The College paused construction on the North Science Building and Fort Bradshaw projects on
Friday, at the same time that iBerkshires.com was writing a story in which an
anonymous worker voiced concerns about the projects’ potential for the spread
of COVID-19. Representatives for the College said that the decision was made to
protect the safety of workers and to comply with directives from the government.
The iBerkshires.com article by Stephen
Dravis, published online on Friday afternoon, reports that a man identified only
as “Bob” contacted iBerkshires.com on Thursday morning. Bob, a worker employed
by one of the subcontractors on the North Science project, took issue with
aspects of a different iBerkshires.com article published early Thursday
The article published on
Thursday reported that an employee of Comalli Group, one of the subcontractors
working on the project, had tested positive for COVID-19. Comalli Group had
said that the employee in question had not been working on the College’s
construction projects and that only two people working on the projects had come
into contact with him, according to the article.
“It’s true that the Comalli employee was never on
the job site,” Bob wrote in his initial email to iBerkshires.com. “What they
didn’t tell you is that Comalli had a company training which the infected
employee and all their workers attended. So he obviously was in close contact
with everyone in that room.”
Representatives for Comalli Group could not be
reached for comment.
Bob also contended that social distancing
measures cannot work effectively on construction sites, which he compared to “a
“I find it
laughable when they say, ‘If you wash your hands and use social-distancing,
you’ll be fine,’” he told iBerkshires.com. “The six-foot rule doesn’t work in
construction, ever. It’s a little aggravating to me.”
On Thursday morning, iBerkshires.com requested
comment from the College about Bob’s email; by the time the article was
published on Friday afternoon, the College had not responded.
But on Friday at 5:04 p.m., Vice President for Finance and
Administration and Treasurer Fred Puddester sent an all-campus email announcing
the suspension of construction as of the end of the day.
of the firms managing these two projects have reported any positive cases of
COVID-19 on either work site,” he wrote.
iBerkshires.com article went up 24 minutes later, at 5:28 p.m., at first
without mentioning that construction had been suspended. A 6:04 update to the
article noted that iBerkshires.com had been forwarded Puddester’s email at 5:53
we are confident that construction can safely proceed in a manner consistent
with state directives, and working with local inspection officials,
construction is suspended,” Puddester wrote in an email to the Record.
In response to a follow-up email specifically asking whether the suspension of construction had been motivated by the concerns Bob raised, Puddester wrote, “Our primary concerns are health, safety and compliance with guidance and directives from government officials.”
When asked about the decision to halt construction, Rita Coppola-Wallace, executive director for planning, design and construction at the College, also pointed to “the safety and health of the construction workers and the Governor’s directives.”
Responding to a follow-up email about which particular directives informed the decision, Coppola-Wallace referred the Record to a Wednesday, March 25, order by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.
speaks to guidelines and procedures that all construction projects in the
Commonwealth must follow,” she wrote. “The College is adhering to those
order declares that all construction projects “should continue as long as they
observe social distancing protocols and otherwise can continue to operate