Mold, dirty water and heating problems are among some of the issues military families in southeastern Connecticut said they’re dealing with in their privately-run military housing.
Sen.Richard Blumenthal (D) visited some of the homes in Groton on Wednesday to see the conditions first-hand.
A Submarine Base New London spokesperson said there are 1,041 active duty families living in privately-run military housing units in Groton, some built as far back as the 1960s. He said all have some degree of rehab work done, or were built when the property management company took over in the early 2000s.
But some Navy families said health and safety issues aren’t being addressed properly.
Chief Petty Officer Chazwani Kelly and his wife Glenda Pelliccio showed Blumenthal mold under the drain in their bathroom sink and throughout the shower.
Pelliccio said she cleans it often and it keeps coming back.
“The bottom of the fridge, the drawers were full of eggs of a spider,” Pelliccio said, also noting that at one point the dirty water from the dishwasher was coming out of her kitchen faucet.
Despite calling property manager Balfour Beatty Communities, they said the problems aren’t always fixed.
Balfour Beatty has a contract with the Navy to provide public private venture (PPV) housing.
“When we go ahead and try to call the maintenance line for Balfour Beatty to actually get things taken care of, they just don’t answer. It just continues to ring and ring,” said a member of the Navy living in military housing, while in a discussion with Blumenthal.
About 50 people were in attendance. About a dozen spoke. Among them, a woman who addressed concerns about peeling floors.
“My family, including my 10-month-old crawler cannot walk on the floor barefoot or crawl across the floor without getting splinters in their feet.”
Mold concerns was a common issue. Justin Anderson said her kids have severe asthma.
“Mold grew through the entire HVAC system, hospitalized my children and I to the point where they thought they were going to have to put my son on a ventilator,” Anderson said.
She said she has lived in military housing near the SUBASE for 10 years and had to switch to different units. Anderson said she hasn’t had success with Balfour Beatty resolving maintenance issues.
“They told me that the mold growing in my home is because I take too hot of a shower. No, it’s the fans. They are not generating enough,” Anderson said.
Her family was unable to move, until now, because of credit and concern that Anderson’s husband wanted to relocate.
Anderson, a real estate agent also handed Blumenthal housing listings around town and said that the military housing was overpriced.
Another mom, whose house Blumenthal toured, said despite repairs to her shower and connected bathtub, there’s still mildew because the property manager didn’t seal the bathtub.
She won’t give her two young daughters a bath.
“My little one’s two and she takes a shower like the rest of us because I don’t want her to be in there and me to rinse her hair or anything and the little flecks to fall into her actual bathwater,” said Tiaria Perrill, who did said military housing was significantly better than it was when her husband was stationed in Georgia.
Blumenthal told her that as part of the Senate Armed Service Committee he has heard from families across the country about mold, asbestos, lead among other deficiencies in privately-run military housing units “probably more common in other places than here, I’m happy to say,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said he’s going to take the issue up with the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Justice and wants to see if there is any fraudulent activity from private housing contractors nationwide.
One Navy man did speak in favor of Balfour Beatty at the meeting with Blumenthal.
SUBASE Housing Director Donna Wilson and Capt. Paul Whitescarver, the commanding officer for Naval Submarine Base New London, were also on hand and said they are advocates for tenants who can turn to them when not getting the results they need.
Whitescarver said he’s confident Balfour Beatty will take up the issues.
“Balfour Beatty did a survey. They had a participation rate close to 50 percent where there was an 80 percent satisfaction rate. You know, that’s pretty big,” Whitescarver said.
The SUBASE will conduct a Navy-administered survey as well.
Balfour Beatty Communities’ corporate office released a statement that said, “Delivering an exceptional living experience for every resident who calls our community home is our top priority. For our team this means providing a safe, quality home, well-maintained community amenities, responding promptly to service requests and resolving them quickly and completely, while consistently delivering the highest level of customer service. We acknowledge there are some residents who have had experiences that do not meet our standards, and we are working diligently to correct that. We are fully aligned with our Navy partners and actively working with them to make the necessary improvements to ensure all residents have a positive experience, quality home and clear channels to get immediate resolution when issues arise.”
Heather Babb, a DOD spokeswoman sent NBC Connecticut a statement that reads, “Recent concerns raised by military families about DOD's privatized housing call for immediate action and underscore a need for greater accountability within the department and from our private partners. DOD is working with the military departments and our privatized housing partners to increase opportunities for ongoing, collective communication with residents and to improve our responsiveness to their concerns as we strive to ensure a positive experience for all military families living in privatized housing. The department is committed to improving the housing privatization program and our privatized housing to ensure safe, high quality and affordable housing and communities where service members and their families will want -- and choose -- to live."