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Road work puts Halesite biz owners in jam

Robert Berry, owner of Hi-Hook Bait and Tackle

Robert Berry, owner of Hi-Hook Bait and Tackle in Huntington, says his business has been impacted by ongoing construction. (June 22, 2012) Credit: Jeremy Bales

Robert Berry described the construction outside his Halesite business as an "absolute nightmare."

Berry said construction vehicles, barrels and cones have repeatedly blocked his entrance. Once, workers dug up his parking lot, making it impossible for customers to get in, and many may have thought he was closed.

Berry's store, Hi-Hook Bait & Tackle, is on New York Avenue (Route 110) in Halesite, where the state started an $18.1 million drainage and roadway improvement project in the spring.

Berry said the construction has cost him hundreds of dollars. In a two-week period in June, he said, his store was blocked four times.

He acknowledged the project is long overdue, but said the invasive work should be done at night.

Neighboring business owners share Berry's frustrations, but some say the disturbances and traffic are worth it because the 0.9-mile-long project is supposed to fix a flooding problem.

Across the street from Berry's store, Coneys Marina vice president Kevin Coneys said some inconveniences are expected. "Developing in a developed area is difficult," Coneys said. "I don't think anything has been unreasonable."

The workers have been "very cooperative" and notify Coneys when they are going to do something disruptive. He said it has financially affected Coneys "to a degree," but says flooding when it rains hard also hurts business.

The state Department of Transportation has received "a handful" of complaints since work started, said spokeswoman Eileen Peters. When Berry contacted them with an issue, Peters said, they addressed it immediately. She said the project is going "well" and is on schedule.

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said the town has advocated for the project for at least 19 years, while he has been supervisor. Petrone said the project, which will include the creation of two traffic circles, should mitigate flooding. It is slated to be finished next July.

"The inconvenience now is expected," he said. "There is no other way to do this."

Closing the road was not an option, because it could cause businesses to fail, he said. "So this is the best of all evils for a happy ending," he said.

But Jeff Feuer, owner of Cartel the Salon on New York Avenue, said that about a month ago, without warning, his water was shut off. He said customers have shown up late or missed appointments because of the heavy traffic, which he says has hurt his salon's bottom line.

Next door, Junior's Pizza owner Al Salese said he sees fewer customers during lunch, but that is offset by the construction workers who visit.

Junior's has been in Halesite for 30 years, and Salese said nothing has been done to fix the area.

"It looks horrible. I really think when it is all done, it is going to look beautiful and worth the little bit of hassle we have had to deal with," he said.

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