Assuring safe Navy housing must be priority

Navy families given the opportunity to sound off earlier this month about living conditions in privately managed military housing located near the Naval Submarine Base in Groton revealed both good news and bad news. The good news is that, unlike dire conditions found in military housing in other parts of the country, most Navy personnel say they are satisfied with local housing.

The bad news, however, is families did complain about enduring mold, drafts and unreasonably long wait times for household repairs. One resident reported that management removed a broken window but left a gaping hole in its place. Maintenance workers said they had no replacement window available.

About 40 people attended a public meeting this month to air housing complaints. Others complained in annual housing surveys submitted to Navy personnel. This represents a relatively small percentage of the 1,041 families living in housing managed by Balfour Beatty. Still, the Navy and the management company must do better to ensure Navy families are living in housing that is clean and safe. They must promptly make needed repairs and immediately respond to complaints about housing conditions.

After media reports brought to light some abhorrent living conditions in military housing across the country, Congress asked the Navy for assurances about local conditions. Submarine Base officials scheduled the meeting this month following that request.

“It shouldn’t take an act of Congress for these issues to be brought to light,” Nicole Groover, wife of 15-year Navy veteran Kevin Groover, said at the meeting. The Groovers said they were frustrated by problems they had with water pressure, heat and unanswered maintenance requests.

Another family reported frequent illnesses, including pneumonia and acute bronchitis, when they lived in a Balfour Beatty-managed house on Hornbeam Road. They contended the health issues were connected to frequent mold growth on bathroom ceilings, in a storage shed and in electrical outlets at the house. They said mold is a frequent concern aired on a Facebook forum for Navy wives. Other complaints focused on the high costs of utilities and housing in general.

Capt. Paul Whitescarver, commanding officer of the base, said the Navy was open to hearing “the good,and the bad, and the ugly” about local housing conditions. The service is especially interested in identifying systemic issues and problems. Whitescarver further promised swift resolution for any health and safety concerns.

We commend Whitescarver and other Naval officials for conducting the housing meeting and encouraging personnel to air complaints both big and small. Now, they must act on promises to improve conditions, ensure swift responses to repair and maintenance requests, and find more permanent fixes for health hazards such as mold growth.

Whitescarver said housing conditions are vastly improved since the Navy decided to privatize housing. While this assessment appears accurate judging by the number of sailors and family members who attended this month’s meeting, we urge the Navy to continue to work to do better.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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