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State officials want proof

AHOSKIE – Is Ahoskie committed to a project currently in the works to build a public school teachers’ apartment complex in town?

Apparently, state officials in Raleigh want the answer to that question.

The apartment complex plan, one which will help attract and retain quality teachers, has been in the works for three years through a joint effort between Hertford County Public Schools (HCPS) and the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union Foundation (SECU).

Earlier this year, Ahoskie’s elected leaders threw their support behind the project by agreeing to invest an estimated $146,000 of water and sewer infrastructure improvements to the property, located across from Bearfield Primary School. That area has been donated and designated by the Hertford County Commissioners to be turned over to HCPS to be used for the purpose of constructing a 20-unit (40 bedrooms) apartment complex.

Additionally, Council members designated the first 5,000 gallons of added wastewater treatment capacity generated by its recently approved $1.75 million I&I (Infiltration and Inflow) project to the apartment complex.

However, despite the current commitment from the town as well as local corporate sponsorship, HCPS Superintendent Dennis Deloatch feels a bit uneasy about the project.

“We have the resources we need, but yet there are people in Raleigh that do not think we have the local commitment to proceed,” Deloatch said as he addressed Ahoskie Council members last week. “They (state officials) want to see something being done. I feel that if we don’t act promptly, we will lose this project.”

Deloatch presented a list of items HCPS and state officials would like to see in regards to the progress of the town’s commitment. They included how much I&I has been accomplished up to this point, the designation of wastewater capacity reserves from recently condemned properties as well as from properties recently destroyed by fire and the immediate construction start-up of water and sewer lines to the project area.

In regards to the last request, Town Manager Tony Hammond said that cannot begin until the engineering firm handling the project presents their infrastructure plans to Ahoskie’s engineer.

“We can’t dig the first ditch and install the first water or sewer line until we have those plans and forward them to the state for approval,” Hammond said.

Hammond also explained that the town had begun the process of building wastewater capacity surplus. However, he said the I&I project is still in its infant stages.

The discussion then turned towards the possibility of the town making an exception in regards to its ordinance preventing septic systems within the city limits. This plan would give the apartment complex short-term sewage disposal while the town gains the complete 5,000 gallons of wastewater treatment plant capacity needed for the project.

Bryan Lewis, Ahoskie’s Director of Public Works, said the septic system could be designed to eventually become an online lift station for the town’s sewer system.

Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn said the town was very much committed to this project and wanted to see it become a reality. She suggested writing a letter to state officials in order to show Ahoskie’s commitment.

In the meantime, Hammond said he and Lewis would go through the town to see what properties are no longer using Ahoskie’s wastewater system and transferring that sewer flow to the project.