Mass Governor’s Legal Office’s Letter to Municipalities: Withdraw Conflicting City/Town Policies Suspending Essential Construction Services

On March 25, 2020, the Massachusetts Governor’s Legal Office issued a letter to Municipal Chief Executive Officers in the Commonwealth that “provides guidance regarding the effect of the Governor’s March 23, 2020 Order ‘Assuring Continued Operation of Essential Services in the Commonwealth, Closing Certain Workplaces, and Prohibiting Gatherings of More than 10 People’ insofar as the Order intersects with municipal efforts to address the COVID-19 crisis.”

The Governor’s order deemed construction services as essential services, but some Cities/Towns have issued temporary suspensions of construction projects in their locale.  The letter emphasizes the importance that “public officials avoid conflicting directives and duplication of efforts.”  The Chief Legal Counsel stated:

Then, the letter confirms that the Governor’s March 23, 2020 Order included such a superseding provision “to ensure unitary management of this crisis.”  The letter concludes, after reciting that constructions services were included as “essential services” in the list of essential services of the March 23 Order,

Accordingly, the Order provides that all construction projects are to “continue operations during the state of emergency, but to do so with the allowance for social distancing protocols consistent with guidance provided by the Department of Public Health.”  Local policies, regulations, or directives that provide otherwise are in direct conflict with the Order and should be withdrawn.

The letter also announced a plan for a “‘safety stand-down day’ within the next week [which is] designed to ensure that all workers involved in the project are familiar with the health safety practices required for the continued operation of the Commonwealth construction projects. The Chief Legal Counsel attached the four-page COVID-19 Commonwealth safety guidelines that are required to be followed on Commonwealth construction sites with the letter.  To view, click Here and go to page 4.  The safety guidelines include the following graphic:

If this guidance is followed by Cities/Towns that have issued construction bans, essential construction services should resume provided the required safety standards and policies are followed.