ASHLAND — Much to the consternation of business owners, Ashland's A Street, the increasingly busy "other" downtown, will be completely torn up for repaving and a new sewer main and storm drain over a five-month period in early 2008.

ASHLAND — Much to the consternation of business owners, Ashland's A Street, the increasingly busy "other" downtown, will be completely torn up for repaving and a new sewer main and storm drain over a five-month period in early 2008.

"It's pretty alarming. We got notice that, wow, it's happening in three weeks and we would not have access to our delivery driveway for periods of time," said Ashland Food Co-op General Manager Richard Katz.

"The implications of that are ridiculous. It would make it impossible for us to do business."

However, City Engineer Karl Johnson now says the contractor hasn't provided a schedule and the street redo may be pushed back as far as next spring.

And after a meeting Thursday with Katz, Johnson says the city agreed not to block the co-op's delivery driveway during construction.

The city notice told business owners the project would be done in three sections so that most of a two-block part of A Street between Oak and just beyond First Street would be open at any given time.

Calling the project necessary but a "pain in the neck for everyone," Katz said it would temporarily wipe out much-needed parking on A Street behind the co-op, change adjacent First Street from one-way to two-way traffic during the project and make it much more difficult for shoppers to enter and turn around to leave toward the downtown area.

Businesses in A Street Marketplace, including Plexis Healthcare Systems, Music Coop, Enchanted Florist and Oregon Stage Works, will have access to their parking lot at all phases of the construction, said Johnson.

"It's going to be an inconvenience for a very long time, but the lot will be accessible," said Music Coop owner John Brenes. "My attitude is we've got to go with the flow and we're not going to stop the city."

Bohemia Gallery across the street will have parking, but all these businesses will be reachable on foot, as sidewalks will remain in place.

Work on the three sections will be repeated — three phases for the sewer, three for the storm drain and three for road surfacing, but the city agreed to place the co-op's delivery driveway on the border between phase 2 and 3 so it's always accessible, said Johnson.

Going east from Oak Street, the construction goes by Pioneer Street and will extend only 25 feet past First Street, so it will not block Ashland Hardware, Lela's Café or other businesses between First and Second, said Johnson. Still, it will block through traffic three times on A Street in front of those shops.

"Who likes construction?" said Lela Sherdon, owner of Lela's Café. "If they're going to wait (on the start date), spring is not the best time, because we're heading into tourist season and it would make more sense to wait till fall." The project was prompted by degraded street conditions, storm drain leaks from the long-gone Twin Plunges pool and ground water flowing near the surface into the street, said Johnson and city streets director John Peterson.

Referring to the short notice of the start date, the confusion over his driveway and the loss of parking, Katz said, "It's never been the city's prime concern to deal with the fallout of their projects." But, he added, "A Street got built up way more than anyone thought it would."

Johnson said he would be nailing down the start date with the contractor in January and would alert all businesses in the area.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.