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Downtown pain worth the gain

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By Dave Bell

This week, they brought in the big equipment.

And as the first buckets of earth were moved, the downtown enhancement project in Vandalia is officially under way.

The first phase will be to install new storm sewer lines. Those will take runoff water out of the sanitary sewer system, which should significantly reduce the load on our sewage treatment plant. Plus, by moving the storm water out of the area more efficiently, the incidents of basement flooding will be significantly reduced in the downtown area.

Already, it's been noisy, muddy and inconvenient. We should expect that. It's a construction project, after all.

But are those inconveniences enough for us to wish the project wasn't happening? No way. Those inconveniences are a small price to pay for the improvements we'll enjoy after the project is complete.

As merchants watch the construction activity, the focus must remain on the final product – a downtown that is attractive, efficient and served by an up-to-date infrastructure system. It will – in the end – make our downtown more attractive to customers.

We're encouraged by the launch on Monday of the monthly informational meetings – called "Mornings on Main Street." Those are times for the city to communicate pertinent information to merchants, and for merchants to share their concerns with city officials and contractors. The goal for those meetings is to enhance the flow of information so that the project can proceed with the least disruption to the businesses in the downtown area.

If we approach it correctly, downtown businesses can even turn the project into a positive by running "construction zone" specials or by emphasizing the improvements that will result from the work. Like all things in life, it's what we make of our circumstances that determines the outcome.

We must remember that the majority of communities our size are not in a position to undertake a project of this magnitude. We're fortunate that grants have been secured and money set aside to make significant and lasting investments in our central business district.

Remember that, when the jackhammers start rattling the windows and the heavy equipment is roaring.

It'll be worth it in the end.

db