A line in the sand

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr Working for a plumbing subcontractor are, from left, Eric Nunez, Fernando Nunez, Santos Nunez and Antonio Nunez, the foreman. They're all brothers, except for Santos, a cousin.

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

An Alabama contractor anticipates completion next summer of a 52-unit apartment complex with buildings valued at $5 million on New Columbia Highway.

"We're looking for growth and to help the community and make affordable housing available," said Jay Belew, project manager for Greer Construction LLC of Rogersville, Ala.

The construction permit for Oxford Square Apartments was obtained April 4. Marshall County building official Don Nelson inspected the project's plumbing on Sept. 11.

Oxford Square will have 12 one-bedroom apartments, 21 two-bedroom apartments and 19 three-bedroom apartments. Greer is constructing six two-story apartment buildings and a building for a laundry and community room at 1431 New Columbia Highway.

Apartments will probably be available in July or August, Belew said.

Greer Construction has built apartment complexes like Oxford Square in Camden, Waverly and Huntingdon.

"We have been busy," said Lynn Lane, Greer's plumbing subcontractor, when asked about the economy. "The price of our contract work has gotten cheaper to keep the guys working."

Lane doesn't know when the economy might improve, but Nelson's construction permit records reflect some improvement.

"We've had a good month," the building official said. "We've sold eight house permits this month. That's up. The nice thing is some of the houses are 4,000 square feet.

"Over the last couple of months we've had some nice houses, not just around Chapel Hill but in the Lewisburg area," he said. "Four come to mind in that area.

"There had been a lot going in Chapel Hill, but now it seems to be custom homes," Nelson said. "Typically, it's a couple that saved up for their dream home. That's what we're seeing instead of the spec homes," homes by someone who speculates they can build houses and sell them.

Last year, Nelson noticed more small construction projects that he attributed to the tepid economy. One long-time builder sees no relief in sight.

"I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel ... here," county builder Freddie Stacey said.

Stacey's built additions and remodeled kitchens and bathrooms since the housing market collapse.

"A world of people have found out their houses have gone down in value, so they do something to increase their values," Stacey said.

"I went to work with my daddy in 1969," he said of his father's business, Gene Stacey Construction.

New building construction, additions and remodeling keep Nelson busy for more than one reason. Nelson's office recently lost John Price, who was a part-time building official for the county.

"The City of Franklin had an opening. They could give him more hours and money than I could, so I encouraged him to take it," Nelson said. "I'm not looking to replace him right now. I've been on the road a lot in the truck. I enjoy that.

"Typically, going into winter, things are going to slow down," Nelson said. "Hopefully, things will pick up to where we will have to have somebody in here" for the part-time job.