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Dare County commissioners talk housing

Workforce and essential housing is a hot topic that again visited the Dare County commissioners.

At the Aug. 2 Board of Commissioners meeting, commissioner Steve House voiced frustration.

“We need something and we need it now . . . I want to see something very soon.”

The commissioners have targeted two locations: the county-owned property called the Bowsertown site and the Elizabethan Inn. Both locations are on Roanoke Island.

To move forward, county manager Robert L. Outten recommended hiring Tise-Kiester Architects of Chapel Hill, one of three firms submitting information.

House made the motion to follow the manager’s recommendation along with an exemption from the Mini-Brooks Act for projects under $30,000, contract approval and necessary budget amendments.

The firm has experience with the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. The firm will look at options for the Bowsertown property and develop costs for converting the Elizabethan Inn. A contract for $9,000 has been sent to Tise-Kiester. Other bids were $28,000 and $44,500.

Outten also asked the commissioners “what resources are we prepared to commit?” The commissioners will need to decide if money will be doled out one project at a time or a special fund be set up to handle housing projects.

During public comment, Joe Maione, of Nags Head, talked about “unintended consequences.” He said, the problem with hiring has always been around housing. He challenged the commissioners to think ahead, asking incoming businesses “where are you going to house employees?”

Public commenters from Kitty Hawk Kites – Melissa Ashcraft from human resources and Ben Saltzman from marketing – told the commissioners the business is offering free housing from Aug. 9 to Oct. 3 in order to attract employees after a significant drop off from students returning to school. Ashcraft is working outside the area, trying to put together partnerships with ski resorts.

Commissioner Jim Tobin confirmed the loss of young employees. “Five left this week,” said Tobin.

Before starting the last item on the agenda, board Chairman Robert L. Woodard called on Duke Geraghty, government affairs director for Outer Banks Home Builders Association, to talk about building material costs.

Geraghty said framing lumber is down 60% to 70%; floor joists were $30 each, now $12.

But the declining costs don’t make up for the still-high items like electrical wiring that was $35 per roll and is now $96.

He said it’s hard to get appliances and a shortage in skilled workers, like plumbers, exists.

During his comments, commissioner Ervin Bateman addressed employment. “People just don’t want to work,” said the restaurant owner. “It’s a bad situation.”

Bateman mentioned missing international students this season, as did Ashcraft with Kitty Hawk Kites. Businesses with international students must supply housing, said Bateman.

“We’ve got our challenges,” commented Woodard.

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