by Lisa Tome
Patrick Conway is closely keeping an eye on what's going on in the state capital.
What happens to House Bill 19 could have a giant impact on new home construction in Cecil County.
Beginning last August, anyone building a home in Cecil County was required to install sprinklers for fire suppression. Cecil was among the last counties in the state to impose the mandatory sprinklers. Three years ago, Cecil County passed codes buying time and side stepping the mandates sprinklers. Sprinklers were already required in newly constructed modular homes, apartments, and town homes.
Those who wanted to build a single family home in the county and avoid the mandate were encouraged to get permits before mid August of last year.
House Bill 19, if passed, would allow local jurisdictions to adopt amendments to the mandated legislation requiring the single family home sprinklers.
While building permits for home improvements were on the rise during the first quarter in Cecil County, construction of new single family homes declined. In the first half of 2015, single home permit requests were on the decline.
The cost for permits for new home construction is approximately $35,000. Those fees don't include the land or building materials. It costs 30 cents per square foot for a new home permit fee. Connection fees to county water and sewer cost $10,000. The Best Available Technology septic costs $10,000. Throw in another $5,000 for a well. Tack on an additional $8,000 for engineering for public works, grading, and as builts. Sprinklers cost $3,500-$4,000. There are $20 fees for the health department and planning and zoning. For a plumbing permit, it costs $50 for the first fixture and $5 for each additional fixture. HVAC fee is $75.
The fee for an electrical contractor ranges from $100-$150. There is also a $30 electrical permit fee.
"I think people should have a choice. If they want to do something in their house, let them make the decision," said Conway. "This (House Bill) could impact (construction in Cecil). It's cheaper to buy an existing house than it is to build one," he said.
"The economy is still not what it should be or could be. We're not seeing a robust charge to build in Cecil County. My personal opinion is that sprinklers should be a choice. On public water, it's a no brainer and I see no reason why they shouldn't (have sprinklers)," said Conway. He said that the cost of building a sprinkler system with all of its components is cost prohibitive to those on well water. "We are building less than one hundred new houses per year in Cecil. But that's not one specific issue, it's multiple."