CAPE MAY — A bad economy and damage from Hurricane Sandy may convince City Council to overturn a ban on Saturday construction work.
A group of about 25 area contractors has asked council to allow Saturday construction in the off-season between Labor Day and Memorial Day. The ban on all weekend and holiday construction work, which includes demolition and excavation, was put in place in 2007 following noise complaints by residents.
But that was six years ago, when the shore economy was humming along. Times are tough now, and the contractors say they need the extra workday when owners of second homes are in town and business owners are getting work done before the summer.
“We have to be able to work on Saturday. Local businesses and homeowners, especially businesses, want to get their work done in the off-season,” Mike Sheehan, a Lower Township contractor who regularly works in the city, told council at a Tuesday night meeting.
Sheehan argued that lifting the ban would benefit the local economy as contractors buy lumber, hardware, paint, gasoline, eat at local restaurants and drop other dollars in town.
Sheehan was one of five contractors Mayor Ed Mahaney picked to meet soon with him and other city officials to discuss the issue. Mahaney noted that none of the current members of City Council were in office in 2007 when the ban was enacted.
“Given the economy, and the effect of Hurricane Sandy, this is an appropriate time to review this. We need to get the economy moving,” Mahaney said.
Nick Hober, a longtime local contractor, noted the city has appealed to contractors to work more days after previous coastal storms damaged the town.
“My brother and I did a lot of work after the ’62 storm, and there was no question about working Saturdays. Contractors are the backbone of this city. When you need them, there’s no problem. When you don’t need them, then you can’t work on Saturday,” Hober said.
Mahaney noted the ban does not apply to homeowners, who can run lawnmowers, power-washers and other equipment on weekends, often producing higher decibel levels than the power tools of contractors.
“The ordinance, as far as I’m concerned, is ridiculous,” Mahaney said.
But the mayor did acknowledge some problems with outside contractors who do not regularly work in the city. He said they come in and do weekend work without getting licenses or paying fees. There has been a recent enforcement crackdown on this, with fines starting at $2,000, Sheehan said.
Lower Township contractor Chris McDuell listed a number of nearby towns that allow year-round Saturday construction, including Wildwood Crest, North Wildwood, Stone Harbor and Ocean City.
Brian Sullivan, another Lower Township contractor, said weather presents another problem.
“You get weeks like this with three days of rain. My employees are lucky to get 16 to 20 hours of work,” Sullivan said.
Councilman Jack Wichterman will join Mahaney and City Manager Bruce MacLeod at the meeting with the five contractors.
Sheehan said they are not looking to work Sundays and would be satisfied with the Saturday ban being lifted after Labor Day until the following Memorial Day weekend.
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