With the support of leaders from six surrounding communities, Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn submitted a letter to Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito today, asking the administration to revise the order (COVID-19 Order No. 13) that currently allows construction projects to operate as usual in local municipalities.
March 26, 2020
Via Electronic Delivery
His Excellency Charlie Baker Governor of the Commonwealth State House, Rm. 360
Boston, MA 02133
Her Honor Karyn Polito
Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth State House, Rm. 360
Boston, MA 02133
Re: COVID-19 Order No. 13; Construction
Dear Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor Polito,
This letter serves to acknowledge receipt of the March 25, 2020 correspondence from the Chief Legal Counsel to the Governor that sought to clarify the Governor’s COVID-19 Order No. 13 (the “Order”). The Order, and subsequent correspondence from the Chief Legal Counsel stated that construction – both residential and commercial, both large and small – were considered essential services in the Commonwealth.
The March 25 letter from Chief Legal Counsel further stated that all local orders concerning construction operations must be withdrawn as inconsistent with the Governor’s March 23, 2020 Order concerning closure of non-essential businesses. This has created an enormous amount of uncertainty for municipal leaders.
Simply put, this Order as explained by the Chief Legal Counsel places the health and safety of workers and the public at-large in jeopardy and takes away the ability for cities and towns to decide for themselves how to effectively manage the public health crisis in our communities.
I am respectfully requesting that the Governor review and revise this most recent Order to either create a statewide shutdown of construction or allow cities and towns to make the choice for themselves.
As you are well aware, several communities in Massachusetts – including Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville – have placed temporary bans on most construction. Medford has placed reasonable restrictions on the size of crews that are allowed on a worksite at a single time and required all personnel on a work site to exercise responsible social distancing. Despite the differences in our approaches, the goal was the same. To slow the spread of the virus by limiting
Governor Charlie Baker Lt. Governor Karyn Polito March 26, 2020
the chance of cross-exposure between workers and those that service construction sites, including inspections and permitting.
These steps are reasonable, thoughtful, well-intentioned, and in line with powers that are granted to cities and towns to address the public health crisis. The economic and financial impacts of these choices are well known to us – but the health and safety of those who work on these construction sites cannot give way to pure economics. If we do nothing with respect to these crowded sites – as the Order suggests – we will threaten our future ability to recover once this crisis passes and will lengthen the time that this virus impacts our communities.
It has been conveyed to cities and towns that enforcement of the Governor’s Orders falls to local authorities. In a time where resources are stretched to the maximum the resources needed to ensure that these sites are safe and compliant with necessary restrictions are better used elsewhere across municipal operations.
Several communities have made the decision to keep these restrictions in place notwithstanding the Order and letter from the Chief Legal Counsel. This is an untenable and unworkable situation that creates dissonance when cooperation is critical.
In lieu of a statewide shutdown of non-emergency construction projects in the Commonwealth – which is the most effective course we can take – cities and towns should be able to decide for themselves how to limit these activities within our respective jurisdictions. The Order should be immediately reviewed by the Governor and revised to help protect the health and safety of the Commonwealth’s residents.
We urge the Governor to take swift and necessary action to allow cities and towns to decide our own course with respect to these construction sites.
Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn City of Medford
Mayor Dan Rivera City of Lawrence
Mayor Joseph Curtatone City of Somerville
Mayor Robert F. Sullivan City of Brockton
Town Manager, Town of Winchester
Mayor Tom McGee City of Lynn
City Manager, City of Cambridge