I-TEAM: Mold, bugs, and safety issues put spotlight on private company who provides housing on Fort Gordon

Tuesday, August 20, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

FORT GORDON, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- An I-Team investigation into the private company that handles housing on Fort Gordon is shining a light on issues there.

Just last week, the U.S. Army relieved its housing manager of his duties at the federal level. Officials say it wasn't housing-related.

There have been reports of mold and bug infestations at installations all over the country and Fort Gordon is no exception.

They’ve faced combat and engaged in cyber warfare, but our men and women in uniform have also been fighting another battle. Only this one is on the home front.

“It’s awful,” Adrienne Yakuboff, a resident in the Fort Gordon housing units at Gordon Terrace, said.

Yakuboff’s biggest reason for wanting military housing was still little – her son, Xander.

"You know, safe community,” Yakuboff said. “You're literally in the best gated community you could be."

So SPC Nikolai Yakuboff moved his family into Gordon Terrace -- one of eight neighborhoods on Fort Gordon. While the homes are considered military housing, the military isn't in charge. Balfour-Beatty is. The private company oversees all 1,072 homes on post. And things aren't exactly perfect.

Like the family's pest problem that Balfour-Beatty supposedly manages. She says she’s found roaches in her Keurig and roach droppings and roach eggs on her floor. It’s a problem she says a rotting back door only made worse.

"We had reported it to maintenance when it was a small hole,” Yakuboff said. “It didn't get repaired; it turned into the size of a baseball.”

It looked that way for weeks.

And it’s not just the Yakuboff family dealing with issues like these. Another service member, who did not want to be interviewed on camera, shared photos of what he believed to be mold.

He says he has health concerns for him and his family.

"I feel housing would try and find a way to remove me,” the serviceman said. “I know it sounds silly, but at this time, I can't afford to move."

He also says in 16 years of active duty, "this is by far the worst housing we have ever lived in."

Another family sent us photos of leaks in their ceiling. They say they're worried about moisture, too.

We first exposed a lot of these same concerns in a News 12 investigation back in 2011. A Fort Gordon family told us their mold problem was so bad their baby stopped breathing.

Yakuboff recently became a mom for a second time, so she's not taking any chances, even though she believes she was threatened with nit-picky citations when her family complained.

"My husband has reached out and complained about Balfour-Beatty,” Yakuboff said.

We took all of these concerns and photos from three Fort Gordon families to the Garrison Commander Col. Jim Clifford, the Command Sergeant Major, and the housing director.

They gave us unprecedented access by taking us on driving tour of the neighborhoods on post. We couldn't go inside, though, because they couldn't go inside. It's not the Army's property -- it's Balfour-Beatty's.

This is also the first time a garrison commander at Fort Gordon has agreed to sit down with us for an on-camera interview about Balfour-Beatty.

"Well, there certainly has been a problem,” Clifford said. “It's been a problem across multiple Army posts, but really, what we're focused on here at Gordon is life-health-safety. It's our first traunch, if you will. So we want to make sure that any gas issues, electrical issues, black mold, any of those problems that affect life-health-safety, we want to get after first."

And those are problems Clifford admits there have been.

"There have. I think the thing that we've really tackled the most has been electrical. We found some electrical problems in a couple of our neighborhoods,” Clifford said.

Since February, Clifford says 122 electrical issues have come to light. On top of that, the Command was made aware of 130 pest control issues, 73 moisture/mold complaints, and seven gas issues.

Keep in mind that Balfour-Beatty is supposed to be addressing these, so the fact the Command even knew about them means Balfour-Beatty wasn't holding up its end of the bargain.

Clifford also wants to assure any other service members who may have been afraid to come forward.

"There's no reason to be nervous to report,” Clifford said. “We've dealt with hundreds of cases. We've dealt with a number of homes. You would not be the only person who comes forward who says, 'we have an issue with a house. We have an issue with the way the response has been.' We want you to be able to come forward and have trust and confidence in your leadership."

Clifford also wants service members to know there's a difference between Balfour-Beatty's housing office on post and the Army's Housing Office.

"We're here to assist soldiers in resolving issues that they may have with Balfour-Beatty,” said Mary Scott, Chief of the Housing Division at Fort Gordon. “Not to assign houses or perform the maintenance of those houses."

Scott says her office can help when there's an issue. For example, Balfour-Beatty would close any work order when they needed to order a part. That meant work orders were closing without ever being completed. That practice is no longer accepted.

Sources also tell us work was being performed by the equivalent of a handyman, so a lot of work wasn't being done properly. The Army is now working to make sure jobs are being done by workers qualified and/or licensed to do certain jobs.

These issues have also gotten the attention of Rep. Rick Allen.

"We looked at the housing, and yes, it is not modern,” Allen said.

Allen says no one has ever contacted his office with complaints about Balfour-Beatty homes at Fort Gordon. He says he can file a case if you have issues.

Still, make sure you report it to Fort Gordon's housing office first. Again, they are different from Balfour-Beatty.

Congressman Allen promises to start asking questions when he gets back to Washington. Balfour-Beatty has a 50-year agreement to manage military housing. He also said our I-Team should continue to look into this as well. "It would be helpful for you to do some investigating on that," he said.

Meanwhile, Yakuboff says her husband has orders to go somewhere else this fall, so they'll be leaving Gordon Terrace.

"Looking back, I wish that we would have lived anywhere else,” Yakuboff said.

However, she knows as soon as her family moves out, another family will be moving in.

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