Reconstruction of Fredonia Ave. scaring many customers away
Village of Fredonia residents and business owners have had to endure some challenging access issues along Fredonia Avenue over the past 12 months.
In the middle of last year, the village’s primary east-west thoroughfare was torn up for the installation of new sewer and water lines.
That was followed by a bone-jarring temporary paving job for the winter that many claim was worse that the construction zone it covered.
Then, this spring the reconstruction of the road began in earnest, leaving a rutted trail of dirt, mud and gravel from Edmaro Street on the west to Highland Drive on the east.
The $2 million road project, which is being paid for jointly by Ozaukee County and the village, is expected to be completed by mid-August, according to the work contract.
Coping with the road has been difficult for folks having to drive through town, but it has proven supremely aggravating for businesses on and around Fredonia Avenue.
Part of the problem, business owners note, is a pair of large signs placed at both ends of the construction zone warning “road closed to thru traffic.”
The Fredonia Chamber of Commerce approached the Village Board recently, asking that it help pay for a newspaper ad with a construction zone map, explaining that businesses are still open — although they can be difficult to get to.
Village President Don Dohrwardt, who own’s Don’s Fredonia Greenhouse on nearby South Milwaukee Street with his wife Lisa, said it is not an unreasonable request to support the local business community.
“A number of businesses in the area feel we need to make it clear to people that they are still open,” Dohrwardt said.
Rather than paying for a one-time ad, trustees asked that additional signs be posted at the ends of the construction zone offering a more positive message — “Local businesses are open. Please support them during road construction!”
Chiropractor David Brouillette, owner of Brouillette Back & Neck Clinic, didn’t wait for the village to intervene. He has put up signs throughout the community, reminding people that he is still seeing patients.
Despite those preemptive measures, Brouillette said, his business has been hurt by the impression that his office is inaccessible because of the construction.
Most days, customers can reach the office via Fillmore Street, although he said he had to close for two days when it was impossible to reach his door.
“It has certainly affected our business. If someone took 30% off your paycheck, how would you feel? As businesses, that is what we are experiencing or worse,” Brouillette said.
“And not only is it affecting my business, it is affecting my patients who decide it is too difficult to get to the office and put off a treatment.”
Brouillette agreed the road needs to be rebuilt, but laments the decision not to bury overhead utility lines as part of the project.
“This is an opportunity we are not going to have for another 40 or 50 years,” he said.
Neuens Fredonia Lumber is located in the middle of the construction zone, but the staff is taking a philosophical stance on the project.
“It has been a hardship, but we realize it is something that had to be done. We are part of the community and plan to be here for a long time,” said company president D.J. Janik.
He said the lumber company has been sending the latest access routes via e-mail, including a back way off Park Street made possible through the cooperation of property owner Robert Rathsack.
“Luckily our customers are very loyal and are going through the extra effort to support our business through the construction,” Janik said.
Even though Don’s Fredonia Greenhouse is not located on Fredonia Avenue, Lisa Dohrwardt, who is also a village trustee, said many customers have had trouble figuring out how to get to the business amid the construction work.
“It hasn’t been a picnic. People have been complaining loudly, and the ones who come mention how hard it was to get here,” she said.
“Our business is down noticeably, but some of that could also be blamed on the lousy weather we have had on the weekends.”
Dohrwardt said she was disappointed that business owners were not apprised of when specific roads would be closed to all traffic.
The greenhouse has included directions describing how to get to the location using Highway 57 and Meadowlark Road on its website.
However, there are no alternate routes for businesses located directly on Fredonia Avenue.
Because the Fredonia Government Center is also located on Fredonia Avenue, village officials have been receiving plenty of input about the project from frazzled residents.
“We get comments at Village Hall and on the phone all the time,” Village Clerk Sandi Tretow said.
“In fact, I think the people who make it here for whatever reason then feel compelled to complain.”
Imgae information: VISITORS TO FREDONIA’S business district get mixed messages (top photo) once they arrive at the barricades on either end of Fredonia Avenue. A “road closed” sign was recently augmented by an invitation to support local businesses during the road reconstruction project. Lower photo, businesses like Brouillette Back and Neck Clinic and Neuens Fredonia Lumber have made a point to trying to help customers get through the chaos to their doors. Photos by Mark Jaeger