Fort Stewart housing officials are taking a closer look at housing renovation and demolition plans for the post after a Facebook group shed light on shoddy living conditions in some of the installation’s subdivisions, most notably the enlisted housing area called Marne Terrace.
Marne Terrace, and all of the installation’s housing, is managed by Balfour Beatty Communities, a multinational engineering, construction, services and investment business based in the UK.
The 40-year-old subdivision was scheduled to be completely remodeled and rebuilt in 2006 because the area is infested with mold and has other structural problems but on Friday, Fort Stewart’s garrison commander, Col. Kevin Milton, and Bo Letnaunchyn, project director for Balfour Beatty Communities at Fort Stewart, said the economy had slowed the company’s renovation and rebuilding plans.
“We’re no different than the construction industry,” Letnaunchyn said. “When the economy is doing badly, the cost of products and services go up.”
Letnaunchyn said that nearly 180 homes have been renovated, there are only approximately 40 tenants still living in what is considered “sub-standard” housing in the area and their homes will be condemned and destroyed as they move out.
He said the homes at Marne Terrace should be fully rebuilt, renovated and/or remodeled by 2011 and no later than 2014.
“It’s a process,” Milton said. “I thank Mr. Hemmingsen for bringing this issue to our attention. Clearly, there were some things that were overlooked, but I have asked my partner, Balfour Beatty Communities, to put the renovations and demolitions of Marne Terrace on the fast track. But these types of things take time.”
Dave Hemmingsen, the creator of the Facebook group, “Our Military Troops Deserve Better,” has been vocal on the networking site, posting blogs and pictures that illustrate the dilapidated housing on the post. He blasted Balfour Beatty, claiming they are a foreign company after American dollars.
“Claiming budget issues as the reason why Marne Terrace is not remodeled, cleaned and painted seems like such a poor excuse when Ian Tyler, CEO of Balfour Beatty, earned over $1.3 million in salary and bonuses,” Hemmingsen said. “It is a shame that we have a foreign company providing a service like this when there are plenty of American companies that could do the job.”
Balfour Beatty Communities signed a contract to manage the housing on Fort Stewart in November 2003 after purchasing the former housing contractor for the post, GMH Communities, for nearly $350.5 million.
According to the Department of Defenses’ Military Housing Privatization Web site, Balfour Beatty has been awarded 19 out of 95 of the U.S. Military Installation housing contracts, or nearly 20 percent.
It has been nearly six years, Milton said, since the initial contract, renovation and demolition plans have been revisited.
Milton said he plans to keep a close eye on things in the future and will review all contracts at least every two to three years.
Editor's note: This is the second and last story about Dave Hemmingsen's campaign to improve housing on Fort Stewart.