North Columbia business says unfinished penny tax project hurting bottom line

Published: Jan. 24, 2020 at 8:25 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A North Columbia business said an unfinished Richland County Penny Tax project is deterring customers from frequenting their business.

The North Main Street Widening Project has been ongoing for years and aims to widen the road by installing islands surrounded by two lanes of traffic on either side. As part of the project, the sidewalk in the 3700 block of North Main Street was ripped up last summer to install new storm drains beneath it.

However, Richard Nodden, the owner of National Tax Services, said the sidewalk remains unpaved and is a hazard to his customers. Gravel sits where the cement once laid and there is no access for those using a wheelchair.

“We had one gentleman yesterday who had to stay in the car and his wife came in for him because he couldn’t go up the step,” said Brenda Konitzer, an employee at National Tax Services. “It’s ridiculous.”

Nodden said the business used to have a small ramp that led from the sidewalk to the doorway, but it was torn out during construction. He’s considered putting one in himself but is worried about liability.

“We thought about maybe trying to make some concrete steps, but we’re worried about liability and I don’t know when they’re going to come in and work on stuff again so anything we put up could be gone in a few days,” he said.

Much of the off-street parking has been taken away by the construction, leaving a select number of street spaces in front of the small strip center. With multiple businesses occupying the building, parking is of high demand, according to Nodden.

“With the parking, it makes people think we’re super busy and they don’t come and they tell us later they didn’t stop because it looks like we’re too busy,” he said.

Columbia City Councilman Sam Davis, who oversees the North Main Street corridor within his district, said he is going to reach out to the county to find out when the sidewalk may be replaced.

Nodden said if the problem isn’t fixed soon, his business may be forced to move out of the neighborhood it has called home for more than 50 years.

“We don’t want that,” he said. “I don’t want to see that. We made a commitment to folks they wouldn’t have to relocate as a result of construction,” Davis said. “That’s definitely an issue that’s unacceptable.”

Calls and emails put in to Richland County to gain an understanding of the timeline of the project went unanswered.

According to Councilman Sam Davis, there will be a public information meeting about the project on Feb. 6 at 5 p.m. inside the Print Building behind the old Eau Claire town hall.

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