MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — Construction is one segment of the local economy that, for the most part, has not been completely shut down by the coronavirus threat. But it is definitely being affected.
COVID-19 is causing headaches and disrupting timetables for residential and commercial builders,
“I’m losing a lot of sleep over it, but we do have some small crews working,” said John Collier, owner of AB & JR Hodgkins home builders in Bar Harbor.
“I have some people who have chosen to quarantine at home and draw unemployment. I’ve left it to them to do what they feel comfortable doing.”
Collier said he now has no more than two people on any construction crew, and they have to maintain a safe distance from each other.
“If a subcontractor comes in, then we go outside,” he said.
Because many projects are progressing more slowly than they normally would, construction schedules are having to be adjusted.
“Deadlines are being pushed way out – five, six, eight weeks,” he said. “I had a (subcontractor) shut down when one of their crew members tested positive, so they’re out.”
Fortunately, Collier said, construction firms aren’t among those that Gov. Janet Mills has ordered to shut down.
“For the time being, we are apparently deemed essential, so we are going at it lightly,” he said.
Architects are seeing the effects of the coronavirus threat on construction projects.
“Some contractors are being very understanding of the situation; if their employees are not comfortable coming in and working on an active job site, that’s fine,” said Bill Hanley of WMH Architects in Northeast Harbor.
“So, some of the crews are slightly smaller than usual because of that. And we’ve had some subcontractors actually shut down for two weeks. Obviously, that’s going to push some (deadlines) out.
“Dealing with the six-foot rule is interesting,” Hanley said, “because on some of the sites we have to have the general contractors, the carpenters outside and only one subcontractor inside at a time.”
As for monitoring and managing construction sites, he said, “We now have to do it after hours. Then we follow up remotely with either Zoom meetings or a conference call.
“It’s not like things are stopped or sputtering. People aren’t just carte blanche pulling the plug. It’s all still moving; we’re just in new territory.”
A building that architect Stewart Brecher designed as the future home of Destination Health is going up just a block or so down Cottage Street from his office in the Bar Harbor Municipal Building.
“I don’t hang around on site as I typically would,” he said. “But it still seems to be moving forward. I guess the incidence of COVID-19 [locally] isn’t great enough to panic the builders, and hopefully it’s not going to be.”
As for his own work, Brecher said, “Anything that involves direct contact with clients is pretty much shut down. I can’t have anyone in my office.”
Hanley can relate to that.
“People aren’t coming by; the phone isn’t ringing,” he said. “We’ve been able to catch up on a lot of stuff we’ve been meaning to do.”