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Third Avenue Construction Sees A Turn To The Positive
Third Ave
This conceptual drawing is the design for the North Third Avenue reconstruction and improvement project; delays have made for some tough times for merchants along the street but they are hopeful that completion of the work is near. Courtesy City Of Oakdale

It is a sight which is both long overdue and welcomed by both the City of Oakdale as well as the business owners of downtown’s North Third Avenue. This past Friday morning, Oct. 21, PG&E electric crews vacated the street, allowing the city’s contractor to return to the site and resume construction.

According to City Manager Bryan Whitemyer, the delays of the downtown construction and renovation have been solely at the hands of PG&E. What began with gas line work by the utility company, bled into electrical work which prohibited the city’s contractor from working on the project.

“This created a huge inconvenience to our contractor, who has been great,” Whitemyer said of those PG&E delays. He noted that amidst the inconvenience and delays, there has been some positive progress regarding completion of the sidewalk on the west side of the street.

“In our opinion we did everything within our power to get PG&E advance notice and plenty of time to one, determine if work needs to be done or not and, two, if work needs to be done, to engineer to plan it and to do it prior to us having to do what we’re doing,” Whitemyer said. “In my opinion they’ve failed to plan for this and it’s really inconvenienced the businesses.”

To aid with the frustration as well as the impact felt by the downtown merchants, regular meetings have been held to keep them in the loop, as well as regular e-mail updates and grant money which was secured by the city.

“Eighty thousand in grants has been awarded to local downtown businesses on Third and $20,000 has been allocated for an additional RAD Card distribution,” Whitemyer stated. “That basically turns that $20,000 into $40,000 of revenue for those downtown businesses. Once we heard about the issues that PG&E was creating, we worked really hard to create this grant program and get the funds into their (merchants) pockets.”

The city manager also noted there are additional plans for claims for reimbursement of funds to PG&E with Change Orders as a result of the delays.

With construction now able to resume, Whitemyer shared one of the biggest frustrations is with the curbs not being complete around the businesses, prohibiting completion of a mid-block crossing to allow a bridge between parking and the west side shops.

“We always said we would be done by November,” he stated. “We would have been done (as mentioned) if not for this work.”

Now with the end looking to be in the new year, downtown merchants are preparing themselves for a season which may look a bit different by way of accommodating their customers.

“December 5 was the goal until the latest PG&E issue,” Kim West, co-owner of Roberts Ferry Gourmet shared, adding that when husband Nic stated “let’s just say January” for the street re-open at a recent meeting no one flinched.

“For our own sanity, we have to stay positive,” West said of the road construction and the impact it has had on their small business.

Further stating that they have been surrounded by so much negativity, the couple recognized it’s just not healthy for them overall.

“They’ve been upfront. I will give it to the city and the contractor,” Nic West added. “They have been consistent and regular in updating us on what’s going on.”

The couple noted, as echo to Whitemyer’s thoughts, that a walkway from the east side parking to their side of the street would be a big help this holiday season. He noted concerns with customers walking several blocks with gift items purchased at their shop.

Mrs. West shared she has been walking customers to their car with their purchases to aid with the parking restrictions.

“I don’t have capability to walk three blocks with every customer and I’ve been losing so much money, I don’t have the staff to have a runner,” she continued.

Yet the couple believes there is a viable solution and opportunity if the community, as well as the merchants, band together through the holiday season. The Wests believe everyone needs to come together as a community and seek volunteers or service clubs to help with customers and their packages from holiday shopping.

“We feel, honestly our whole message through this entire thing has been, we are going to have an amazing product when it’s done,” Mrs. West said of the construction. “It’s going to be amazing. Our community is investing in their businesses, that they want to create a downtown environment.”

For now, the Wests, along with several of their downtown neighbors feel the focus needs to stay positive and on supporting one another versus complaining without resolve or offer of temporary solution.

“If there’s any message I’d like to get out there to the community it is, stop saying you feel sorry for these businesses and start shopping at these businesses,” Whitemyer stated. “They’re open. So, let’s go down and buy stuff.”

And while navigating the area may be a little difficult, it’s worth the effort.

“Downtown is open, come down and spend money in the shops that we have,” Whitemyer continued. “Let’s support them. It’s our community, it’s a great community, let’s show it.”