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2020 Update #18

As the Spigot Turns: Downtown Construction Update

It looks as if we need to wait for another “turn of the spigot” before Middlebury’s downtown construction project can start up again.

By now you may be familiar with the Governor’s analogy for incrementally restarting Vermont’s economy: giving the spigot a quarter turn at a time. While last Friday’s quarter turn did allow for some outdoor work to resume, the restrictions still in place do not allow for restarting a construction project of our size and complexity.

Let’s look at the details.

The New Work Safe Order

Here is the relevant language developed by the Vermont Agency of Commerce, in consultation with the Department of Health and Department of Public Safety, and released this past Friday as new "Work Safe” additions to the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order:

1.1 Outdoor Businesses & Construction Operations

  • Those who exclusively or largely work outdoors (such as civil engineering, site work, exterior construction, skilled trades, public works, energy and utility work, mining, forestry, environmental monitoring, landscaping, painting, tree work, parks maintenance, delivery work, etc.) may resume operations with a maximum of 2 total workers per location/job [my highlight].

If you think about the work we’ve been reporting on these past several months—driving steel sheets along the rail corridor in the north end of the project, excavating and installing large manhole structures between the bridges, receiving and storing 40-ton precast concrete pieces at the Fifield Farm marshaling yard—none of these activities can realistically resume with a two-person crew.

Typically each of these operations requires a crew of between four and six workers—plus a supervisor, VTrans inspection staff, and now an on-site Covid-19 health officer whose job is to ensure that new health and safety regulations are implemented.

So that leaves us waiting to see what the next turn of the spigot will bring, and that will come on Friday.

You can read more about the Work Safe regulations at the Agency of Commerce website here.

That’s all for today. See you soon.

Please keep your comments and questions coming. Send me an email at and I’ll try to cover it in my next update.

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