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KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Airmen will begin moving into a new dorm next week, the first of four to open by December 2009 as base officials replace or renovate the base’s aging housing.

“This is the biggest quality of life issue for not just airmen, but pretty much everyone at Kunsan,” said housing superintendent Master Sgt. Brooke Cushing.

The new $19.1 million dorm will house 288 airmen, four per suite. Each suite has a common kitchen and living area, and each airman gets his or her own 129-square-foot bedroom, bathroom and walk-in closet.

Airmen currently live in two-bedroom, one-bathroom suites, with two airmen sharing each 168-square-foot bedroom.

“There’s no privacy,” Cushing said of the existing dorms. “Having to share the bathroom … it becomes a logistical nightmare.”

After airmen move into the new dorm, their vacated rooms will be used for temporary housing while heating and air conditioning systems are replaced in four existing dorms. They’ll live in the temporary rooms for three months at a time during the yearlong, $2.9 million heating and air conditioning renovation project.

One plus during the move: They’ll have their own rooms.

“At least they’ll have a little more elbow room and a little more privacy while they’re here. It’ll ease the pain a little bit,” Cushing said.

Most of the dorms on base were built in the 1980s and are in poor condition due to wear and tear.

“When you think about a dorm that has a regular turnover of folks every year, it’s old,” she said.

Because the military considered closing Kunsan at one point, little money was spent on maintaining the buildings, she said. Today, all the dorms have severe problems with heating and air conditioning systems — enough that Kunsan has a television channel that updates the status of each dorm’s heating, ventilation and air condition system.

The dorms also have water-flow problems due to corroded pipes, and they are too small to meet current Air Force standards. Some of the old dorms eventually will be torn down, though no demolition date has been set.

Cushing said airmen from the worst dorm were picked to move into the first new dorm. Officials also tried to keep units together when deciding which airmen to move first.

The U.S. military is paying for construction of three of the new dorms. At the United States’ request, South Korea is paying for the fourth dorm, worth $41.8 million.

Dorm construction costs

First dorm: $19.1 million, 288 people

Second dorm: $24 million, 384 people

Third dorm: $16.4 million, 192 people

Fourth dorm: $41.8 million, 528 people

Cost to renovate the heating and air conditioning systems in the four existing dorms: $2.9 million

From staff reports

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