Storage sites say Fort Drum Storage fiasco with soldiers' cars makes them all look bad
By CRAIG FOX | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. | Published: August 3, 2013
WATERTOWN, N.Y. — Soldiers are not the only ones hurt by the fiasco involving the collapse of Fort Drum Storage LLP.
Owners of other area vehicle storage businesses say that some soldiers have become leery of the care their vehicles are receiving under their watch.
William Judy, general manager of Carefree Storage at 10889 Route 26, Carthage, has received several calls and emails from Fort Drum soldiers wondering whether the company was involved in the mess that left 176 servicemembers and their families scrambling to get their vehicles back.
Soldiers — some of them still serving in Afghanistan and other countries overseas — are confused about what is going on and want to know the whereabouts of their vehicles. The companies had to reassure them their vehicles are safe and remain stored where they were promised.
Mr. Judy and other storage company officials said they feel bad about how soldiers who used Fort Drum Storage LLP got caught up in the mess.
“This has left a black eye for the storage industry,” he said. “It’s affecting us all.”
It was not until the middle of last week, when some soldiers returned home, that the situation came to light and state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office got involved.
The attorney general’s office is helping the soldiers get their vehicles returned. Some soldiers say their vehicles have been damaged because maintenance that was promised and paid for was not completed.
On one day last week, employees at ABC Self Storage, which has facilities at Route 283 in the town of Watertown and on Route 11 in Evans Mills, received more than a dozen calls from worried soldiers. Owner Ronald J. Pope reassured them their vehicles were still stored safely, he said.
“I certainly would not want to be treated like they were treated by that other company,” Mr. Pope said, adding the calls have subsided since the attorney general’s office completed contacting all of the affected soldiers.
William Baker, who runs Converse Self Storage on Route 283 in the town of Watertown, said his company and other storage businesses are good to their customers.
“It was one bad apple,” he said.
Carefree Storage is storing about 250 vehicles, many of them owned by Fort Drum soldiers, in about 55,000 square feet of fully insured warehouse space. Some are stored at the Route 26 location, while others are in an unidentified warehouse off site.
Most storage companies wash the vehicles, start their engines and periodically move them. At Converse, soldiers have the option of storing them outdoors or inside individual storage units, Mr. Baker said. Unlike at Carefree and ABC, soldiers who use Converse are responsible for maintaining their own vehicles, he said. It has space for about eight vehicles outside and about 20 inside.
The whereabouts of Fort Drum Storage owner JoAnn Sanchez-Norquist, who could not be reached for comment, is not known, She is believed to be out of state, possibly in Las Vegas, California or Arizona.
Last week, the Route 11 office for Fort Drum Storage LLP — which also previously operated under the names Indoor Vehicle Storage and Fort Drum Vehicle Storage — closed for good. The company left 176 vehicles at warehouse facilities in Sandy Creek and Oswego, unbeknownst to soldiers that they had been moved out of Jefferson County.
The attorney general’s office got involved after receiving complaints from soldiers. A spokesman has said it is too early to determine whether the office will conduct a criminal investigation into the matter. However, the attorney general’s office may go after the company to reimburse soldiers whose vehicles may have been damaged by neglect.