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Construction noise about to get hearing in Madison

By Paul Snyder

Last week, a friend of mine who lives in downtown Madison complained to me about construction noise that woke her Saturday morning earlier than she expected.

It was a nice little rant, although I’m not sure it was supposed to generate anything more than a laugh from me. Nevertheless, I thought it was a pretty interesting coincidence that a few days later I found out the Madison Common Council would be touching on that very issue at Tuesday’s meeting.

Apparently Mike Verveer heard a lot of those rants back in 2006 and drafted an ordinance restricting construction activity on Saturdays and Sundays to eliminate noise until the apparently noise-acceptable hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The city’s standard hours for allowing construction and the noise that comes with it currently run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. The executives of construction companies told me last week that it’s never a preferable option to work on Saturdays or Sundays, but sometimes a tight schedule dictates a bit of work on the weekends.

Cutting into those available hours, they said, might give neighbors a bit more sleep, but also gives construction workers less time to be with their own families on the weekend. It could also alter construction schedules, which, sooner or later, affect someone’s bottom line.

Verveer said he still wants to discuss this ordinance, and said there could still be some compromise to be reached. For instance, keeping the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. time frame available Saturday, but reducing hours on Sunday.

The City Attorney recommended the council kill it Tuesday simply because it hadn’t been talked about since 2006.

And the fact that about four years of silence followed a lot of neighbors’ gripes about noise might say something. No one likes rude awakenings, particularly on mornings when you can sleep in. But isn’t the sound of construction work — particularly downtown — something to be expected during warmer months?

I don’t doubt that my friend was genuinely upset to have some nearby machinery awake her that Saturday morning. But it’s also the only time she’s complained about it in the entire time I’ve known her. Sometimes it just might be about which side of the bed you awake.

Paul Snyder, who always gets up on the “right” side of the bed, is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter.

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