CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Housing was the most talked about topic at a town hall meeting held Thursday night at Zukeran Elementary School.
More then 100 people attended the two-hour meeting sponsored by Marine Col. Adrienne Fraser Darling, the new commander of Camps Foster and Lester on Okinawa. And though the topics ranged from broadband Internet service to playgrounds, the main topic seemed to be the pending move of families into new townhouses and safety and parking concerns at some apartment towers.
Fraser Darling cautioned the residents that some problems might be difficult to solve while the Marine Corps funnels more money into its operations in Iraq.
“Remember one thing,” she said as she opened the meeting. “Bases across the entire Marine Corps, not just here on Okinawa, are right now very financially stressed. As a result we’ve seen significant budget crunches in the operating accounts for a lot of the bases and stations and a lot of the issues that you’re bringing up have a fiscal impact.”
Michael Reese, chief of the Housing Flight on Kadena Air Base, said base residents should start moving into new townhouse units in the Sada Family Housing section of Camp Foster by the end of the month.
A bridge connecting the housing area to the main base, over a creek that separated the two sections for almost 50 years, recently was completed and families should start moving into the 178 two-bedroom and 16 three-bedroom homes the first week of October, Reese said.
Two apartment towers in Sada, with 194 units, will open in April.
The next phase of housing construction will begin with the razing of homes in the Chatan Housing area to make way for construction of a new middle school and other buildings.
One resident of the area, located near the main shopping area, said some homes already have been vacated, causing a serious rodent problem because of untended lawns.
“It’s a big problem for the people still there who have pets,” he said. Reese promised to look into the matter.
Residents of other apartment towers on Camp Foster complained that emergency lights in the stairwells don’t last as long as the daylong power outages that have been scheduled for Saturdays the past two months.
The batteries in the lights last only five to six hours and the outages have been as long as 10 hours in some areas.
“I live on the eighth floor and when you step out into the hallway, there’s no windows and it’s pitch black,” one resident said.
Reese reminded the residents that they always should be prepared for power outages, whether the cause is man-made or weather related, by stocking flashlights and plenty of batteries.
On the electric-power issue, Fraser Darling said it was going to be an ongoing fact of life on the bases because the electrical system is going through an upgrade in preparation for a new substation scheduled to come on-line in 2007.
“But I promise you are not going to have power outages at your quarters on the weekends if we can avoid it,” she said. “I want to at least limit it to Sundays, so at least you can get your business done on Saturdays.”
Among the other topics discussed were:
• Mediatti Broadband Communications is replacing cable television outlets in the Foster Towers to allow high-speed cable Internet connections. The company is also in the process of installing cable TV and Internet outlets in the new units in Sada Housing.
• Parking at apartment towers is limited by Japanese law to 1½ spaces per unit, so residents must be patient concerning the crowded parking situation. “It will never change,” a spokesman for Marine Facilities Engineering said. “It’s just not going to happen; I’m sorry.”
• Movie prices at Army and Air Force Exchange theaters on Okinawa soon will jump an additional 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children, the first price hike in 10 years. Beginning Oct. 15, prices for first-run movies will be $4 for adults and $2 for children. “The new prices are still 33 percent below the average commercial prices in the U.S.,” an AAFES spokeswoman said Friday.