Ahoskie seeks new growth

Published 8:30 am Thursday, July 14, 2011

AHOSKIE – Town officials here think they have devised a plan that will spark residential and commercial construction growth.

At their Tuesday meeting, the Ahoskie Town Council unanimously approved a measure aimed at reducing the permit and capacity fees currently charged to those building a new home or making renovations to an existing residential structure.

The newly adopted measure also affects existing commercial structures. The current fee schedule will remain in place for new commercial construction.

Responding to the concerns of Councilman Winfred Hardy Jr. who first addressed the issue of the town’s construction permit fees at the May meeting of the Council, Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn performed extensive research into the fees charged by the town, comparing them to other regional municipalities and counties.

“When you really break down the numbers, it’s really not a big difference in the permit fees charged by the town and the county,” Blackburn noted. “The most significant difference was the capacity fees we charge for water and sewer. We have found a way to lower the water side of that fee.”

What the Mayor really wants to see is growth within her town.

“Adjusting our fees will hopefully stimulate growth here in Ahoskie,” she said. “I know it’s a sluggish economy right now, but if someone wanted to build or expand, having this new fee schedule can only help us; it surely cannot hurt us.”

After studying the numbers, Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond, in consultation with town staff, devised a plan that would bring Ahoskie’s permit fees more in line with those charged by Hertford County.

“Right now we base our permit fees on the total costs involved with constructing a new home or business plus a flat fee based on square footage,” Hammond said. “We’re changing that to what the county charges – which is figured by the square foot (25 cents and 15 cents respectively per square foot of heated and unheated areas).”

Additionally, the county charges $40 for an Insulation permit fee; $40 in Plumbing fees (for one bath and a kitchen, plus $3 for each additional fixture); $60 in Mechanical fees ($15 for each additional unit); and 25 cents per amp in Electrical fees.

The town will still charge a $200 zoning fee for residential/commercial construction. The county does not charge such a fee.

In addition to adopting the county’s permit fees, Ahoskie officials opted to take their new policy two steps further.

Once construction is completed, the contractor is eligible to receive a 50 percent rebate on fees paid for building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical permits as well as the town’s zoning fee if they provide proof that at least 50 percent of the materials used during the construction process were purchased anywhere in Hertford County.

“We don’t need contractors driving out of town or the county to purchase construction materials when we have businesses right here that offer what they need,” Blackburn stressed. “This rebate offer is a great incentive for the contractors, who could pass along those savings to the home buyer. That would be a win-win for all involved.”

Also, the town will reduce its Capacity Fee (water only) from $7.50 to $3.75 per 100 gallons based on State use rates (the state allows for 120 gallons of water use daily for each bedroom in a home). Hammond said that would reduce to water capacity fee by $1,350 for a three bedroom home.

Ahoskie currently charges $5,400 for a capacity fee (water and sewer).

The revised permit/capacity fee schedule will be instituted on a one-year trial basis and the town will track how it impacts the number of permit applications for residential/commercial construction.

Councilmen O.S. “Buck” Suiter Jr. and Malcolm Copeland respectively offered the motion and the second to approve the measure. It passed by a 4-0 vote with Hardy absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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