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City cracks down on holiday construction

Although some Port Orchard City Council members believe the whole noise ordinance, as it relates to construction work hours, needs to be overhauled, the council’s public safety committee only plans to recommend one change at Monday night’s council meeting.

The issue of construction hours was sent to committee for review after a Goldenrod Street resident reported ongoing problems with the crews hired to work on Flower Meadows, a 63-house subdivision located off Flower Avenue in Port Orchard. The resident, Lauri Pitman, said the crews worked extremely long hours, even starting at 7:30 a.m. on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

As the council discovered, the city’s noise ordinance had no provisions for holidays. When they fell on weekdays, they were treated as weekdays.

After some discussion at its meeting Tuesday evening, the public safety committee decided to recommend a change to the ordinance that would hold holiday workers to weekend hours — 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The holidays, the committee suggested, should be listed by name, rather than by date, so the ordinance would not have to be redrafted every year to accommodate mobile holidays such as Thanksgiving and Memorial Day.

The committee also decided to tie the city’s holiday restrictions to federally recognized holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Even though city code enforcement, which usually responds to workplace violations, would not be available to respond on holidays, Police Chief Al Townsend said his officers would write tickets for noise violations — $250 per offense — and order the crews to stop. Non-compliance, Townsend added, would result in a trip to the jail.

“The officer’s job is to stop the problem,” he said.

Pitman disagrees the changes will result in any real difference. She believes holidays should be no-work days — Christmas morning is no time to be serenaded by circular saws, even if they start after 8 a.m., she said.

“I think it’s ridiculous — absolutely ridiculous,” Pitman said. “They have been working non-stop over there,” she added. “They don’t take one day off ... and they’re coming up on the second year.”

Pitman said if the city refuses to set limits on construction workers in her neighborhood, she and her family will pack up and leave. Even though Flower Meadows is nearing completion, Pitman pointed out there are two more subdivisions pending nearby and rumors that developers have starting buying up more parcels with the intent to develop further.

Other changes to the ordinance were discussed and ultimately rejected. Councilwoman Rita DiIenno, sitting in for Ron Rider on the committee, expressed concerns over a clause that allowed city engineer Larry Curles to approve work hours outside those mandated by the ordinance.

Townsend pointed out the clause was probably there to accommodate late-night emergencies such as exploding water mains, but DiIenno was still worried.

“Larry’s ability isn’t capped at all,” she said, asking the committee to add language mandating that only emergency work could be done off-hours.

Councilman Todd Cramer, who chairs the committee, also wanted additional language requiring those who had obtained exemptions to have paperwork proving Curles had approved off-hours work.

He pointed out anyone on a job site could claim they had permission to work and then it would be the responding officer’s job to prove the worker wrong.

“At least that way we’ve given them a way to prove they’re in compliance,” Cramer said.

After more discussion, however, the committee agreed to leave the other maters for later and just draft up a paragraph addressing holidays. The revised ordinance is expected to come before the full council at Monday night’s regular meeting.

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