City of Aspen to crack down on noncompliant COVID-19 construction sites |

City of Aspen to crack down on noncompliant COVID-19 construction sites

COVID-19 guidelines are posted outside of a construction site in Aspen on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Strict rules governing construction sites designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 are being broken only three days into a public health order that allows the work, city of Aspen officials said.

“The most common violations are not wearing masks, not social distancing and carpooling,” City Engineer Trish Aragon said Wednesday.

Managers of construction sites are required to sign off on a 13-page site safety plan that details numerous measures for workers to employ.

Included in the rules are workers are not allowed to leave the site and visit grocery stores or area restaurants for take-out.

Personal hygiene practices and staying 6 feet apart from one another whenever possible are emphasized throughout the plan, as are wearing masks.

Aragon said there were 700 active residential and commercial construction sites in the city before the outbreak of COVID-19 hit Aspen and forced nearly all economic activity to halt under local public health orders.

As of noon on Wednesday, 123 sites had approved COVID-19 site safety plans, Aragon said.

Earlier this month, the Pitkin County Board of Health amended its public health order to allow construction sites, bike repair shops and landscapers to operate.

Contractors were able to submit plans beginning March 23 to the city, with work resuming Monday.

The amended public order is considered the county’s first attempt to reopen part of the economy.

Public health officials expect a spike in cases as a result, and are continuing to monitor cases at Aspen Valley Hospital in an effort to not overwhelm the health care system.

If there is a spike in cases, public health orders can be amended to curtail activity.

Councilman Ward Hauenstein said he’s concerned about the lax approach that some construction sites are taking regarding COVID-19 safety protocols.

“It’s so important for our reopening,” he said, adding the workers, many of whom are traveling from neighboring counties that have fewer restrictions than Pitkin County “owe it to our community. … It’s so important that we get this right.”

Aspen City Council agreed earlier this week to expedite construction projects in the queue by issuing demolition and building permits quicker, but Hauenstein said he’d be reluctant to fast track that if safety protocols are not being taken.

Aragon said enforcement and monitoring are being conducted through the police department, as well as staff in the building and parking departments.

“Our most effective tool is shutting the site down,” she said of repeated violations.

Enforcement will occur in a three-step process, beginning with a verbal warning.

The second measure is a corrective notice, which means that if an infraction is observed on a site that has received a verbal warning the general contractor has to submit an amendment to their safety plan within 48 hours.

If city staff does not receive an amendment within 48 hours, the site will be shut down for 14 days.

A third infraction leads to another 14-day shut down.

Aragon said it’s not just city staff watching construction sites, it’s also members of the public.

“We’ve got 2,000 inspectors out there,” she said.

More Like This, Tap A Topic

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.