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Thousands of Carolina base houses still need repairs, months after Hurricane Florence

Interior damage at a conference center building at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, November 2018. Roughly 800 buildings between Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River, and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point were damaged by Hurricane Florence.

ALLIE ERENBAUM/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By JANNETTE PIPPIN | The Daily News | Published: January 27, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Thousands of homes remain damaged more than five months after Hurricane Florence hit Eastern North Carolina Marine Corps installations, its housing authority says.

According to the Atlantic Marine Corps Communities website, the hurricane left nearly 65 percent of base homes with various levels of damage. Of the 6,182 houses across Camp Lejeune, New River and Cherry Point, 3,807 remain damaged. As of Wednesday, repairs on 1,411 homes were completed and external repairs on 1,135 homes were being conducted.

In posts on social media, especially comments on the official Camp Lejeune Facebook page, base residents complained about waiting long months for repairs to homes.

While many residents awaited repairs, however, others received repairs that seemed to them unwarranted.

“I had a little water spot in the garage,” Mike Sherburn, a Navy retiree who resides in a house on Berkley Manor, said. “The next thing I know people showed up … and replaced my entire roof.”

The man living across the street, Sherburn said, was in desperate need of repairs.

“Up until now they haven’t done anything to that house,” Sherburn said. “And they replaced my roof.”

Approximately 450 Camp Lejeune and New River families in Atlantic Marine Corps Communities privatized housing needed to be relocated to other homes within the Camp Lejeune complex, according to the Director for Communications Strategy and Operations for Camp Lejeune and MCAS New River Nat Fahy. Some of these residents were moved to Lincoln privatized homes, which make up about 560 of the 5,200 homes at Camp Lejeune. About 100 families originally in AMCC housing chose to live off base instead.

AMCC officials would not answer questions from The Daily News regarding the repair timeline for MCI East housing, what impacted families should do for housing in the meantime and repair progress, among other things.

As the repairs continue, housing on base has become a rare commodity.

“While we are continuing to accept applications, AMCC is not offering homes to inbound families,” Fahy wrote in a message to The Daily News. “We understand they are hoping to begin opening up select neighborhoods possibly this spring.”

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson addressed Camp Lejeune families in a video press release on Wednesday, urging those with damaged homes to contact AMCC and schedule appointments to meet with AMCC personnel and the contractor to talk about the damage, when it will be fixed and if they will need to move.

He also said the families may be eligible for a $250 monthly rebate from AMCC if the home was deemed a Category 2 or 3 with interior damage that makes part of the home unusable. If a family thinks they qualify but are not yet receiving the rebate, they should also contact AMCC.

As a result of a housing shortage in the area following Hurricane Florence, service members stationed at Camp Lejeune, New River and Cherry Point have received an increase in the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for 2019.

Camp Lejeune and New River received an 8.4 percent increase and Cherry Point a 9.9 percent increase. The increases took effect Jan. 1, according to information from Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

M&RA spokesman Maj. Craig Thomas said the Department of Defense sets the BAH after yearly assessments that may increase or decrease rates for different areas.

The 2019 increase follows a special assessment and site visit commissioned by the Office of the Secretary of Defense following the hurricane.

“Marine Corps Installations East leaders, after Hurricane Florence, communicated up the chain of command concerns (about rising rent rates) and said ‘if there is anything you can do to help, we’d appreciate it,’” Thomas said.

Thomas said M&RA understood the concerns about the housing shortage and rising prices for rent and is able to ask DoD for a special assessment.

A site visit was done in November and it was found a BAH increase was warranted, he said.

BAH varies by areas and is based on other factors, such as rank, Thomas said.

©2019 The Daily News (Jacksonville, N.C.)
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