European edition, Thursday, May 3, 2007

NAPLES, Italy — Wanted: single sailors.

And no, this isn’t a personal ad.

Naval Support Activity Naples officials are offering some 2-bedroom family housing units to single sailors as the base grapples to save money and combat a low base housing occupancy rate.

Two apartment buildings on the support site at Gricignano — each with 12 apartments — will be dedicated for single sailors: One building will house sailors in pay grades E-5 and E-6, and the other those in grades E-7 and up, or officers up to O-6, said housing director Linda Crusing. The apartments will not be open to single civilians.

It could prove a tough sell for the housing office, as it tries to attract sailors who live in areas with some of the world’s most breathtaking vistas — and trade that in for “fortress America” in an area plagued with foul-smelling air and an uninviting panorama. “I moved to Italy to experience Italy, not ‘little America,’” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Julius Pfeifle, 32.

But Naples too is known for its high crime rate, including stolen cars and house break-ins, Crusing said. The move is comforting to some, especially single women who repeatedly have sought a chance to move on base, she said.

“It’s a quality-of-life thing for some,” echoed Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Woolverton, the base spokesman. “Some just are not comfortable living in town and would rather live on the base. But they couldn’t, unless they lived in the barracks.

“And this will save [the Navy] money,” he continued. “We’re paying for the units, whether they’re inhabited or not.”

It costs the Navy roughly $1.5 million a year in rent and other expenses for 100 of the 2-bedroom apartments that are usually vacant, Crusing said. The base has averaged about 100 empty units over the past few years. In using 24 of those vacant 2-bedroom apartments to house single sailors, she said, the Navy would save $333,273 a year — the cost of their overseas housing allowance to live off base.

The housing office is looking to fill the remaining 70-some vacant units, she said. Already, civilians and NATO personnel with families can apply to move in and pay rent. Officials are mulling an option to convert some of the units into 3- or 4-bedroom apartments, “but that would have to be approved and funded and is a much longer process,” Crusing said.

Two-bedroom apartments just aren’t popular, she said.

Navy Installation Command granted Naval Support Activity Naples the 1-year “temporary diversion” waiver to house single sailors in the family units. So, what we’re looking at, are people who have 12 months remaining on their orders,” Crusing said. “But it won’t be limited to that.”

If NSA Naples’ request next year — assuming it asks again — is denied, single sailors will be moved out of the units at the Navy’s expense, she said. The units will not be furnished, nor will sailors be subject to room inspections, Crusing said. “You wouldn’t go out in town to inspect their homes, so why would you on base? They’ll have the same rights as families.” The housing office will begin taking applications May 14.

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