VILSECK, Germany — Waiting times for housing for soldiers arriving in the Grafenwöhr-Vilseck area have been cut to a month, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr officials say.

Some soldiers arriving in the area — which is expected to see the influx of thousands of troops and dependents over the next few years — were waiting three times as long as recently as June.

At that time, Albert Schunk, then the garrison’s acting chief of housing, said 332 families were waiting for permanent housing within the garrison and that the average wait time was two to three months.

On Friday, the garrison’s new acting chief of housing, Norbert Kollbrand, said wait times for new arrivals is “down to less than one month.”

Kollbrand said that the Army received 70 housing units at its new off-post Netzaberg military community last month and expects another 159 units to be handed over there in January.

Another 32 houses that have been undergoing mold remediation at Kaltenbrunn are ready to occupy, he said.

Grafenwöhr’s director of public works, Tom Hays, said Army officials have inspected the Kaltenbrunn units, which were recently treated for mold that had sickened some residents. The officials have given the go-ahead for residents to move in, he said.

“We believe the major mold problems are solved, but people still have to be vigilant about opening windows and ventilating,” he said.

Meanwhile, the renovation of 84 apartments at Vilseck’s off-post Fitzhum housing area has started.

Hays said the renovation was timed to happen between large influxes of soldiers. More than 1,000 soldiers arrived at Grafenwöhr over the summer and another big influx is expected next year.

“It is fortunate that Netzaberg is coming on line early. We have plenty of houses and don’t need [Fitzhum] right now,” said Hays, adding that the design work for the Fitzhum renovations was done two years ago.

The housing area includes eight apartment blocks near Vilseck’s off-post swimming pool and within walking distance of the German town’s shopping area.

The project, funded by the U.S. government for 2.5 million euros (about $3.7 million), includes combining some apartments to form five-bedroom units for large families, remodeling kitchens and bathrooms and installing new wiring, heating and appliances, Hays said.

Landon Steuck, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers said the work will be finished in early 2009.

Gerhard Engelhardt, facility manager for housing in Vilseck, showed off a three-bedroom apartment in the complex that will be remodeled to create an open kitchen/living area. Concrete balconies on the buildings will be replaced with steel rails to prevent water pooling on patios, he said.

Kollbrand said the housing area will be home to enlisted soldiers, from private through staff sergeant, and their families.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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