3 military moms leave D.C. with hope about Fort Gordon housing
WATCH LIVE: Above, we have an update and analysis of latest findings in investigation of family housing at Fort Gordon.
WASHINGTON (WRDW/WAGT) - There’s a new timeline for the construction of fresh housing at Fort Gordon.
That’s among the news coming out of an oversight session Tuesday on housing problems on the post that was held by Sen. Jon Ossoff.
Army leaders disclosed during the oversight session that they’ve secured $5.1 million to bring 118 homes back online at Fort Gordon. Those homes are not occupied because they’re in such bad condition.
The face-lifts will likely be faster than a new neighborhood on the post that we’ve been telling you is in the works for a couple of years.
Now we’ve learned the Army has secured $12 million for new construction at Pine Tree Terrace. But the Army is also asking for $50 million in the next budget to help get new homes at Fort Gordon.
For some of the families who spoke up Tuesday, it’s too little, too late.
EARLIER COVERAGE FROM NEWS 12:
- Senators hear of horrors blamed on military housing
- We asked a simple question about Balfour Beatty
- Housing problems continue with Balfour Beatty
- Fort Gordon housing investigation update
- Army moves quickly on Fort Gordon housing
- How military families feel about housing settlement
- U.S. Army kept in the dark about issues
People like Erin Greer. She says she and her husband have stayed sick.
“Headaches. We have chronic fatigue. Body aches. Nosebleeds. Memory loss. Just a few to list,” she said.
Meredith Anderson: “But yet their inspector said it was safe?”
Erin Greer: “I don’t know what their inspector said. I was never given a copy of their report.”
Meredith Anderson: “Wait, what?”
Erin Greer: “Yeah, I tried multiple times. I could never get a copy.”
She hired her own mold specialist, and the expert said her home wasn’t fit for anyone to live in. So she and her husband have been sleeping in their car and on the porch.
He is medically retiring and they are moving off post. She spoke up Tuesday because her best friend still lives at Fort Gordon.
Also Tuesday, the wife of a drill sergeant talked about her four kids – all under age 11 – being sick the entire time they were in their home before finally moving off post.
“Mom, I’m so tired. Mom, my head hurts. Mom, I got a bloody nose at school; the nurse had to help me clean up. Can I go to sleep now?” Ashley Porras recalled. “Children of that age should want to be running around. They have an immense amount of energy. When mine were coming home: ‘I’m tired. I just want to lay down.’”
Also testifying Tuesday was Joy Viera, who told of raw sewage leaking from her ceiling and getting backed up in her bathtubs. This plumbing problem happened as she was moving in.
She took a video of it, and we aired it on News 12.
“I feel like taking that video led us here today,” said Viera.
She said she’s glad she took it because she believes it’s what led her to Washington to testify.
“I have no clue how I was able to do that when I had poop coming from our ceiling,” she said. “But I was able to document in that moment and was just able to show the extent of what was happening, and because I was able to do that, I am able to be here today to speak up for other families that are having these same issues that have to stay in those situations because they have no other options.”
WATCH A STREAM OF THE SESSION:
She shared a tearful testimony. Those tears aren’t for the sewage spill or the mold that greeted them. They’re from a mom.
“I can’t put into words the fear that I felt that I can’t really protect my child,” she said.
But she said she’s hopeful things are going to get better now.
“I am so thankful to Senator Ossoff because he keeps shining this light and he’s refusing to let it go,” she said.
This is so important to her and her family because she says things have to get better.
Ossoff: “There are indications the Army is taking this seriously.”
But perhaps Balfour Beatty is not. Ossoff invited them, but no one showed up. The empty chairs served as powerful reminders of empty promises to be more transparent.
Balfour Beatty has families sign a non-disclosure agreement, so a lot of them can’t share their stories publicly or they feel bullied into silence.
Concerns like that came to the forefront during Tuesday’s session when Ossoff disclosed that leadership called one of the families called to speak Tuesday in D.C.
The family was asked about what they might say.
The disappointment in the hearing room Tuesday was palpable, but it’s in line with what News 12 has been reporting for the past 12 years.
Yet all three military moms believe change is coming.
We asked all of them the same question: “Do you leave here today feeling hopeful things will change?”
Every single one of them, without hesitation, said yes.
Meredith Anderson: “How do we make sure that we’re not here a year from now, two years from now, three years from now talking about these same problems with this new construction?”
Ossoff: “I’m worried about this. On the one hand, we need new homes on post. You know, we got 50-year-old homes with a lot of problems. Part of the solution here is new construction. On the other hand, the Army needs to define with more clarity how they are going to manage this construction project.”
Ossoff says he will follow up with the Army and continue to hold leaders accountable.
The families believe speaking up will make a difference even if it’s too late for them; it can save another family from their nightmare.
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