Updated by: Garin Flowers
February 7, 2014
Less traffic equals less business for shops on Lafayette Street in Leon County.
The county started a road project two years ago and business owners say they've been hurting because of it. That includes David Barrett who owns an executive office area with 44 spaces.
"Our businesses happen to be in the middle of the block and so our only access on the front is on Lafayette Street," Barrett said.
"Tenants have to leave because they've not been able to have their clients or customers come in and we've not had new clients come in."
Commissioner Bill Proctor says he and the county are to blame and that they need to fix it.
"They have been injured, they have been hurt and the county has a responsibility to right the wrong we've committed," Proctor said.
The Wharf has also taken a bad hit because many of their customers travel Lafayette street to reach them.
"We would really like to see them finish up and move on," said Amy Hill, an employee with The Wharf.
"A multitude of customers have come in complaining about the frustration."
At their last meeting, county commissioners approved a program to help businesses in the future affected by construction, but say they've already started working to help out businesses on Lafayette.
They posted signs of businesses' names and signs of shop on Lafayette throughout the area. They also created radio PSAs marketing the areas' commerce.
"It's my hope that the county commission will correct what we've done to this group of business owners and that we will do more than put a little sign up by the side of the road in order to ask people to shop here," Proctor said.
On Tuesday, commissioners have an agenda item where they will vote whether to compensate Kwik Kuts Barbershop - one of the stores affected by the construction.
The past couple of years haven't been the same for Mahir Rutherford and Shannon Booker.
The two own Kwik Kutz Barbershop on Lafayette Street in Tallahassee and say construction has slowed down their once lucrative business.
"Don't put me out of business while you are doing your work," Booker said.
The construction is a Leon County project. So, they brought their issues to the county commission meeting on Tuesday.
"At one point, we had four barbers and a hair stylist, in addition to me and my partner Mr. Rutherford, but now it's just down to us two," Booker added.
"We can't sustain like that much longer," Rutherford said.
Commissioners agreed the men's store has been hit hard by all the construction.
"Mr. Booker said that because his money is kind of funny that it's affecting his honey, and he said that it's affecting his marriage. When a man's money gets funny, it does affect his honey," said Leon County Commission Bill Proctor.
The construction is all part of a Lafayette Street improvements plan, which has multiple phases and has gone on now for two years.
"I think from my perspective, we made a lot of stupid decisions when it came to road construction in decades past and we're taking the time to correct those," said Kristin Dozier, chairwoman of the Leon County Commission.
Commissioners voted on a two-part plan:
One, their staff will take a look at Kwik Kutz sales before and after the construction to see how the store can be compensated.
Two, to create a grant program for the future, where businesses in similar situations can apply for money.
"We're here to ask the county to correct the wrong, not mitigate imminent domain, but correct the wrong that was done," Rutherford said.
According to the Leon County website, construction will continue on that stretch of road through at least June of this year.