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Business owner offers ODOT construction criticism

Save 4 Store in Shalersville struggles amidst ODOT project

By MATTHEW MERCHANT Staff Writer Published: July 16, 2017 4:00 AM
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A family-owned roadside gas station in Shalersville is facing off against the Ohio Department of Transportation.

When the construction along S.R. 303 in Shalersville was announced several months ago, at least one business eyed closing up shop while hundreds of homeowners were unsure of how to get home. According to the ODOT map, the entire stretch of roadway between S.R. 44 and S.R. 14 was to be shut down for two months.

But that's not the case.

Still, the construction confusion has left Save 4 Store owner Sam Eisele unsure of whether or not his business can weather yet another ODOT storm.

"We're about $1,000 a day off, and when you do $3,000 in business on a really good day, that hurts," Eisele said. "This place makes money 3-4 months out of the year. The rest of the time we either break even or we lose money. Some months I don't take home a paycheck. I do that to make sure my people get paid first."

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Eisele said the store is still struggling to climb out of a financial hole left when the bridge over the Cuyahoga River was replaced a few yards away from the storefront.

"I've spent my entire life here. And to have someone in two months yank it out from under me for no fault of my own -- I'm trying to make this work -- I take strong offense at that," he said.

Eisele took over the business from his father decades ago, keeping it a staple in the community. He employs veterans and veteran's families, both of which are affected when business goes bad.

As the sign outside reads, Eisele and those who shop at the Save 4 Store feel like they're getting "Screwed by ODOT again," especially since the announcement lead some locals to believe the road would be shut down completely.

According to the project announcement, "Beginning Monday, July 10, SR 303 between Diagonal and S.R. 44 will be closed through mid-September for two bridge replacements. The detour will be SR 14 to SR 44. This work is the beginning of a $1.6 million project to resurface SR 303 between the eastern Streetsboro Corporation limit and SR 44."

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But S.R. 303 has not been closed off completely. In fact, only two sections of the road have been closed for small bridge replacements as of today: One, between Yoder Ditch and Keiffer Road, and one between Infirmary Road and S.R. 44. However, in between those two points along S.R. 303, drivers can reach destinations.

Eisele said he reached out to ODOT to ask how to let people know they could still reach his store, considering the map and project announcement were misleading. Even a sign attached to the "Road Closed" signs would be helpful, he said.

Brent Kovacs, a public information officer for ODOT District 4, said the announcements were clear and provided accurate information.

"We understand that these project will be inconvenient for residents and small businesses," Kovacs said. "We are willing to work with businesses to put signs at either end of the closure."

ODOT said it works to ensure that residents and businesses in the areas they are working on know which routes will be open.

In addition to what he believes is a misleading announcement, Eisele said he is upset about the lack of economic help from ODOT to business owners affected in the construction zone.

ODOT currently does environmental inspections, obtaining clearance of the National Environmental Policy Act before beginning a project. However, there is no planning for economic impacts to local businesses, Kovacs said, adding that there has never been consideration for local businesses, partly because it's not ODOT's job to maintain those businesses.

"We work every day to ensure and maintain safe roadways for Ohioans. It's up to the businesses in those areas to let their customers know how to reach them," he said.

Eisele said he has reached out to Ohio Sen. John Eklund for help in writing legislation that would require construction companies, including ODOT, to include a line-item in a project budget to include an economic impact study.

"I'm angry, yeah. But I'm not going to call someone to complain. I'm going to work toward a possible solution. Even if it's 10 percent of the economic loss per business, that'll be something," he said. "My dad always told me that if you treat people fairly then they'll continue to take care of you. Right now, ODOT isn't taking care of us.

Email: mmerchant@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-298-1127

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redleg6 Jul 16, 2017 1:55 PM

From above:..Brent Kovacs, a public information officer for ODOT District 4, said the announcements were clear and provided accurate information.....

*** If the announcements were clear, why all the confusion..???

Maybe the RC made a mistake..???

** Sam,

I thought 303 was going to be closed also...

Maybe you should have put a "THANK YOU ODOT" on the sign for sending all that extra detour traffic pass your store

when the Lake Rockwell bridge was closedOct 16-Mar 17....