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Air Force officials frustrated that Tinker housing problems persist

A maintenance worker for Balfour Beatty Housing washes the driveway of a home at Marsh Cove, a military residential community at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. Balfour Beatty Housing is the contractor at Tinker Air Force Base and about 30 other bases.

NATHAN T. BEARD/U.S. NAVY

By CHRIS CASTEEL | The Oklahoman | Published: October 2, 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (Tribune News Service) —  Air Force officials are frustrated that family housing problems persist at Tinker Air Force Base and said Tuesday they have given a private contractor 90 days to come up with a remediation plan.

Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan said at a news conference at Tinker that the Air Force sent a “letter of concern to Balfour Beatty giving them 90 days to come up with a comprehensive plan to fix all the problems” including building construction flaws, mold remediation and other issues.

John Henderson, assistant Air Force secretary for installations, said the problems at Tinker are “more complex” than at other Air Force bases.

“We’ve been working for three years to address some of these problems,’’ Henderson said, adding that the Air Force was not getting the outcomes it expects from the contractor.

Numerous problems with private military housing came to light last year in reports by the Reuters news agency and other media outlets. A major focus of the reports was Tinker, in eastern Oklahoma County.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday he thought at first that the housing problems were limited to Tinker but that he learned they exist at military bases across the United States. His committee held two hearings in Washington, hearing from residents, contractors and military officials.

Inhofe said he thought most of the issues had been aired but that he recently heard that some houses didn't have firewalls and others had been exposed to asbestos. He said he wondered "what else could be out there that we don't know about today."

The defense bill co-written by Inhofe includes about $300 million to increase oversight by the military of the private housing. It also includes provisions aimed at giving residents more power and voice, including a tenant bill of rights. The bill is expected to gain final passage later this year.

Tinker has about 600 housing units. In May, Tinker officials said they had found problems in about 20% of them. Mold, from defective plumbing systems, has been a common problem.

Balfour Beatty Communities, the contractor at Tinker and about 30 other bases, said then that it had taken several steps to remediate the problems.

Colonel Paul Filcek, commander of the 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker, said Wednesday that the contractor had resolved the first list of problems, which neared 250.

However, he said, “there are more reported cases of mold than there ever have been,” at least partly because residents have become aware they are unsafe in the presence of mold.

More than 70 homes still have problems, Filcek said.

“So we’re concerned with that because the remediations are just taking too long,” Filcek said.

Balfour Beatty Communities could not be reached Tuesday night for comment.

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