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Navy families air complaints about living conditions near Naval Submarine Base New London

The Virginia-class submarine USS Indiana transits the Thames River as it arrives at her new homeport of Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., Oct. 29. 2018. The submarine made the transition from the shipyard to a fully operational, combat-ready vessel after officially joining the fleet on Sept. 29.

STEVEN HOSKINS/U.S. NAVY

By GREG SMITH | The Day | Published: March 4, 2019

GROTON, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — Fifteen-year Navy veteran Kevin Groover returned from an overseas stint with his wife in 2016 and was looking forward to leaving behind some of the housing woes he’d experienced in foreign countries – inattentive landlords slow to fix problems being at the top of list.

Groover said he’d grown accustomed to a certain standard of living but expected better when he moved back to the U.S. and to Groton. He was disappointed, however.

His voice joined a chorus of Navy family members airing grievances in public on Monday about the living conditions in the privately managed military housing near the Naval Submarine Base in Groton.

“We’re in the Navy. This is not how it’s supposed to be,” Groover said.

Groover talked with frustration about water pressure and heating issues and unanswered maintenance requests. Others, who lined up for their turn at the microphone, had complaints that ranged from drafty doors and bathroom mold to high electrical bills and overpriced housing units.

Balfour Beatty Communities has a contract with the Navy to provide the public private venture (PPV) family housing in the area and was on hand to listen to complaints and suggestions. About 40 people attended Monday’s meeting and fewer spoke – a small percentage of the 1,041 military families living in homes managed by Balfour Beatty.

Capt. Paul Whitescarver, commanding officer of the base, told the crowd that the Navy was looking to identify any systemic problems and concerned about any conditions that jeopardized the safety and health of residents.

In general, yearly surveys by Balfour show overall satisfaction with the living conditions and several people at Monday's forum expressed as much. More than one person at Monday’s forum questioned whether the units were worth the entire $1,800 or $2,000 housing allowance they received.

Whitescarver said he can attest to the fact housing has vastly improved from where it was two and three decades ago before the Navy decided to privatize its housing. Still, part of the reason for Monday’s meeting was a mandate from the Navy leaders that every sailor be contacted by April 15 about housing conditions.

The move came after the Congress asked for assurances from the Navy in light of media reports detailing substandard living conditions for military families throughout the country.

“It shouldn’t take an act of Congress for these issues to be brought to light,” said Nicole Groover, wife of Kevin Groover.

Whitescarver said the Navy intended to act as an advocate for its families.

“If you have problems, I want to hear about them. The Navy wants to hear about them,” he said.

In the event there was any misunderstanding of the process to report issues with housing, Balfour representatives were on hand to explain.

The four-step process starts with reporting an issue to Balfour maintenance and moves to Balfour management. Any unresolved issues go to the Navy Housing Service Center and finally to the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Housing Program Department.

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