A group of Main and Center street business owners met with representatives of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) on November 18 to discuss the recently completed road reconstruction project. UDOT rebuilt Main and Center Streets in Monticello in a $15 million project that took most of the past six months.
The project included the installation of storm drains and pavement on both roads and new sidewalks and street lighting on Center Street. The utility infrastructure below the roads was replaced during the summer of 2008.
While the construction is complete and will serve the community for many years, the impact of two summers of construction on these businesses continues to be a serious threat.
“I just hope that we make it through the winter,” said Nancy Dutcher, who owns the Monticello Inn, MD Ranch Cookhouse and National Nine Inn.
While a number of business owners attended the meeting and expressed their concern, it is clear that tourist-related businesses, such as motels, restaurants and convenience stores, bore the brunt of the economic impact.
One business reported a decrease in revenues that approached $100,000, while another reported that tip revenue was down 50 percent for the summer. A third business reported that the number of employees they hired dropped by two thirds.
These factors impact the businesses and their employees. In addition, the City of Monticello has reported that sales tax collections are down. If trends continue, city officials fear that sales tax collections could be $100,000 lower than budget projections.
Motel owners collect an additional transient room tax that is used to promote travel and tourism efforts in the area.
The UDOT officials were told that the construction was poorly planned. The construction began with the total demolition of the entire length of both projects. The upheaval continued until the end of the project.
Restaurant and motel operators complained that their businesses were virtually inaccessible to all but small vehicles, with restricted access and poor signage.
Granite Construction, the major contractor on the project, had an employee who was tasked with addressing the concerns of local businesses. Some business owners said that the response was quick, but it did not solve or even address some of the most serious concerns.
The construction was originally planned for 2012 or later, but moved up on the calendar with the use of federal economic stimulus funds. One business owner questioned the narrow use of the funding, stating that the funds certainly stimulated one area of the economy (construction and infrastructure), but at a great cost to other areas of the economy (travel and tourism).
The UDOT officials expressed appreciation or the input and said they will consider the issue. It is unclear just what can be done now that the project is completed.
“We are not sure what we want,” said Scott Pehrson, owner of the Wayside Inn Best Western. “We just want to say that this isn’t the end. This issue is still alive.”