Aspen halts construction for holidays
Aspen — Although not having the sounds of construction echoing through Aspen during the holidays may be a welcome respite, hundreds of workers will be missing out on a critical time to make money.
“Everybody appreciates a day off, but it’s not a paid day off, so that’s not the best day off,” said Jim Barnett, project manager of the new Aspen Fire Department building on Hopkins Avenue.
“I understand that this is a resort town and this is as high season as it gets, but at the same time, our jobs aren’t progressing.”
Per city law, construction activity within the city limits is prohibited for eight days, from Dec. 25 to Jan. 1. Violators will be issued a stop-work order, and if they continue activity after that, a summons in court is the next step.
The halt on construction is part of the city’s construction management plan and is designed to alleviate some of the traffic pressures during the busy week.
“It gives us a little quiet time during the holidays,” said Tony Kornasiewicz of the city’s engineering department, adding he recognizes that the mandate hurts the bottom line for builders.
Some project managers recently have come into the engineering office to get a copy of the regulations to show their clients why they won’t be coming to work this week and next.
“Some have expressed concern. … They have deadlines to meet,” Kornasiewicz said.
That’s certainly true for The Residences at The Little Nell, a condominium-hotel project that was supposed to be complete this past summer. Owners are expected to move in in February.
“It’s killing us,” said project superintendent Scott Vandeursen of the city’s mandate, adding an average of 40 people a day work on the job site just west of the Silver Queen Gondola. “We’re screwed, but it is what it is. … It kind of sucks, but it’s nice to have the time off if you can afford it, but it’s tough right now.”
For Gary Wesley, superintendent of the La Cocina project on Hopkins Avenue, every day is crucial in getting the job complete.
“It’s really messing my schedule up, and at this time of the year, we need to take advantage of every good day,” he said. “I had a lot that was going to happen that week.”
Wesley said taking Christmas Day off is understandable, but he would like his crew back to work just like other businesses will have their employees working on Dec. 26.
“With the times the way they are, people need to work and feed their families,” he said, adding construction workers fuel the economy just like tourists do.
“We drive up here every day, and we’re here on a Saturday … there’s probably 1,000 guys buying $5 or $10 lunch here,” Wesley said.
He said he lobbied the engineering department to lift the mandate, but it was overruled by the city attorney’s office.
“We sort of understand why they do it,” Wesley said.
The shell of the new restaurant and penthouse condominium where La Cocina restaurant once was located is scheduled to be constructed by August 2009, and so far, the project is on schedule.
“I think we’ll make it provided that we don’t have to take any more time off,” Wesley said.
A business owner near the La Cocina job site would rather see crews keep working.
“Just get it done so I don’t have to keep looking at it,” she said.
At a construction site at the corner of West End Street and Cooper Avenue, the project manager said his workers are OK with taking some time off.
“But that doesn’t help me get my job done,” he said. “Maybe it will help the workers get into a new frame of mind when they return, not that it helps them economically.”
For Martin Pilea, who is doing stone work at a construction site for a new home on Cleveland Avenue, he’s ready for some rest and relaxation.
“I was going to stop for the holidays anyway,” he said. “It’s all right.
“I need some time off.”
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It seems like the best celestial events too often happen in the wee hours of the morning, in the cold dead of winter.