More than 100 Island contractors and tradesmen whose livelihoods have been affected by a construction moratorium designed to halt spread of the coronavirus joined a conference call Monday afternoon to raise questions and express concerns.

Hospital CEO Denise Schepici, who joined the call, thanked the builders for their compliance with the local orders and emphasized their importance as coronavirus case numbers continued to rise on the Island.

“I know this is affecting livelihoods,” Ms. Schepici said. “But each of you making a decision to stay home and quarantine has absolutely made a difference in our community’s exposure.”

The meeting was called by the Martha’s Vineyard Builders Association to discuss a letter issued by its board last week urging its members to halt work and abide by construction bans adopted by Island towns, which are in place until April 7.

“This is a frightening circumstance and will hurt regardless. Acting decisively now will come at a cost, but not acting may come at a greater cost,” the letter said in part.

In addition to Ms. Schepici, the meeting also included builders, tradespeople, contractors and developers, as well as town board of health agents and administrators. Acting board president Newell Isbell-Shinn served as the host, taking questions and facilitating discussion.

The MVBA used a real-time teleconference mechanism to poll the membership on a variety of questions related to the construction moratoriums. 

Results showed that approximately 68 per cent of builders on the call said that they would look to local public health officials rather than state authorities for guidance about when to resume construction. 

The poll also showed that if local officials continued the construction moratoriums until April 21, 29 per cent of respondents said they would be “ok,”  54 per cent said they would be “bruised, but could keep going.” Fifteen per cent said they would be forced to make cuts. 

When asked about whether they had enough personal protective equipment to work when construction resumes, the group was split exactly 50-50.

“I am surprised and heartened by these responses,” Mr. Isbell-Shinn said.

Island building inspectors, including Tisbury inspector Ross Seavey and Edgartown building inspector Reade Milne, told members that they were working to have guidelines in place by April 7 for what kind of work could continue. But until those guidelines were released, the inspectors said, everyone was expected to stay home unless they were conducting emergency work.

“This has definitely been a rock and a hard place for all of us,” Ms. Milne said.

“We understand your pain,” Mr. Seavey added. “Everyone is looking to a point where we will restart construction on the Island. No one thinks this will be forever.”

Building inspectors emphasized that builders could reach out to them at any time with questions about what qualified as emergency work. Inspectors added that they could set people up with materials to do emergency repairs if their regular supplier is closed. 

“Reach out to us, we’re here to help and guide people through this moratorium phase,” Mr. Seavey said.

The group also discussed potential measures to help builders struggling the most with the construction stoppage, including helping furloughed workers and other employees with the administrative process to take advantage of the federal government’s recently enacted stimulus package.

"There are a ton of folks who aren’t getting a payment this week who could use our help,” Mr. Isbell-Shinn said. "That’s something as an island we are pretty darn good at."

Asked about enforcement of the orders, Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty said that power was vested in the police and boards of health to ensure compliance, but added that he thought it was unlikely the town would be writing tickets.

“If the intrinsic intent of the order is followed, and self-policing is done, no ticket is going to get written,” Mr. Hagerty said.