While asphalt at the Clarenville Shopping Centre parking lot crumbles under winter weather, the patience of customers who use the lot seems to be eroding at an equal pace.
Councilor John Pickett says he can't step outside without getting an earful from frustrated citizens.
"No matter where I go the issue of the parking lot comes up," he says. "No matter where I go people are questioning the shopping centre (parking lot)."
The lot's condition sparked the first and most energetic debate of the Feb. 19 town council meeting. Pickett asked if council has gotten closer to organizing a meeting with the shopping centre's businesses.
Bob Hiscock, chief administrative officer, reported that he'd sent an email to the acting shopping centre spokesperson, Co-Op manager Kevin Jacobs, but received no reply.
"There's got to be a will to make this happen, and I don't see the will on behalf of the shopping centre," said councilor Keith Rodway.
Mayor Fred Best told council he's heard from many frustrated citizens as well, especially when he goes to the post office, which is near the worst of the potholes. He says some people are starting to see it the town's way: the shopping centre should pay for the repairs.
"It's an eyesore for the community," replied Pickett. "The mayor may be right that some people think it's not our responsibility (but) I'm not sure if 75-80 per cent understand that. They just want the problem fixed."
Deanna Burns definitely wants the problem fixed. She says she goes to the shopping centre about once a week to shop and visit her doctor. She calls the potholes a safety hazard and an embarrassment for Clarenville.
"It's appalling. I've lived in a lot of places in the world and I've never seen a parking lot in such poor condition," she says.
Burns has a 4x4 truck and she can't imagine how someone can hit the large potholes in a lower vehicle without doing damage. She says it's a threat for seniors as well.
"We've got an aging population in this area," she says. "Clarenville serves a larger population than it's ever served before. The number of people who could step into one of those and break a leg or twist an ankle is unbelievable really."
The impasse comes from the fact that while the town owns the land on which the shopping centre parking lot is built, the shopping centre originally laid the asphalt. A private company offered to buy the land from the town in 2006 but the town refused because it was still negotiating with the shopping centre for purchase of the lot.
Hiscock has been trying to arrange a meeting between town councilors and the shopping centre's businesses since before Christmas. His latest update is that they've set a tentative date for a meeting next week.
"The problem is when you have to deal with so many players," he says. "You're talking about seven councilors, and the people of the shopping centre, and everyone has their own schedules. We want as many people there as possible so everyone is getting the information first hand, so everyone has an accurate view of what the situation is."
Jacobs says he's working with the town to set up a meeting but didn't want to give his views on the parking lot until then.
Burns says the businesses and the town need to get those potholes filled, because customers are going to start avoiding the shopping centre, and visitors will get a bad impression of Clarenville in general.
"If I was the mayor of Clarenville, I'd be very embarrassed to have people not from Clarenville come in to use the parking lot, to say 'I'd allow an area of my town to be in such disrepair,'" she says.