Some businesses in the Pier Village on St. Simons Island may not be able to open early next week due to a change of plans in the county’s village drainage improvement project.
GWES Engineer Burke Murph said contractors uncovered a water line that wasn’t identified in their documents near Barbara Jean’s restaurant. The pipe conflicts with plans to run a drainage pipe through the area and needs to be lowered, he said.
“This was an unknown. The water line that was uncovered was not identified previously,” Murph said. “It was an unknown, we had no idea it was there.”
Following the water line lowering, Murph said the utility will need to put out a 48-hour precautionary boil-water advisory that will apply to Brogan’s South, The Half Shell, St. Simons Tea Company and Barbara Jean’s restaurant, he said.
Jim and Barbara Barta, owners of Barbara Jean’s, were none too pleased with the development.
“In other words, we won’t be able to open,” Jim said. “... You’ve got to be kidding.”
The Glynn County Health Department has warned them before that, even if they have water service, they can’t serve food cooked with tap water or served on dishes washed with tap water during a boil-water advisory.
“We can’t remain open during boil-water advisories. They won’t let us,” said Barbara Barta.
Project Manager Aaron Beckworth asked if they could use bottled water, to which Jim Barta replied that they couldn’t afford to wash dishes and cook food all day with bottled water.
Glynn County Commissioner David O’Quinn asked for any solutions to prevent the businesses from having to close.
Brunswick-Glynn County Joint Water and Sewer Commission officials said they could think of no way to maintain service to the establishments without issuing a boil-water advisory.
Best case scenario, Beckworth said contractors lower the water line in four to six hours late Sunday night and issue the advisory very early Monday morning. Businesses would then be able to open late Tuesday or on Wednesday.
“Of the worst times to do it, is that the least worst time to do it?” said county Public Works Director Dave Austin.
“It’s the best of the worst,” Jim Barta said.
On the pavement side, Mallery Street’s western sidewalk has been replaced with new concrete from Butler Avenue up to Lord Avenue, said Beckworth.
Work crews have moved on to demolishing and installing new curbs and were preparing to pour concrete in front of Iguanas Seafood Wednesday morning.
Murph said it looks like the contractors will be finished laying new concrete that day, which Beckworth confirmed. Beckworth then said they would begin tearing up asphalt parking spaces Wednesday night.
They will clean up the area and move equipment prior to the weekend, Murphy added.
If everything goes to plan, Beckworth said he’d like to be laying new asphalt by Friday of next week. However, around 10 parking spaces will have to remain closed at any given time to make room for construction equipment, he said.
“You’re talking maybe 25 percent of the available parking spaces on Mallery. On one side. I’d call that a substantial hit,” Jim Barta said.
When the contractors begin laying new asphalt, however, they’ll need to close all the parking spaces between Butler Avenue and Del Sur restaurant.
“Next Friday morning the west side of Mallery Street — and they will start as soon as they can get asphalt — all the parking on the west side of Mallery next Friday morning will be closed, depending on the weather,” Murph said.
Beckworth said that, if all goes well, the parking spaces will be reopened by 10 a.m. next Friday and the contractor should be finished with work on Mallery Street two weeks or so before Memorial Day, May 27.
Pier Village business owners had expressed their concerns at the construction update meeting on March 13 about the work conflicting with the spring break school holiday and Easter.
“The Monday after Easter is generally a very busy day. Most people get a holiday on that Monday, so that hurts again,” Jim Barta said.
Now that it looks like the construction may stretch into mid-May, on top of a sudden boil water advisory, the merchants are even less optimistic about the project.
While he wasn’t happy to hear the news, Forrest Brown, owner of Brogan’s, said none of it was really a surprise.
“All this (infrastructure) has been neglected a long time. There was no way they were going to open it up and say ‘Hey, this is better than we expected,’” Brown said.
Jepter Butler, the owner of Iguanas Seafood, could be found after the meeting outside his restaurant on Mallery Street, directing foot traffic around the construction and to his establishment. He said any construction will be tough on business.
“It’s much-needed work. The timing is a little off,” Butler said.
There are always unknowns in construction work, he said. Some of those unknowns can create hiccups, which is what they’re experiencing now.
“For the merchants, we live and die by the tourism. Some of the shops here expect it,” Butler said.