Businesses, Chamber Air Lingering Concerns Regarding East Orleans Sewer Work
ORLEANS – Sewering along East Main Street will wrap for the summer by mid-May, easing concerns among business owners in the area that the work would stretch into June.
But while the revised timetable allows for the crucial summer business that local merchants depend on each year, concerns remain about how the work will impact businesses in the area through the winter, spring and beyond.
Sewer work that started Jan. 2 on East Main Street, which has resulted in the road’s closure from Tonset Road out to Meetinghouse Road, has detoured traffic up Tonset, across Hopkins Lane and down Meetinghouse. The work was originally planned for December, but was delayed so as not to disrupt the holiday season.
The interruption in business caused by the sewering has led Peter Gori, owner of Nauset Farms, to take drastic measures to protect the business, which he bought early last year. He told the select board Jan. 3 that with business off 90 percent, he was forced to lay off almost all of his employees, 22 in total.
The store will continue operating with what Gori called “a skeleton crew” five days a week from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (it’s closed Sundays and Wednesdays) in an effort to move existing inventory.
“How can I possibly stay open? I don’t know how many people are going to walk in the door,” he said following the meeting.
Gori and others, including Judy Lindahl, executive director of the Orleans Chamber of Commerce, were led to believe that the work would extend into the summer tourist season. On Dec. 9, a meeting was held between town officials, local business owners, chamber representatives, project contactor C.C. Construction and the town’s wastwater consultant, AECOM, where it was announced that work along East Main would wrap on June 15.
“It totally caught us by surprise,” Lindahl said when reached for comment last week. “When they said June 15, we thought ‘What are you talking about?’ Even the South Orleans work stopped two weeks before Memorial Day weekend.”
The town typically does not allow road work and construction during the busy summer season. Kevin Galligan of the select board said that the June timeline also took town officials by surprise. He said it is stipulated in the town’s contact with C.C. Construction that work along East Main would not be allowed between May 15 and Sept. 15.
“The contractor for some reason believed he could work into June,” Galligan said. “When we heard that, AECOM went back and said ‘No.’ That’s why we have it burned into our weekly progress meeting notes.”
During a followup stakeholder meeting on Tuesday, Brian Cooney, project manager for C.C. Construction, said the company’s contract with the town does allow work along some side streets during the summer. But he said that side work isn’t anticipated to cause any summertime disruption along East Main Street.
“To be honest with you, many of those streets are being done right now,” he said.
East Main Street Sewer Timetable
On Jan. 5, Galligan shared an email from Tom Loto of AECOM laying out the timetable for work along East Main Street out to Brick Hill Road.
Work from Tonset to Meetinghouse Road is expected to continue into February. Work will then continue in two phases from Meetinghouse Road to Great Oak Road, first from Feb. 14 to May 15 and again from Sept. 15 to Oct. 2.
Sewering will then proceed between Great Oak and Brick Hill roads from Oct. 3 to April 28, 2025. Road closures and detours will be in place for each phase.
But the May 15 seasonal cutoff still poses problems for Nauset Farms. Gori told the select board he’s preparing for “catastrophic losses” in the coming months. That includes potentially losing out on business from holidays including Easter and Mother’s Day.
There’s also concern from local businesses about resuming work in September, with Lindahl noting that more people are coming to enjoy the town’s beaches and outdoor recreational offerings well past Labor Day.
“My concern was ‘What about all the people who enjoy second summers on Cape Cod? What is that going to do to [the town’s] beach sticker sales?” she said.
Meanwhile, business owners said during Tuesday’s stakeholder meeting that allowing work in September can also have economic consequences.
“Just to get it out there and get it on record, September and October is stronger for us by a long shot than April and May, with the exception of Memorial Day weekend,” said Cameron Hadfield, who co-owns The Rail and co-manages the Barley Neck Inn across the street alongside his brother, Tyler. Both restaurants are situated in the phase of work planned between Meetinghouse Road and Great Oak Road.
Molly Avellar, who co-owns Adorn on East Main Street with her mother, Jenny, also stressed the importance of keeping the area accessible to residents and visitors into the fall.
“In September, the summer keeps going,” she said.
But Cooney said it is expected that work will only begin to get underway in that stretch of East Main Street by May, and that the work will likely need to resume in September into early October.
Sewer piping that’s being laid in the center of the roadway has necessitated road closures and detours in the area of the work. But business owners Tuesday asked what potential there might be to allow for lane closures instead of full road closures in the work areas moving forward. Hadfield said allowing traffic one way into East Orleans could relieve many impacts the work might have on local businesses in the area.
“Having one way out to East Orleans is much more valuable,” he said. “Once somebody’s there and has eaten and had a beer, they’re happy to mess around in the area.”
“That area is really going to need some special handling,” Galligan said Tuesday. “We’re lacking a lot of the [alternate routes] that we had downtown.”
But while a disruption, Galligan last week expressed confidence in the detours, which he said still allow access to local businesses in the area of the sewer work.
“There is no intent to shut down businesses,” he said. “What a business might do on their own, that’s up to them. But this project is not limiting any access to businesses. We may have some detours, but these are temporary, short term project impacts.”
Detours on Monument Road and Pond Road have already had an effect on business at Nauset Farms, and Gori said he fears the current detours will keep people from coming to his store at all for the duration of the sewer work along East Main. But Galligan said in the early going, he’s seeing otherwise.
“I’ll tell you, I’m seeing the same amount of traffic on there as if I was heading up East Main Street,” he said. “People are doing the detour, getting to where they need to go.”
Still, Gori said the detour routes aren’t designed to accommodate all vehicle traffic, including the large delivery trucks that regularly service his store. He said in a normal week, Nauset Farms typically receives about 35 deliveries a week.
“I don’t have the luxury of saying to Cisco, Coca-Cola or Budweiser ‘Bring a smaller truck,’” he said.
Going forward, Gori stressed the importance of looping in residents and businesses in the area of the sewer construction on any changes or developments regarding detours and lane closures.
“We would love to be part of the conversation about how that happens,” he said Tuesday.
Better Communication, Signage Needed
While he said the impacts to his business could be severe, Gori said much of it could have been avoided with better communication from the town and the contractor.
“If they had simply told me, I could have adjusted my business,” he told the select board Jan. 3, noting that communication with the town and the contractor on the project has been problematic.
Initially, Gori said he was told by the town’s project ombudsman that work along East Main Street would not continue into May. He also lamented what he sees as the town and the contractor’s failure to keep the public informed on the sewering plans, including local businesses.
“I have proactively connected with the staff each and every time,” he said. “I’ve reached out to members of the select board and they have all been responsive. But I have never, right now still, ever been proactively reached out to about this project.”
Stakeholder meetings such as those held Tuesday and in December are designed to improve communication between all parties involved for the duration of the Meetinghouse Pond sewer project, which is expected to take two years.
Meanwhile, the need for better signage in the area of the sewer work also was flagged as a concern Tuesday. Lindahl spoke of the confusion caused by signs at the intersection of Tonset Road and Main Street that say Main Street is closed to “thru traffic” while at the same time advertising that town hall is open. She said she was directed by an officer in the area to drive through in the direction of town hall.
“He said ‘You are the seventh person this morning that I’ve told to go through,’” she said.
New signs are also due to be put up shortly advertising that local businesses in the area of the construction work are open. Mike Solitro, the town’s assistant town planner, said the signs will feature the logos of 12 to 15 local businesses.
Galligan added that “confidence signage” will also be put up along the detour routes to let motorists know that they are continuing the right way down the detour routes.
In an email Tuesday, Town Manager Kim Newman said that the complications that large projects such as sewering can pose for residents and businesses aren’t lost on the town.
“These types of projects are incredibly important for a community and we understand that disruptions affect everyone,” she said. “We try our best to make our schedule to accommodate known issues, like seasonal traffic and seasons, but there will always be factors that can change a schedule like weather or public safety concerns.”
Different Impacts For Different Businesses
Nauset Farms has operated year-round for decades dating back to its time as Fancy’s. But for seasonal business owners, the impact could be lessened significantly if they can still generate steady business during the summer months.
Things are slow at The Rail, but that’s because the breakfast spot at the intersection of East Main Street and Beach Road is closed for the winter. The restaurant reopens for weekend service in March.
Hadfield said Tuesday that The Rail might limit breakfast service to Saturdays and Sundays while sewer work is happening in the area; work along the street is being done Monday through Friday. But he’s hopeful that the work won’t pose too much of a problem. He even sees the potential for the work to benefit his restaurant if the construction and detours sway East Orleans residents from venturing further into town to eat.
“We’re the East Orleans restaurant,” he said. “They’ll come to us, and we’ve seen that.”
But the interruptions brought on by sewering serve for some as a reminder that there are impacts that can be felt by businesses on Main Street, even if they’re on the other side of Route 28. East Orleans may lack the hustle and bustle of downtown, but to Gori, it’s Main Street all the same.
“This isn’t little Main Street,” he said. “This isn’t Main Street Extension. This is Main Street.”
Email Ryan Bray at firstname.lastname@example.org
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