More than half of the residents of the Gli Ulivi housing area at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Sicily, are moving to other housing as the base prepares to replace its aging units over the next few years.

Eighty-four families out of the 155 living in the 205-unit housing area outside of the NAS I complex are being moved at government expense to the new Marinai housing area near the NAS II complex.

The remaining 71 families are being allowed to stay until they transfer, as the majority of them leave within the next year.

NAS I houses many of the base’s administrative buildings and includes the school, commissary and exchange complex. The majority of base personnel, however, work at NAS II, about a 15-minute drive away.

Sigonella housing director Sandra Peterson said that the move order was welcomed by most residents. The first moves started in September and will be complete by the end of November.

“The day we got keys was the day we started to move stuff, even though they didn’t have the trucks here yet,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Yusuf Abdullah, a corpsman with the Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit 7 and a former Gli Ulivi resident.

Abdullah said that he had requested Marinai when he, wife Elia, and one-year-old son Luqmann arrived about six months ago. At the time, they were told to choose between Gli Ulivi and another housing area.

They chose Gli Ulivi, but after a few months were given the welcome news that they could move to Marinai.

“It’s better than anything we could get in the States,” he said about Marinai. “I came from the [Washington] D.C. area, and they’ve got pretty good housing.

“For the Navy to move us in a place like this, we’re pretty happy with that.”

Gli Ulivi is the base’s oldest housing and received the lowest possible rating during a Navywide 2003 resident satisfaction survey.

Marinai, on the other hand, received the highest resident satisfaction rating of all of Sigonella’s housing areas and was one of mainland Europe’s top-rated Navy housing areas.

Marinai units have central heating and air conditioning — compared with the two window-mounted air conditioners in Gli Ulivi units — larger yards and piped-in cooking gas. Gli Ulivi residents use bottled gas for cooking.

Despite the better living conditions, Peterson said, some residents chose to remain in Gli Ulivi.

Residents who are scheduled to transfer before October 2005 aren’t moving, and some with transfer dates after that are being allowed to stay.

“Some people who had the option chose not to,” said Peterson, “depending on what their needs and desire are.”

Plans are being made to replace the 205 Gli Ulivi units with 220 new units in the next few years, although details have not been finalized, Peterson said.

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