Lauren St. Hill is tired. As if working full time, pursuing a graduate degree and caring for her 3-year-old twins wasn't already a recipe for exhaustion, the South Avenue resident hasn't been getting much sleep thanks to a road resurfacing project taking place just outside her home in the middle of the night.
Since the work began on South Avenue, part of State Route 28, on September 27, St. Hill said she and her family have been kept awake by the noise of machinery and yelling workers as well as bright lights flooding their bedrooms.
The frustrated homeowner has appealed to the Town of Westfield and asked that town officials enforce a noise ordinance passed in January of 2011, something she was told by David Triggs, noise coordinator with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Local Environmental Management, is possible. But town officials, including Fourth Ward Councilmen James Foerst and Keith Loughlin and Town Administrator Jim Gildea, have told her the Town cannot enforce its ordinance against the state.
"Hearing bulldozing and jackhammering between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. is infuriating and has caused a great lack of sleep in my house," St. Hill said. "I just can't believe that the Town is refusing to do anything on our behalf."
"Because the South Avenue road work is a State of New Jersey project and not a Westfield project, we do not control any aspect of the South Avenue project including timing of the work," Loughlin stated. "We hope the work concludes quickly so that life can return to normal for our residents."
Trying to determine when the work will be completed is another matter disturbing South Avenue residents. According to Union County's Bureau of Traffic Safety and Maintenance website, "milling and paving of South Ave has been tentatively set for the week of December 2-8, 2012." But St. Hill noted that no one has been able to provide residents with an end date.
A call made by Patch to Anthony Okafor, the project manager at NJDOT, to obtain additional details was not returned.
St. Hill has created a petition in the hope of putting a stop to the project but Foerst indicated it is unlikely that such a petition would be effective.
"They will not amend their schedule and we as a Town remain at their mercy," Foerst wrote in an email to St. Hill's neighbor. "I appreciate that you have started the petition but regardless of the number of signatures that are received by our Mayor and Council, we have no power over the State of New Jersey."
Triggs has led St. Hill to believe that isn't the case. In an email sent to her on Oct. 26, the noise coordinator wrote, "The following section in the ordinance would apply to construction noise at night: 'All construction and demolition activity, excluding emergency work, shall not be performed between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. on weekdays, or between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. on weekends and federal holidays, unless such activities can meet the limits set forth in Tables I, II or III. At all other times the limits set forth in Tables I, II or III do not apply. All motorized equipment used in construction and demolition activity shall be operated with a muffler and/or sound reduction device.'"
St. Hill and her neighbors are also wondering why crews were back in front of their homes just one week after Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the state of New Jersey and questioned if the workers and machinery couldn't be put to better use in light of the recent devastation.