CAPE MAY — Contractors will be allowed to work on Saturdays under an ordinance City Council adopted Tuesday night.
The ordinance, approved in a 4-0 council vote, also allows more work on holidays and could even open up some Sundays for construction work under extenuating circumstances, such as a week of rain Monday through Friday.
The main concession a group of about 25 contractors were seeking was Saturday work hours. The city banned Saturday construction in 2007 following noise complaints from residents.
But back then the economy was booming, while today there is a lull in the real estate market. There is also concern that new federal flood maps could force some residents to elevate their homes and council did not want to limit the work week.
The ordinance said the ban was having a "negative impact on the local economy" and presenting restrictions on property owners trying to get work done on weekends.
The ordinance only provides limited work hours, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Saturdays during the rest of the year would follow normal work hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The ordinance would also allow the city manager to approve Sunday work following an "unusual period of inclement weather." Holiday work had been banned, but the ordinance allows some, especially on Monday holidays such as Martin Luther King Day and Veterans Day. Holidays where work is not allowed include New Years Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The ordinance also allows emergency work at any time, though it must be approved by the Police Department. This was inserted partially to make sure there were no restrictions before and after coastal storms.
Area contractors pushed the ordinance during a particularly trying winter with very little sunshine. They pointed out that nearby towns allow Saturday construction.
In other business Tuesday, council adopted a $3.4 million bond ordinance to purchase three properties near Lafayette Street that would be used to create a 38-acre park. The state Green Acres and Blue Acres programs have already agreed to provide almost $1.6 million toward the purchase.
Officials representing Jersey Central Power & Light made a presentation on the environmental status of land. The utility for years has been cleaning up the site where coal was processed to create gas used to heat and light homes.
"We've removed 10,000 tons of material and replaced it with clean, certified fill," said Ken Seborowski, the project manager of the remediation for JCP&L.
Seborowski said groundwater still must be cleaned up but it will be done to drinking water standards. He also said several retaining walls will be constructed to keep the pollution from moving off site. He said all the pollution will never be cleaned up but it "will be contained."
Jerry Gaffney, a former mayor, has questioned plans to turn the site into a park and wants the public to vote on it.
"Give voters a chance to say, 'Yes, I want to put my tax dollars into a toxic piece of land.' I think it's a big mistake," Gaffney said.
Even if the land is used for a park, Robert Conway, an attorney with JCP&L, said the utility is responsible for the pollution and the city is indemnified of any liability. It is also JCP&L's responsibility to get a clean bill of health from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The city is trying to piece together several properties, including some JCP&L will donate after the site is cleaned up, to create the park. The project will also include land that Cape May City Elementary School owns. Mayor Ed Mahaney said the only construction will be for parking and surface level recreation and the land is safe for that use.
The project will not raise new taxes because, besides the state funding, the city would tap money it has already collected from residents for preserving open space.
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