SAFETY HARBOR — Closing off part of downtown's major thoroughfare for sewer repairs will wait until after the holiday shopping season.
City commissioners on Monday pumped the brakes on repairs that were supposed to start that day and close a block of Main Street for up to a month.
The delay could cost the city an additional $3,000 to $5,000, but ensures no road construction will disrupt businesses during the holiday season.
"I know this is their time to bring in significant income," said Mayor Andy Steingold, who fielded several calls from business owners over the weekend. "Other businesses won't be as affected, but some are greatly affected by the loss of business during that time."
Crews were ready to begin work on Main Street between 10th and 11th avenues on Monday. The city needs to replace 500 feet of water and sewer lines that are 70 years old. There's some depression in the road, leading officials to believe there's some sewer failure in the area.
The city had detour routes drawn up and at least one electronic sign posted at the corner of 11th Avenue N and Main Street announcing the start of construction.
But with the holiday season drawing near, downtown business owners worried the timing could have deep ramifications on their bottom line. The city says 10,000 cars pass through the two-lane street daily.
City Manager Matt Spoor spent six hours talking to owners on Monday. About a half-dozen of them showed up at Monday's commission meeting.
City commissioners pushed the start date back to mid January even as they acknowledged the delay might cost Safety Harbor more money.
The cost of materials could be higher then, and if that's the case, the moneys would be drawn from a contingency fund, Spoor said.
Officials promised a better job of notifying businesses of upcoming closures. In one instance, Tanya Parkes, the owner of T&T's Hair Salon, said she wasn't given sufficient notice of this one.
Spoor said the city will "open up more lines of communication" with the Downtown Business Council and the Chamber of Commerce.
Business owners applauded and yelled "thank you" after the commission's 5-0 vote.
"They're coming into their busy holiday season and a whole lot of downtown events," said Betsy Byrd, the outgoing chairwoman of the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce. January "would be a much better time than right now."
While the city didn't mind adjusting plans, Spoor said, "it's never a good time to close Main Street."
But, Steingold said, "we have to close the street down at some point."
Rodney Thrash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4167.