Vail Valley construction firms are still at work
Company owners say they're working hard to maintain social distancing on job sites
While much of the valley’s economy has slowed dramatically or shut down due to the COVID-19 virus, people are still working at local construction sites.
The construction industry was one of several businesses exempted from Wednesday’s executive order by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis that put much of the state’s population under a stay-home order. But it’s far from business as usual on job sites.
Evans-Chaffee Construction co-owner Chris Evans said that his firm has much of its office staff working from home. But, Evans said, it can be tough to comply with social distancing guidelines at busy construction sites.
“To the largest extent possible, we are distancing,” Evans said. At smaller jobs, crews are split up and put into different sections of buildings. Phasing work can create further separation between people.
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‘A lot of it is personal responsibility’
Still, he said, it’s hard to maintain a 6-foot distance between people in a hallway that’s only 5 feet wide.
“A lot of it is personal responsibility,” Evans said. “We can’t be out there policing (employees).”
Evans said his company has made all jobs voluntary. If someone doesn’t want to be on a site, he or she won’t be paid, but won’t face any other consequences.
And, he added, if the company hears about the possibility that someone working for a sub-contractor has been exposed to the virus, that company is asked to leave the job site.
Dave Dantas is the co-owner of DW Dantas Construction. Dantas said he’s been able to keep people apart from each other on the projects the company is working on.
Dealing with confusion
The Wednesday announcement of the statewide stay-home order caused some consternation in the industry.
Dantas said he did some quick research on the order on the Vail Daily’s website and found the information he needed.
“Some of the guys were confused (Thursday morning),” Dantas said. “I got some calls and texts. But it was OK.”
For now, maintaining separation on job sites is still the order of the day. On a multi-unit project in Edwards, Dantas said there was recently an electrician in one unit, with a heating and ventilation guy in another.
“We’ve been working that spread pretty effectively,” Dantas said.
‘I want to keep these guys working’
Fortius Realty is building homes in Dotsero, Gypsum and Minturn, and recently finished a townhome project in Red Cliff.
Patrick Scanlan, the director of sales for Fortius, said that the company is “still getting projects done.”
While people on those job sites are practicing their social distancing, Scanlan said “the toughest part is lunch,” when people want to talk.
Scanlan said he’s relieved that construction has been exempted from stay-home orders so far.
But Evans said he’s struggling with balancing safety with the need to keep people working.
Evans said as long as construction is allowed to continue, his company will work on ways to keep going.
“I want to keep these guys working,” Evans said, adding that while he’s in a position where he can miss a paycheck or two, he knows that’s not the case with the people working on those jobs.
Dantas agreed that it’s tough to keep working these days. But, he added, “I’m doing everything I can to keep people safe.”
Everyone working for Dantas has his own job box, including a saw and nail gun. Employees can’t share tools.
“It’s been an interesting few weeks,” Evans said. “You think you’re doing the right thing, and then hear a counter-argument.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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