Marriott Hotel Construction

Rules enhancing Blaine County's isolation order halted construction in the county and its cities, including the Marriott hotel build in downtown Hailey, will lapse on Monday.

The Hailey City Council voted 4-0 Friday afternoon to let the city’s emergency public-health order expire on Sunday, allowing construction and landscaping activities to re-launch Monday morning under a set of voluntary guidelines.

The 18 regulations—which fall on contractors to enforce—require workers to wear personal-protective equipment such as masks and gloves, stay on-site during lunch breaks and only carpool with those they live with. Contractors will also be responsible for providing their crews with handwashing or sanitization stations, enforcing six-foot social distancing measures and ensuring that only one worker occupies a confined space at a time.

Prior to the council’s verdict, Sweetwater Communities Project Manager Kameron Spencer said if construction reopens, he would police his workforce to the best of his abilities—though 100 percent compliance would be challenging.

“Gloves, masks and face shields are in short supply now,” Spencer said during the meeting’s public-comment period. “It’ll be difficult to have the spotlight turned on our construction guys while they’re trying to do their best to complete their projects. But it’s imperative the city allows construction to start back up. We’ve already lost our place in line in the supply chain.”

Some commenters alleged discrimination against the construction and landscaping industry, pointing out that grocery workers haven’t faced the same scrutiny over the past week.

Councilman Sam Linnet said he took issue with that characterization.

“There are plenty of small businesses and restaurants deemed ‘non-essential’ that have closed, and they haven’t complained to us once—they’re suffering just as much,” he said. “If anything, I think construction was given special treatment by the state, being designated an essential service.”

Councilman Juan Martinez agreed.

“It’s disheartening to hear that there are still people are still concerned with our [construction] guidelines, which we adopted with a lot of confidence,” he said.

Martinez added that the construction industry makes up about 40 percent of jobs in Hailey, and with such a large workforce comes a higher risk of COVID-19 spread.

“If we’re going to allow construction back in practice, we need to count on the construction industry to get us through this,” he said.

Councilwoman Heidi Husbands said she trusted the construction and landscaping community to follow the city’s guidelines, but a COVID-19 spike would necessitate a more stringent public-health order.

“[Construction and landscaping workers] need to step up and comply with these guidelines,” she said. “This is their burden now.”

Council President Kaz Thea said she had thoroughly weighed the city’s “mental, physical and economic health,” and lifting the construction ban would strongly benefit the latter category.

“I don’t take my decision lightly, but I’m ready to move forward with letting our order expire and revert to the state order,” she said.

Linnet said it made sense to re-open construction with voluntary guidelines—reserving stop-work orders and misdemeanors for “egregious” violations—but stressed that COVID-19 is far from over.

“I think the data proves that we’ve worked hard and made sacrifices to bring down COVID cases. It’s reassuring to know that that we’re capable of flattening the curve, and if there is a second wave, we can do something about it,” he said. “But this decision is not a signal to the public that we are returning to normal.”

When the city makes its transition to Gov. Brad Little’s statewide stay-at-home order on Monday, Community Development Director Lisa Horowitz told the Express that both misdemeanors and stop-work orders are possible consequences of guideline violations.

To view the city’s adopted construction and landscaping regulations, visit www.haileycityhall.org.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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