By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
St. Louis construction industry players are urging the city not to take the path that Boston has in ordering stoppage of all commercial construction projects during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Associated General Contractors of Missouri President Leonard Toenjes said Thursday that he had spoken with Pat Kelly, executive director of the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis about it. The League is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, voluntary association comprised of cities, villages and county governments dedicated to improving quality of life for area residents.
“I asked Pat to send out a notification to St. Louis-area municipalities, urging them to keep their permitting and inspection services operational if and when they decide to close their physical locations,” said Toenjes, “and he did indeed send out that notice, which we appreciate. We’re trying to make sure that our construction companies can get building permits and inspection certificates during this time so they can continue building. We’re talking to our friends and partners in labor to send that same message to our elected officials.”
Safety is always a number-one priority, Toenjes said, but keeping job sites active and workers working is also a big concern.
“Our members are doing everything they can to make sure work gets done safely, work gets done in a healthy manner, but that work gets done,” he said.
Enterprise Bank & Trust Regional President Steve Albart said he has spoken with clients who are worried about what would happen to the St. Louis region’s construction economy should the city follow Boston’s lead. On March 17, Boston’s mayor ordered work stoppage on all construction job sites.
“There is great concern that job sites are going to be shut down here like they have been in Boston due to government (population density) restrictions,” Albart said, “that the wave that began in Boston might continue. We’re also hearing from construction clients who’ve experienced some slowing down of projects because they’re awaiting permits from government offices that have had to shut down. It’s another evolving issue.”
On a related issue, early Thursday afternoon the American Subcontractors Association in Washington D.C. hosted a videoconference moderated by Brian Wood, an attorney with Smith Currie, a firm specializing in construction and government contract law. The video conference briefed thousands of ASA members nationwide on potential legal impacts of any subcontractor work disruptions due to the COVID-19 outbreak.