Construction of Colby College’s Lockwood Hotel in Waterville is on track to be finished in the fall despite the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and its threat to the workers building the structure.

Paul Ureneck, director of commercial real estate for Elm City LLC, an affiliate of Colby College, said in an email Tuesday that the construction crew is working to complete the project by October, but is now using new safety protocols that have been implemented by the Associated General Contractors of Maine in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Kevin French, executive vice president of Landry/French Construction Co., the construction manager for the hotel, said that the site’s workers have responded well to the new safety measures.

“During the first three weeks of the pandemic, we had a lot more people calling out, not coming in, because they were terrified,” French said during a phone call Wednesday. “Now we’re seeing that lighten up because they know we have protocols and safety measures in place … we’re doing things like not allowing anyone from out of state onto the job site unless we know they’ve quarantined for 14 days, we have hand washing stations at every entrance in the building as well as gel sanitizers …” 

French said these precautions are paying off for the 45 workers on the site.

“We’ve had no presumptive positive or positive coronavirus cases on that site,” French said. “Everyone is adhering to it well and taking it very seriously, and I think it’s going very well. I mean, we haven’t had any cases. And even if we did have someone test positive, we have protocols in line to deal with that.”

The protocols the site managers subscribe to were crafted by Associated General Contractors Maine, the largest trade association in the state and, according to its website, the “voice of the construction industry.”

AGC Maine is one of 89 chapters under the Associated General Contractors of America. Members of AGC Maine include general contractors, speciality contractors, suppliers and service providers.

Matt Marks, chief executive officer for AGC Maine, said the organization initially rolled out a safety plan for all 200 of its members on March 16.

“We’ve updated it a couple of times because this thing evolved so quickly,” Marks said during a phone call on Wednesday. “The first version was released March 16, and at the time not as much was known about this virus so since then it’s been updated about four times.” 

Marks said AGC Maine took the protocols of the safety plan developed by the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, a national organization, and modified it to align with the needs of workers specifically in the state of Maine.

The safety plan is broken up into eight sections: responsibilities of managers and supervisors; responsibilities of employees; job site protective measures; job site cleaning and disinfecting; job site exposure situations; Occupational Safety and Health Administration record keeping; confidentiality and privacy; and general questions.

Crews on construction sites statewide, including on the Lockwood Hotel site, have adopted these measures:

• Implementing social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart from person to person.

• Limiting in-person meetings by using telephone conferencing instead.

• Staggering breaks and lunches to reduce the size of groups to fewer than 10 people.

• Encouraging frequent hand washing and installing hand washing stations on site or providing hand sanitizer to workers.

• Limiting the sharing of tools but providing disinfecting wipes to clean tools if and when they are shared.

• Limiting the need for N95 respirators by using engineering and work practices to minimize dust.

• Dividing crews and staff into two groups where possible so that projects can continue in the event that one of the divided teams is required to quarantine.

• Dividing employees into dedicated shifts to remain for the rest of the project.

• Limiting the number of visitors to the job site to those who are necessary for the work.

• Implementing limited contact with deliveries to the site.

• Providing all workers with PPE including gloves and eye protection.

• Cleaning all break and lunchroom areas once a day, collecting trash frequently and disinfecting any job site toilets at least twice per week.

Workers who exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath are advised not to go to work, and anyone exhibiting symptoms on the job site will be asked to leave.

Marks said implementing the safety measures was crucial for AGC to ensure people stay employed during a time when unemployment is at an all time high.

“The number one priority from the company is to make sure people are healthy and working,” Marks said. “It’s one of the few bright shining lights in a rather dark world that we’re actually able to keep people employed …”

More than 45,200 Mainers applied for unemployment during the last two weeks of March, and by the end of June, it’s estimated that 87,000 people in the state will be out of work.

Marks said he believes the protocols maintain a good balance of understanding the importance of continuing projects while prioritizing the health of workers.

Marks said he didn’t know if any other AGC member sites had positive cases.

Construction workers of the 48,000-square-foot, 53-room hotel broke ground in July 2019, and since then progress has been steady with excavation preparing the grounds for the foundation and wall footings that were installed in September along with storm drainage and piping.

Utilities were installed in October, and the steel framework of the building with its concrete subfloors followed with the final steel beam placed at the end of November. Workers started closing in the structure in December so that interior work could begin.

Ureneck said in his email Tuesday that framing and drywall installation was ongoing; the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were being roughed-in; windows were being installed and the roof is complete.

“This will continue for probably the next three months before finishes start being installed,” Ureneck said.

The hotel is projected to cost $26 million and will feature a limestone facade to pay homage to the importance of the material in historic and civic buildings across the state, according to Colby’s website.

A bar and restaurant called “Front & Main” will be operated on the ground floor and will include glass walls and a seasonal patio.

The project is part of ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown Waterville.

Other revitalization projects include the $25.5 million Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons, a renovated office building at 173 Main St. which houses Portland Pie Co.,  and the Facade and Building Improvement Grant Program from the Central Maine Growth Council.

The Lockwood Hotel is being built on the site of the former Crescent Hotel, which was originally the Lockwood House. Built in 1880, the Lockwood House was designed to accommodate overnight travelers of the narrow-gauge railway. The building’s owner, Reuben W. Dunn, graduated from Colby in 1868 and served as a trustee.

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