Contractors paid to appease business owners

Road contractors in Florida could make an extra $152,000 for keeping business owners happy, thanks to a new pilot program developed by the state Transportation Department.

The DOT developed the incentive program in an effort to appease local businesses along U.S. Highway 441, where a road-widening project began in August 2002. Some owners complained they lost nearly half their customers because the roads were damaged, while other owners said construction equipment had been parked in front of parking lot entrances or in business parking lots, and business signs had been blocked by the construction.

The program will essentially pay contractors incentives for pleasing businesses located along the construction site by making access to restaurants, stores and offices relatively easy and well marked. Surveys will be sent out at least three times a year and filled out by owners to gauge how well the contractor is doing and if the construction work has affected the businesses’ success. The more pleased the owners are, the more money the contractor gets, up to $152,000.

The project will first be tested along a 3.1-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 192 in Osceola County, and other jobsites in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake, Volusia and Brevard counties will soon follow.

While the project was started to lessen the number of complaints the Florida DOT was receiving, DOT spokesman Steve Homan said it should result in a dialogue between contractors and local businesspersons. Boone Herberman, of DAB Constructors, also added that the project should make contractors more considerate of businesses and homes close to construction sites.