Infrastructure upgrade roadworks to underground Mount Gambier’s Margaret Street power lines started last week, prompting local businesses and sporting clubs to express frustrations at the 14 week project.
Mount Gambier City Council City Infrastructure general manager Barbara Cernovskis said the Power Line Environment Committee (PLEC) was a state-wide program to underground power lines and Margaret Street was identified as one of 10 projects in the 2021/22 funding round.
“The Margaret Street roadworks are a vital infrastructure upgrade for the City of Mount Gambier, particularly as it forms the entrance to the Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre,” Ms Cernovskis said.
Ms Cernovskis said council was responsible for designing and constructing Margaret Street remediation following PLEC works, as indicated in the 2022/2023 Annual Business Plan and Budget.
“Council has liaised with business owners, tenants and sporting clubs on Margaret Street and is keeping disruption to a minimum, with one-way access, additional parking arranged and the maintenance of freight deliveries to the Wulanda site,” she said.
Ms Cernovskis said the work would be completed in two stages, with stage one beginning on the southern side of the street and stage two of construction involving the northern side of the street.
Anvil Electronics owner Chris Ind said he received a week’s notice the roadworks would be taking place. “That was only from one of the council workers dropping off a letter, there’s been no real other correspondence from council about this,” he said.
“When talking to the council workers, I said ‘okay when you start to work on the northern side which is our side, because you’ll be blocking the footpath, how are our customers going to be able to access our business and their response was we have not worked that out yet.” Mr Ind said when the roadworks commenced last Monday morning there was traffic chaos.
“There was no traffic management, you had people trying to go along both directions in Margaret Street when it was one way,” he said. “On Tuesday in continuation of their work, they managed to dig up a water and gas main that shut Margaret Street down for a couple of hours with no-one allowed to go in and out of businesses or homes.”
Mr Ind said customers had been unsure if they could access the store and said Anvil Electronics trade dropped by 75% in the first two days of the roadworks. “We’re very unsure how it’s going to be managed,” he said. “They need to work out what they’re going to do to support businesses while they do all this, council needs to sit down with the businesses and the traders and also the residents of Margaret Street because there’s quite a few people who live along Margaret Street.”
Mount Gambier Netball Association (MGNA) president Cindy Launer said the roadworks had caused major issues with carparking and had taken away the option of parking on Margaret Street. “We had received no correspondence previous to this from council, so it came to us as a bit of a shock because at the same time not only were we going to be impacted by this new news of the road being ripped up, at the same time we were going to lose half of our carpark to the works that needed to be done for the Wulanda Centre,” Ms Launer said. “So it was going to deeply impact us because we do not have any other carparking facilities.”
Ms Launer said she contacted council and they were “extremely helpful” with the carparking situation. She said council negotiated with the naval base, Reidy Park Primary School and the Mount Gambier Martial Arts Academy so the MGNA overflow could use their carparks during the evening and on weekends.
Ms Launer said council also established a pathway from those carparks down to the rear entrance of the netball courts. She said if there was more council communication the association would have suggested delaying the roadworks due to their netball finals and presentation night, both held in August.
“To have that kind of information at such short notice and then we, as an organisation, had to approach council and say ‘what other alternatives are you going to give us,” Ms Launer said.