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Williams College Lays Out Construction Safety Plan

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College is ramping up its pending construction projects with a phased approach that follows state and federal guidelines for reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
 
Working with the town's Board of Health, the college has implemented a new health and safety plan that will allow work by the college's contracted vendors to start in a multi-phase process that begins on Monday, according to a news release from the school on Friday afternoon.
 
"Above all, our primary objective is to keep the Williamstown community, Williams College campus community, and our job sites safe while assisting in stopping the spread of the COVID-19 virus," said Rita Coppola-Wallace, executive director of design and construction at Williams.
 
The new protocols require social distancing of 6 feet or more from other workers, stringent hygiene practices and increased hygiene facilities at the job site. Those found in violation of the protocols could be subject to removal from the campus.
 
The rules will be enforced by one of the college's new full-time COVID-19 officers, who each will be responsible for one of four zones on campus. In Phase 1, each of the zones will have between five and nine projects, including work ranging from elevator repair to doors and trim painting.
 
"Officers will certify via daily reports that all contractors and subcontractors on campus are in full compliance with the college's safety protocols and measures as well as associated local, state, and federal guidelines and directives," the news release read.
 
The plan announced on Friday does not include two of the college's higher profile projects, the unified science center and the renovation of Fort Hoosac on South Street. Those projects already resumed after a suspension in late March.
 
Those larger projects have site-specific COVID-19 compliance officers and their own safety protocols developed with the projects' construction managers.
 
As for the smaller projects, they will be phased in beginning on the first of the month for the next four months, "or until Governor Baker lifts the mandated protocols for construction workers," the college said. And the school will reduce its annual and renewal construction projects by half in order to promote safety during the pandemic.
 
""In conjunction with this plan, the implementation of shared resources will improve likelihood of compliance, reduce vendor frustration, minimize redundancy, and increase understanding of the steps necessary to minimize COVID-19 risks on active projects," Coppola-Wallace said.
 
As for the rest of Williams' operations, the college continues to have its personnel work from home as it evaluates its options for fall semester.
 
"We don't have summer classes on campus," Williams President Maud Mandel said Friday morning in a virtual town hall hosted by 1Berkshire. "We're not holding our traditional research programs and other orientation programs and things that we would have done on campus.
 
"So right now, we're in a very heavy scenario planning for the fall. We're really pursuing both options. On the one hand, we're doing all the work necessary to think about what it would be to open safely and to think about the myriad questions involved in a residential college. … And, simultaneously, we're thinking about how to build a remote educational program that we could be proud of."

Tags: COVID-19,   Williams College,   


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Snub by Select Board Leads to Resignation on Williamstown Equity Committee

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — An attempt by the Select Board to extend an olive branch to the town's diversity committee Monday went terribly wrong and ended with one member of the DIRE Committee announcing his resignation.
 
Bilal Ansari later said he would reconsider and pray on his decision about whether to continue with the Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity Committee after he received an apology from the vice chair of the Select Board.
 
Ansari was offended by a decision not to engage with a DIRE member while the board was discussing how to improve communications with the advisory group the Select Board created last summer.
 
Andy Hogeland, who ran Monday's meeting in place of Chair Jane Patton, who was out of town, said during discussion of the agenda item labeled "DIRE communications" that while the Select Board has taken actions in line with DIRE recommendations over the past year, the board should have acknowledged the equity group's resolutions publicly.
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