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Construction noise limits emerge from four years of silence

By Paul Snyder

Four years of silence separated a Madison alderman’s proposal to limit weekend construction noise and the city attorney’s proposal to kill the idea.

The Common Council on Tuesday will decide if Alderman Mike Verveer’s 2006 resolution merits consideration or a spot in the circular file. Verveer said the resolution, which would limit the hours of construction on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., is as valid now as it was four years ago.

City law allows construction between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every day.

Verveer said he introduced the resolution after receiving phone calls and e-mails from residents upset about noise on weekend mornings. He said he still hears the complaints.

Nick Edwardson of Terry Kahl Plumbing Inc., Stoughton, works on bathroom plumbing for a 32-unit apartment building under construction at 1252 Williamson St. in Madison earlier this month. General contractor on the project is Stevens Construction Corp., Madison. Under a resolution under consideration Tuesday, work hours in Madison would be restricted on weekends. (File Photo by Tessa Treuden)

Nick Edwardson of Terry Kahl Plumbing Inc., Stoughton, works on bathroom plumbing for a 32-unit apartment building under construction at 1252 Williamson St. in Madison earlier this month. General contractor on the project is Stevens Construction Corp., Madison. Under a resolution under consideration Tuesday, work hours in Madison would be restricted on weekends. (File Photo by Tessa Treuden)

“A few months ago, Stevens Construction was doing concrete pouring at the Depot on a Saturday morning,” Verveer said. “I got several complaints about that.”

But, Verveer said, former City Engineer Larry Nelson opposed the resolution, primarily because it was too burdensome and would limit the work homeowners can do on their own property during weekends.

City Attorney Michael May said he only recommended killing the resolution because it sat without action for so long. Four other resolutions face similar fates for similar reasons.

“We’re just doing a bit of cleaning,” May said. “The decision had nothing to do with the substance of the resolution.”

Limiting construction activity on weekends is a problem for contractors, who argue they juggle tight project timelines with unexpected delays, the causes of which range from weather to unexpected soil conditions.

Geoffrey Vine, president of Madison-based Stevens Construction Corp., said the Depot — a three-phase, mixed-use project — is on a tight timeline to be finished by August. Saturday work, he said, is to be expected.

“Our workers get premiums after 40 hours,” Vine said. “But 40 hours does not necessarily start on a Monday morning. It can depend on factors such as concrete pours, and the schedule might start on a Tuesday or Wednesday.”

Vine said he understands the annoyance of noise on a weekend morning. But he said 8 a.m. would be a more reasonable starting time than 10 a.m.

“Are we keeping from waking college kids or average people here?” he said.

Although Saturday work is sometimes necessary, it’s never an easy option, said Tom DeBeck, president of Middleton-based Speedway Sand & Gravel Inc. Speedway pays its workers time and a half on Saturdays, so the company tries to avoid weekend work.

Crews, DeBeck said, only work weekends when deadlines absolutely demand it.

“It’s kind of like using a spray gun when a paint brush works,” DeBeck said of the resolution. “I understand you might not want jack

Madison Alderman Mike Verveer

Madison Alderman Mike Verveer

hammering or pile driving at 7 a.m., but what about pouring a sidewalk or landscaping?”

Verveer said there’s room for compromise. One possibility, he said, is to keep the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. window for Saturdays but instituting a 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. time frame, or something tighter, for Sundays.

City Engineer Rob Phillips said it’s a compromise he could accept.

“All we have to do is schedule a public hearing for affected residents and let them know we’re doing it,” he said. “Then we get the council to pass a resolution for a temporary suspension.”

No matter how it plays out, Verveer said, it’s time to break the silence on the resolution.

“I think we can work out a compromise at a later date,” he said. “But I don’t want to start over from scratch on this.”

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