Active construction on City of Bellingham capital projects that have a clear public benefit and meet exceptions outlined in Governor Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” orders can resume beginning next week, Interim Public Works Director Eric Johnston, PE, announced Friday afternoon.
Contractor safety plans, including approved worker protection measures, must be approved by City engineers prior to resuming City capital project work. City Inspectors will closely monitor all activities to ensure required illness-prevention procedures are carefully followed, Johnston said.
“We are doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are actively engaged in ensuring that only essential public construction projects are continuing. We are focusing on illness prevention for workers and the public while we move forward on projects that have important benefits to our community,” Johnston said.
Most active construction on City of Bellingham Public Works Department and Parks and Recreation Department capital projects was temporarily suspended on March 26 by the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
Since then, City officials have received additional guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Association of General Contractors (AGC) regarding workplace safety for essential construction activities. City engineers have directed contractors to develop safety plans and are meeting with them to review and approve those plans.
In addition, Johnston said City inspection staff and contractors have secured appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety of workers and the public against the spread of COVID-19. This includes on-site handwashing stations, supplies of hand sanitizer, reusable cloth masks, disposable paper masks and gloves, and other supplies, he said, adding that all were obtained without impacting first responder equipment and supplies.
Exceptions for essential activities only
According to a memo issued by the Governor’s office, exceptions to the order are construction related to essential activities like health care, transportation, utility facilities, energy, defense and critical manufacturing; and construction “to further a public purpose related to a public entity,” including publicly financed low-income housing; and emergency repairs.
Johnston said the projects the City has authorized to proceed all meet the exception requirements described by Governor Inslee. They include the Horton Road extension, City-wide sanitary sewer main replacement, and development of Cordata Park. Other projects deemed essential to resume include installing sidewalks, building roads and completing bicycle lanes, provided contractor safety plans are adequate and approved by the City. One non-essential project still on hold is the Fountain Plaza redevelopment.
“Most of our work for the past month and in the weeks ahead is prioritized with a focus on preventing the spread of illness, providing City services that are essential to the community, and laying the groundwork for community recovery,” Johnston said. “Resuming construction activities for these essential projects meets the Governor’s requirements and our City priorities as well.”