the issue has been brought up at weekly meetings between VOP and project officials.

"Let's put it this way: dust is always on the list to talk about," said Richman. "We knew it was going to be an issue going in, and we've done our best to make sure that they are on it as much as possible."

Richman added that tamping down the dust is a difficult job as nature is unpredictable.

"We'll get some crazy afternoon winds that will all of the sudden kick up the dust," said Richman. "And even if you've watered an hour prior, the dust is there anyways."

In his letter to council, Mendonca requested the VOP consider contributing to the cleaning of Grimm's when the project is said and done.

"We find ourselves with a deep cleaning bill in the thousands of dollars much like when we suffered smoke damage from the mall fire," wrote Mendonca.

"The significant loss of business will put us back several years, but it is [also] that added expenditure of cleaning our business because of a contractor who is not following the direction of the Village." Asked about the request, Richman appeared to be cool to the idea.

"That could amount to a great expense to the Village taxpayers if we start cleaning every business that's been impacted," said Richman. With the underground work complete, and sidewalk and pavement work still left for completion, the VOP is aiming to complete the project by the end of September.

In the meantime, Richman said he encourages the public to come downtown and support local Pemberton businesses.

"I want to encourage people to keep shopping locally as we complete this project," said Richman.

"I'm confident that when this is all said and done, it will help to increase business for our business owners in the downtown area."

In a statement to Pique, Hazelwood Project Construction Services Manager David Gourlay said that dust is always present on construction sites.

"We use our water truck frequently to wet down the roads, but it's difficult to eliminate the dust completely in a town as hot, dry and windy as Pemberton," he wrote. "We appreciate the patience of business owners, residents and visitors as we approach project completion."

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