As they have been threatening to do for months, 12 businesses hurt by ongoing Main Street reconstruction announced Monday they are suing Salt Lake City and the Utah Transit Authority - just days before a street gala celebrating the street's reopening.

Bruce Baird, attorney for the businesses, said he was going to file a complaint in 3rd District Court Monday afternoon asking for compensation for loss of business and other damage caused by the Main Street street and sidewalk being torn up for months from South Temple to 700 South, as well as portions of South Temple, 700 South and 200 West.The city has scheduled a party Friday at 200 South and Main, complete with performers and speeches, to commemorate the opening (though not the total completion) of all of Main Street except the block from 500 to 600 South.

From beginning to end, the reconstruction will have taken almost two years, and some work will go even longer.

The city and UTA have both had a hand in the reconstruction - the city redoing the street and underlying utilities, and UTA putting down light-rail tracks. They have earmarked $1 million to help businesses hurt by the construction, but Baird said it hasn't been enough.

"All we've gotten are vague expressions of concern, and no one has stepped up to the plate and given out any money," he said.

One-fourth, $250,000, of the money has been spent on advertising that businesses were still open during reconstruction, $500,000 has gone to low-interest loans and $250,000 to outright grants.

The grant money was approved last spring, but because the Downtown Alliance, which is administering the money, has had several meetings with business owners and the city deciding how it will be disbursed, it has not yet gone out, a delay Baird has decried.

Valerie Price, community development director for the Downtown Alliance, said 80 percent of the $250,000 will go out by the end of the week.

"It's going out," she said. "There's just been a lot of procedure to go through."

Twenty-two businesses joined in three separate "notices of claim" against the city last summer, a pre-requisite to going to court. Of those 22, only 12 are going ahead with the suit so far.

"Some of them decided they didn't want to go any further," Baird said. "They were tired of the whole thing."

Tony Weller, co-owner of Sam Weller Books, for example, is not one of the 12.

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"I wasn't certain about the timing, and there were other factors," he said. "But it is something that I still might do. I certainly think there is merit to this, and I hope they succeed. Some of these people were pretty anxious to get it rolling, but I'm a little more careful. I think suing the city and UTA is a pretty unpleasant thing."

Weller said he knows of one business owner that hasn't joined in the suit simply because he's flat broke from the reconstruction, and spending money on a suit that he's not sure he'll get anything back from worries him.

The businesses had to wait 90 days from the notices of claim to sue, and a few are still waiting for the waiting period to expire. They then have one year in which to file suit.

Baird said he'll rely on a 1988 Utah Court of Appeals case in which Salt Lake City was directed to reimburse a business owner for damages due to curb work in front of his business. Ironically, Baird represented the city in that case.

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