Two business owners who operate along First Avenue in Newton demanded an explanation from the city as to why they were not notified ahead of time of council members’ consideration to authorize street closures for the upcoming RAGBRAI route through town, which was ultimately approved at the June 5 meeting.
Dr. Steven Rabedeaux, of The Dental Practice, which is located in the 1900 block of First Avenue East, expressed his disappointment and frustrations during the open forum section of the June 19 city council meeting. Rabedeaux is a lifelong Newton resident who has held a dental practice in town for 40 years.
“I feel like I’m a little late to the party, but I have a strong need to be heard. I just recently found out the RAGBRAI street closure closes my office for that day, that Thursday in July. I’m just insulted that no one told me that I was going to be closed (and) that I found out about that just by scuttlebutt.”
The entry point into the city on July 27 will be Highway F-48 West/First Avenue West. Cyclists will travel on First Avenue West to West Eighth Street North, then to North Second Avenue West/East, then to East Third Street North, then to First Avenue East and then exit city limits on First Avenue/Highway 6.
There will be road closures all along the route, as well as other closed off areas near downtown for event space. Council had approved the closures in a 6-0 vote.
“I’m disrespected as a business owner. That’s about a $15,000 a day revenue loss for me,” he said. “I’m disrespected as an employer. I have 13 people who are out of work that day. I’m disrespected as a doctor. There’s more than 25 people I have to re-appoint for that day. And I’m disrespected as a taxpayer.”
Rabedeaux also criticized the city for not being able to provide enough barricades for the day. Newton News previously reported that Advanced Traffic Control, of Fairfax, would be paid more than $12,000 to provide and install extra barricades for the cross streets through First Avenue.
The longtime Newton resident and dentist clarified he is not against RAGBRAI, but he feels hurt that the city did not contact him and inform him that his business would effectively be closed for the day. Scott Farver, of Farver True Value, which is located in the 2600 block of First Avenue East, also shared his dissatisfaction.
Although he attended a May meeting in which council members settled on a route that would take cyclists almost the entire length of First Avenue, Farver arrived to the council meeting with a dozen of his employees in the audience. He echoed what Rabedeaux said.
“Nobody came to me and said, ‘Hey, Scott! Is this going to work with you being closed the whole day?’ They don’t get paid. They have to take a vacation day if we close. Maybe they don’t have the opportunity to take a vacation day. You’re effectively holding them back from getting a paycheck that day,” Farver said.
Then the business owner pointed to the 12 employees sitting in the audience.
“I want you to look them in the face and you tell them they’re not getting paid that day,” Farver said. “It’s not fair and it’s unjust.”
Newton Mayor Mike Hansen addressed the business owners’ concerns at the beginning and end of the city council meeting, saying he had a conversation with the city administrator about it. Hansen apologized they were not contacted by the city, but assured them he will be working on the issues.
“Thank you for bringing that to our attention,” Hansen said, later noting that he will rectify the issues that prevent access to businesses that want to stay open.