Contractors want work week limits loosened

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 CAPE MAY – A contingent of local contractors, tradesmen and building suppliers turned out for Tuesday night’s council meeting at City Hall to ask officials to expand the work week within city limits.

“We are being told that the fines for operating on Saturday will start at $2,000 per occurrence,” said Mike Sheehan, a Cold Spring building contractor. “Our goal here is not to challenge the legalities, but rather to ask council for help to modify or amend the existing ordinance to allow us to operate our businesses on the weekends during the off-season.”

Sheehan spoke on behalf of local building trades, merchants and retailers, and building suppliers, he said. There were around 25 people from the group in attendance.

“In recent months there have been numerous occasions where city officials have shut down work sites on a typical, off-season Saturday causing delays and financial hardships,” Sheehan said.

In 2007, the city amended its building regulations to prohibit operation of any tools or equipment used in construction, drilling, earthmoving, excavating or demolition work between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weekdays or at any time on weekends or legal holidays, except for emergency work, or by special permit from the construction official.

Sheehan said construction officials in the city have only been applying the work ban to contractors.

“In the construction business Saturday is considered a normal workday,” he said. Local builders are trying to survive the “recession which has crippled our industry and put many of us out of business,” he said.

Mayor Edward Mahaney said that given the state of the economy and the effects of Hurricane Sandy, it was an appropriate time to review the regulations. He promised Sheehan and other representatives could meet with city officials to review the ordinance “before next Monday.”

Councilman Jack Wichterman offered to work on the issue with the tradesmen.

“I can tell you that nobody up here at the table knew about this issue until I heard about it two days ago,” he said. “I do want to sit down with you folks. I’ve had some experience in this area and, hopefully, we can come to a resolution quickly.”

In response to questions about timing, Mahaney told Sheehan that an amendment could be introduced by the next meeting.

“But, there is a process that we have to follow,” he said, before questioning the city solicitor about immediate options.

Ultimately, Mahaney suggested that enforcement of the ordinance would be reviewed – given the emergent nature of much of the work being done.

“There is a process to reverse this ordinance,” Mahaney said, “but the other aspect is finding an efficient way to work on this that meets everybody’s needs – the homeowners, the business people, the contractors and their suppliers. We need to get this economy moving.”

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