Hospital rules, housing reality clash in Sigonella
Stars and Stripes December 10, 2004
The walls of the Navy Lodge might be closing in on Jen Temple and her family of four, but she’d rather pay her own hotel bill and live close to her husband’s work, school and shopping than commute to a government housing area 45 minutes away.
Right now, that’s the Temples’ only option. The base policy at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, requires families to live in government housing if any is available. But the government housing area that’s closer to the base is full.
“It’s one thing to place families in government housing, but it’s another thing when one of the housing complexes is only eight minutes drive versus 45 minutes drive,” Temple said.
Some other families are in the same situation, but Temple said her husband has a particularly valid reason for wanting to live closer to work. As a family practice and obstetrics physician, Lt. Rick Temple is required to live within 30 minutes of the hospital on NAS Sigonella in case he must perform an emergency birth.
Hospital commander Capt. John D’Allesandro submitted a blanket waiver request in hopes of preventing such lodging issues with key personnel, but base commander Capt. Joe Stuyvesant denied the request, base spokesman Lt. Steve Curry said.
Instead, Stuyvesant decided such waiver requests would be handled on a case-by-case basis.
As of Thursday, no individual waivers had been submitted to the base CO, Curry said.
The Temples are in the process of filing an individual waiver request to live on the economy, Jen Temple said.
That leaves the family at the Navy Lodge until the case is resolved. The only government housing complex with open units is at the Mineo complex, 27 miles from the main base, where the hospital and her children’s elementary school are located. The other government housing complex, Maranai, is about six minutes from NAS Sigonella. But it is full.
An expected 40 units are slated to open at Maranai in the spring, Curry said.
NAS Sigonella policy states if government housing is available for occupancy, families must live on base, be it at Maranai or Mineo. Single officers and enlisted sailors E-4 and above can chose to live in available base housing or on the economy, Curry said.
Mineo’s 404 housing units off highway SS-417, a main road between Catania and the southern Sicilian coast, were built through a public-private venture. The Navy leases the units, which opened in 1999, from an Italian contractor.
“[The leasing project] costs the Navy a lot of money, and it behooves us to put people in housing if it’s available, instead of us paying for them to live on the economy,” Curry said.
At the time of the lease purchase several years ago, the land that is now Mineo Housing was the closest available, Curry said. “Once the Italians saw it was a pretty good deal with the Navy, other housing offers became available,” such as land for Maranai.
Lt. Cmdr. Marcia Ripley, an obstetrics nurse at the base hospital, had the choice of living on base housing or the economy and picked to live in Mineo, in spite of the longer commute. She is exempt from the hospital’s 30- minute commute rule because she does not perform emergency births.
“I came from California where I was used to driving two hours to work,” she said. “But at least in my [California] community, I could go shopping, or to the movies and do all the usual stuff. Being out in Mineo, you’re isolated.”
Curry said, however, that Mineo Housing has everything families need.
Mineo Housing is “one of our garden communities ... . It is a lease-to-build facility which offers a community building, commissary, gym, video store, Bee Bar [coffee bar], chapel services, fire/emergency services, security, ATM machine, self-help store, playgrounds, recreational facilities and more,” he said.
“All of the units are either three or four bedroom town houses,” Curry said.