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Businesses Struggle During Bridge Repairs

By Bob McGarry, Haddam First Selectman and Kate Anderson, Haddam Selectman

(August 10, 2023) — Have you been on Bridge Road during any of the sixty-three-hour closures for the swing bridge repairs? (If not, you should go; the businesses need your support.) The road is empty; you’ll probably have it all to yourself. On a typical day 12,000 cars travel on Bridge Road. Now, from Sunday night at 8:00 until Wednesday morning at 11:00, that has dropped to zero. Imagine the impact that’s having on our Tylerville businesses. How many sales have been lost?

That’s why on August 23, 2023 we’re having a public hearing and town meeting to discuss the Business Interruption Loan/Loan Forgiveness Program to help Tylerville area businesses survive. The program is intended for retail, retail service and restaurant businesses that have a significant reliance on drive-by traffic. (That’s about 20-25 businesses.)

Businesses with multiple locations in Connecticut under the same ownership aren’t eligible. Businesses must be current on their taxes and in compliance with fire, safety, building and health codes. They can apply monthly for a loan to cover sales lost during the sixty-three-hour closure period (June 10, 2023 through November, 2023). The maximum loan is $5,000 per month up to a total of $20,000 for the closure period.

Businesses will have to document their sales for the month in both 2022 and 2023. Loans will be forgiven if the business stays in continuous operation until July 31, 2024. Loans will be secured through mortgages and/or liens.

The program will be funded out of a portion of Haddam’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, a stimulus bill designed to aid in economic recovery, and will have no impact on taxes. Haddam’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) voted unanimously to endorse the program as did the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance. EDC will administer the program, review applications and recommend which to approve. The Board of Selectmen is the approval authority.

Please keep in mind, lost sales aren’t the only cost of the bridge closures. The businesses have to pay more to make deliveries or visit their customers on the east side of the river. They’re spending more time driving or waiting for the ferry to get across the river. Some are offering incentives to keep their employees who commute across the river.

Scheduling employees is difficult and attracting new ones even more daunting. The swing bridge rehabilitation is just the latest in a string of challenges beyond the businesses’ control. They’ve had to deal with the Tylerville water project that dug up the roads in 2019 and 2020, Covid, the construction of sidewalks and lighting in 2022, the bridge work starting in 2022 and ending in 2024 and finally DOT building two roundabouts in 2024 and 2025.

The town has invested a lot of time, money and effort improving Tylerville, which the Tylerville businesses recognize and appreciate. The apartments on Brookes Court and the ones under construction on Bridge Road are evidence the effort is paying off. But we need to keep the business environment healthy. In addition to providing goods, services and employment to town residents, Tylerville businesses pay approximately $820,000 in taxes each year.

There’s an adage, tried and true, in economic development, “It’s easier to keep a business you have than it is to find one to replace it.” Haddam can’t afford to let the bridge, road and roundabout construction bankrupt our businesses and turn Tylerville into a ghost town!

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