HAVERHILL — The reconstruction of Central Square in Bradford — which has created what's been described as a war zone throughout the bustling village — has forced one longtime South Main Street merchant to seek a new home and left city officials scrambling to help other businesses survive.
Bob Bertoni, owner of Megahertz-Computer at 105 South Main St., has decided to move across the street into a retail plaza, city councilors said at their meeting last night.
Bertoni is one of many merchants and property owners who have been pleading with city leaders for months to replace already scarce customer parking gobbled up by the Route 125 improvement project and to speed the work that has been ravaging the heart of Bradford since summer.
Bertoni's computer company is one of several businesses — including a restaurant, appliance store and tax service — located in a large building at the corner of South Main Street and South Pleasant Street that is owned by Thomas Bastian.
Last night the council voted unanimously to limit parking at the beginning of South Pleasant Street to one hour on both sides. The stretch of roadway is between Bastian's building and Bradford Liquors.
This measure will open about eight parking spaces on South Pleasant for customers of the businesses in Bastian's building, Councilor William Macek said. The businesses have lost several parking spaces in front of their stores due to the redesign of the square, which includes a traffic signal near the location.
In August, Bastian told councilors that his tenants were suffering due to the construction and a few had to lay off workers. He said he temporarily reduced the rent for most of them.
Macek initially moved to limit parking on the South Pleasant stretch to one hour from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the proposal was changed to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"This is a great idea to help those businesses and bring back customers, but 7 a.m. is a little early," Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O'Brien said.
Other councilors said residents who live on South Pleasant, especially those who live in a nearby apartment complex, park on the street for long periods of time. Now they will have to move their vehicles or risk getting ticketed or towed.
The business owners and councilors have been especially critical of the state Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the $15 million Route 125 construction project. Councilor Willian Ryan said people who live in the area are as frustrated as the merchants.
"It's very bad with drivers cutting through neighborhoods and chaos everywhere," Ryan said. "And people look out and don't see a lot of work going on. But when the state starts a job you got to give them a decade to get it finished. ...The whole thing was not well thought out for people who have invested their lives over there. But if we can add even one or two parking spaces, that should help."
The work in the square is supposed to be completed next summer.
"Soon there going to have to stop for winter, but who knows how they'll leave it," Councilor Colin LePage said of work in the square.