Construction businesses express confusion over "emergency projects" mandate
PITTSFORD (WHAM) - Governor Cuomo's order to stop all non-emergency construction projects due to the spread of coronavirus has some construction business owners confused about which services are deemed as "emergencies".
David Cameron is the owner of Cameron Roofing. He says the shutdown of non-essential construction projects has caused him to make tough business decisions.
"I had a siding crew that I had to put on unemployment. I have an interior modeling crew of two people. One of them, I had to put on unemployment because only one person can work inside a house at a time. All other projects are on hold unless it's a job that can be done by one person," said Cameron. "We have instructed our employees to maintain social distancing among themselves. At same time, avoid any contact with homeowner other than by phone"
Cameron believes there are gray areas when it comes to the term "essential" and his business.
Empire State Development says roofing projects are essential only if the roof has leaks, could continue to put occupants in danger, or construction began before the order was made. They say, otherwise, if homeowners can wait longer to get a roof replaced, then they should.
Cameron however believes those who want to be ahead of the curve should still be able to get their roofs replaced.
"When you have a roof that's reaching it's life expectancy. How long should you wait before you replace it?" said Cameron. "We don't fix roads when they are un-driveable. So why are we holding the homeowner to a higher level of when they should really do things that they deem to be essential?"
He says guidelines set by municipalities is also putting another strain on fixing roofs.
"The majority of the municipalities in our area do not require a permit to fix a roof, but there are some that do. For example, the town and the village of Victor requires a permit to replace someones roof. They are closed. They are not issuing permits as we speak ... They are demanding that we still apply for a permit, pay for a permit and they won't actually inspect a job that they do until the virus dies down," said Cameron. "The town of Bloomfield is requiring their homeowners to obtain a report from an engineer confirming that is essential, absolutely necessary to do it. If the engineer agrees with the homeowner that the roof definitely needs to be replaced. They are insisting the homeowner to evacuate the property until the project is complete."
13 WHAM reached out to the town of Victor and the town of Bloomfield supervisors for comment. As of April 11, we have not yet heard back.
Cameron says he wants more clarity so he can continue to abide by the rules and put sturdier roofs over people's heads.
"Homeowners don't replace roofs for aesthetic purposes. They replace them because they feel they are in need of replacement," said Cameron.
A spokesperson from the Empire State Development sent this statement to 13 WHAM:
"To protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers, NY on Pause requires all non-essential construction to safely shut down during the COVID-19 crisis, however the guidelines allow for construction projects that are necessary to protect the health and safety of occupants. Empire State Development recommends that local permitting agencies review the essential business guidelines and act accordingly. Additionally, even though a certain projects may be considered essential, this doesn’t mean “business as usual”. All social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting requirements set by the New York State Department of Health must be followed at all times”.