The Washington-based Construction Industry Safety Coalition has just issued a series of recommendations emphasizing both the prevention of and response to the coronavirus in the construction industry.
Job site protective measures, according to the guidance, will require employers to order any employee, contractor, or visitor at a job site to “leave the work site and return home,” should they show any COVID-19 symptoms.
Employers and employee should use the six-foot “personal space” rule in all meetings: “Where work trailers are used, only necessary employees should enter the trailers and all employees should maintain social distancing while inside the trailer.”
Employees are additionally encouraged to “stagger breaks and lunches, if possible, to reduce the size of any group at any one time to less than ten people.”
The practice of employees sharing tools should also be discouraged, says the guidance, adding: “To the extent that tools must be shared, the company will provide alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after use.”
Employees should also use or drive the same equipment and truck when possible, while also avoiding ride-sharing.
Common sources of drinking water, such as a cooler, should be discontinued in favor of employees using individual water bottles.
“Site deliveries will be permitted, but should be property coordinated in line with the employer’s minimal contact and cleaning protocols. Delivery personnel should remain in their vehicles if at all possible.”
The Construction Industry Safety Coalition is made up of just over two dozen trade associations representing the building and demolition industries, as well as commercial and home building, road repair, and material suppliers.
By Garry Boulard
Exactly $600,000 has been approved for renovations to the busy Roosevelt Science Hall on the Portales campus of Eastern New Mexico University.
Originally built in 1953 as a men’s residence hall, the 42,000 square foot Roosevelt building was repurposed in the mid-1990s as the center of the school’s science department, housing classrooms, labs, and offices.
Renovation work on the structure, which is a part of ENMU’s five-year capital improvement plan, will include upgrading the building’s heating, cooling, and electrical systems.
The building is also the home to the Miles and Minerals Museum, which features a collection of animals, plants, and insects indigenous to New Mexico.
ENMU officials have said that they expect to see work begin on the Roosevelt building early next summer.
The Governor also signed off on $350,000 for the construction of a covered storage facility on the Portales campus, as well as just over $800,000 for the building of a new video surveillance system, along with electrical system upgrades, on the Roswell campus.
The main Silver City campus of Western New Mexico University is receiving $390,000 for campus pathway improvements, along with another $70,000 for the renovation of its Veterans Resource Center.
The largest WNMU capital outlay, at $2.5 million, will go for the construction of a new learning center, which will go up on a 42-acre site at the school’s Deming campus.
By design, the center, currently housed in a building at 2300 E. Pine Street, is dedicated to English as a Second Language and General Education Development instruction for a primarily rural, multicultural, and multilingual population.
By Garry Boulard
Up to $1.6 million in state funding for cosmetic improvements to the Dreamstyle Arena on the main campus of the University of New Mexico has been secured.
That money was originally passed by members of the New Mexico State Legislature in the recently-concluded winter 2020 session.
The project at the Dreamstyle Arena, which is the home for UNM’s Lobo basketball team, was the largest of 36 facility construction and upgrade projects approved for the state’s largest university by lawmakers.
Of that number, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed off on 31 with a capital outlay funding total of some $6.8 million out of the nearly $7.6 million in funding originally approved by the legislature.
Other large UNM projects winning the support of the Governor include $800,000 for improvements to the school’s Popejoy Hall; $750,000 for an Olympic Sport Training Center; and $300,000 for improvements to a learning commons space at the Zimmerman Library.
Two smaller projects approved for UNM’s Taos campus are seeing $75,000 for improvements to the school’s internationally known Harwood Museum of Art; and $85,000 for elevator work and access improvements to the same structure.
The $7.1 million approved by lawmakers for UNM projects was the largest total amount for an institution of higher education in the state.
By comparison, the legislature approved $6.1 million in capital outlay funding for New Mexico State University; $3.0 million for Western New Mexico University projects; and $3.2 million for Eastern New Mexico University.
Just over $400,000 each was approved for projects at Highlands University in Las Vegas and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro.
By Garry Boulard
Plans are underway for the building this year of at least 1,000 new outlets for the Dollar General Corporation.
In December, the Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based chain said that 1,000 new store target would exceed the 975 stores Dollar General opened last year.
Besides opening 1,000 new stores for this year, the company has also said that it will remodel up to 1,500 existing but older properties, and relocate another 80 stores.
Dollar General’s expansion plans come on the heels of a robust 2019 which saw overall sales hit the $27.8 billion mark, substantially up from $25.6 billion of the previous year.
The chain is now projecting a net sales growth of up to 8 percent this year, and a capital expenditure that could reach the $975 million mark.
According to company sources, the role that the COVID-19 outbreak may play on the store’s fortunes remain unknown.
In a statement, Chief Executive Office Todd Vasos said “There is no guarantee that this outbreak will not have a more significant impact” on Dollar General’s business.
In fact, the company’s stores have been booming in the wake of the coronavirus, with plans to hire up to 50,000 new employees to meet with a growing customer demand in the last month.
In a statement, Kathy Reardon, Dollar General senior vice-president, said, “We believe our customers are relying on us now more than ever to provide an affordable, convenient retail option.”
New Dollar General stores have opened in the last several weeks in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Abilene, Texas; Youngstown, Ohio; and Pine Bluffs, Wyoming.
The company’s outlet presence has been particularly strong in the South and Midwest. It is thought that the one region of the country that will see the construction of the most new stores will be in the West.
By Garry West
A unique playground built for those with severe special needs may soon see construction in Montrose, Colorado.
The project is set to go up at the site of the Centennial Middle School at 1100 S. 5th Street and will include a ramped play structure, seesaw, swings, a music station, and picnic tables.
Part of the project, to be built by Montrose County, will also include the construction of artificial turf surfacing and fencing.
All of the elements of the playground will be specifically designed for children with significant cognitive challenges and is partly being funded through a $350,000 grant from the Great Outdoors Colorado program.
That initiative funds any number of facility and infrastructure construction and upgrade projects related to recreation and an enjoyment of the outdoors in the state.
Altogether, the group has just awarded some $5.2 million in funding for just over two dozen park, playground, and trail projects in Colorado.
Among the recipients: the City of Greeley, which is receiving $350,000 from GOCO for work at its Balsam Park, a project that will see the transformation of soccer field space into a nature play space with boulders and logs, two shade shelters, and a walking loop around the park’s perimeter.
A two-acre lot once belonging to the former Brick and Tile Company in La Junta will be turned into a universally-accessible playground with climbing structures, wheelchair-accessible spinners and swings, picnic shelters and shade structures through a $350,000 grant.
Another $350,000 grant will go for the development of a 16,000 square foot skate park in the City of Salida’s Centennial Park.
That project will include a variety of ramps bars, and ledges, as well as new restrooms, additional lighting and shade structures.
The various grants awarded by GOCO this year range in size from $130,000 to $350,000.
According to a statement released by the group, the funding will pay for the purchase of some 85 acres of land, with half of funding providing “new outdoor recreational opportunities to rural and underserved communities in Colorado.”
By Garry Boulard
Plans may soon be underway for the expansion of a nearly 40 year-old wastewater treatment plant on the northwest side of Grand Junction.
The Persigo Wastewater Treatment plant, located at 2145 River Road, was opened in 1983 and processes about 8.2 million gallons of wastewater per day.
By federal law, because the facility has reached the 80 percent capacity level, a plan must be rolled out detailing its future expansion.
While Grand Junction’s Wastewater Services Division is currently in the process of updating the city’s Wastewater Master Plan, a more important indication of the plant’s future has come with a vote by the city council.
That vote gave the green light to contracting out with the Denver-based Carollo Engineers to develop a roadmap for the expansion of the plant.
Along with that expansion could come an updating of the current facility, which was built at a cost of $28 million.
Three years ago, the plant made national headlines when it launched a $2.8 million process transforming raw sewerage into renewable natural gas carried through an underground pipeline and used as fuel for the city’s garbage trucks, among other vehicles.
City officials think the updated master plan will be completed sometime next year, at which point the design phase for the expansion of the wastewater plant is expected to begin.
By Garry Boulard
The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced a new streamlined process for small businesses eligible for low-interest disaster assistance loans as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Our goal is to ensure that credit is available to any and all small businesses that need credit but are unable to access it on reasonable terms through traditional lending channels,” Jovita Carranza, the administration of the SBA, said in a statement revealing what is being described as a “relaxed criteria.”
That criteria will allow states to apply for emergency support simply by certifying that at least five small businesses have been economically injured as a result of the disaster in question.
Previously, SBA rules mandated that states could only apply for assistance by certifying that the affected businesses were located in five different counties.
In addition, the SBA is foregoing the requirement that those businesses must exist within counties identified by a state as a disaster area.
Now, according to an SBA press release, “disaster assistance loans will be available statewide following an economic injury declaration.”
This new ruling will apply to all current and future disaster assistance declarations specific to COVID-19.
The loans, as define by the SBA, are designed to provide working capital. With an interest rate of 3.2 percent the loans can be applied to a business’s debts, accounts payable, or payroll obligations.
While the terms of each loan will be worked out on a case-by-case basis, they will all likely allow for a 30-year repayment window.
Altogether, the SBA is expected to offer more than $8.3 billion in COVID-19 related loans.
In a column written for The Hill publication, Rhett Buttle, senior fellow at the Aspen Institute, and Katie Wonnenberg, vice president of the National Association for the Self-Employed, noted that small businesses today employ around 47 percent of the private workforce.
Those businesses are most often made up of auto repair shops, independent retailers, restaurants, and smaller architectural and engineering firms.
Buttle and Wonnenberg argue that any disruption along the lines of COVID-19 could prompt such businesses to “close or take on more debt through high-interest lenders.”
By Garry Boulard
Nearly two dozen New Mexico State University facility and infrastructure projects have been approved for funding by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Those projects comprise around $4.2 million in funding out of a total of $6.1 million initially passed by state lawmakers in this year’s regular session of the New Mexico State Legislature.
The largest ticket item is seeing $2 million for the phase two renovation of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture’s research facility on NMSU’s Las Cruces campus.
Additional approved funding includes $400,000 for the planning and design of the Creative Media Institute; $575,000 for lighting at the school’s soccer complex; and $250,000 for the renovation of the school’s Autism Diagnostic Center.
Some $1 million has also been given a green light for a new scoreboard and videos services at the school’s Pan American Center; while the Alamogordo campus is receiving $400,000 for an elevator replacement project at the David H. Townsend Library.
The school’s popular Sunspot Solar Observatory in the town of Sunspot is additionally receiving $100,000, mostly for facility renovation work.
The Governor vetoed both $732,000 in spending for improvements to the school’s Water Research and Education Lab and $800,000 for an expansion of NMSU’s weather network service.
By Garry Boulard
Construction could begin sometime this summer on two speculative industrial buildings, each just under 570,000 square feet, in the growing Arizona city of Glendale.
The Houston-based real estate development giant Hines Interests Limited Partnership has purchased a 75-acre site just off of busy Arizona State Route 303, otherwise known as Loop 303, to build the two structures.
As planned, what will be an industrial and logistics park known as G303, will also include 80 loading docks, parking space for up to 600 vehicles, and 60-foot speed bays.
In a partnership, the new Class A buildings will be managed by the Oaktree Capital Management, an asset management firm based in Los Angeles.
Ware Malcomb, an architecture and planning firm based in Irvine, California, is the project designer.
In a statement, Courtney Schneider, senior director at Hines, remarked: “We are confident that not only our building size, but the direct access to Loop 303 and competitive rates will be well received in this subdivision.”
Earlier this year, Hines began work on a more than $100 million, 25-story, multifamily luxury apartment complex in downtown Phoenix.
Work on the G303 project is expected to be completed sometime early next year.
By Garry Boulard
The Army Corps of Engineers has compiled a list of four existing structures in New York state that could be quickly converted into hospitals providing COVID-19 care.
“We would like to do this in three or four weeks and try to go as fast as we can,” General Todd Semonite, Commanding General of the Corps, said in a press conference.
The new hospitals are partly in response to a plea by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who has called on the Corps for the construction of new hospitals as well as the repurposing of existing structures that can be turned into care facilities.
“This is what they do,” Cuomo said of the Corps. “They build hospitals.”
Healthcare and construction industry officials are particularly animated by the fact that two large hospitals were constructed earlier this spring in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the corona virus outbreak.
Those same officials say the states of California, New Jersey, and Washington may be among the first to see new COVID-19-specific hospitals, built and opened on an accelerated timetable.
Those same officials have suggested that hotels, motels, and college dormitories could be fairly quickly reconverted into hospital space.
“This is an unbelievably complicated problem and there is no way we’re going to be able to do this with a complicated solution,” said Semonite. “We need something super simple.”
Semonite additionally suggested that a protocol for future hospitals across the country will see governors providing a list of potential facilities for reconversion, while also handling all of the leasing details.
Once those details are ironed out, according to Semonite, the Corps would step in, hire contractors, and transform the facility in question “in an exceptionally short amount of days.”
Even though the immediate challenge of creating entirely new hospitals may be met, a longer-range effort may be needed, according to Air Force Brigadier General Paul Friedrichs.
In a Pentagon briefing, Friedrichs remarked: “If we build a 200-bed or 25-bed trauma hospital to take care of people with coronavirus, that’s not really a great solution to the coronavirus challenge. We don’t have any 500-bed hospitals designed for infectious disease outbreaks. That does not exist in the inventory.”
By Garry Boulard
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