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It's a classic case of progress running into unplanned consequences.

The state Department of Transportation is in the middle of putting $7 million worth of work into Route 16, from one end of the Town of Holland to the other.

But for Ralph Lowe Jr., the co-owner of Holland Hardware, the result has been a beautiful road in front of his store . . . and a series of floods in the basement.

Lowe, who owns the store with his brother, Don, says the state violated the ancient credo of road doctors everywhere -- "first, do no harm."

The building has been a hardware store since it was built, and the Lowes have expanded it three times since they bought the store in 1977.

It's a fixture at the heart of the community, where Holland-Glenwood Road meets Route 16, an old-fashioned hardware store with a sometimes confusing jumble of aisles jammed full of everything from tools to kitchen implements where you can get glass cut or stove pipe crimped.

Like many older buildings, the store had a spring trickling through the basement that simply emptied into the clay drain pipe.

"The store was built in 1910, and it's never had a water problem," said Lowe. "The people we bought it from 27 years ago purchased it in 1960, and so we're going back 44 years without a water problem."

But they've got one now.

Spokeswoman Susan Surdej says the DOT has done everything it can to try to fix it.

"This is the one we can't seem to resolve," she said. "We've had small issues like you do with any construction project, but we've resolved all our issues to this point.

"We've certainly tried to resolve this one."

That isn't in dispute. The state has tried putting a camera down the drain. It has "open-cut" its brand new road.

It hired a professional drain cleaner to try to use high-tech, high-pressure hoses to clear the way for the water to drain. The cleaner lost his nozzle.

Now it's offering to pay for a sump pump.

"It's apparent that the gravity drain isn't going to work anymore," said Surdej. Lowe can only shake his head. He said his brother has been at the store at 2 a.m. trying to salvage materials, and they've put in 20-hour days as a result of the flooding.

They lost about $2,000 in products from lower shelves the first time the store flooded, in the wake of Hurricane Frances' leftovers in September.

But more irksome is the fact it takes only about an inch of water to turn off the furnace that heats the store and four apartments above it.


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