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Small solace for MacDill families, but mold problems are even worse across the Air Force

Amie Norquist says her family has suffered health problems from mold in their MacDill base housing. They had to get rid of mold-contaminated furniture, too, in an expensive move to a new home in Riverview. [Times]
Amie Norquist says her family has suffered health problems from mold in their MacDill base housing. They had to get rid of mold-contaminated furniture, too, in an expensive move to a new home in Riverview. [Times]
Published Mar. 11, 2019

TAMPA — Mold and other problems with family housing have drawn national attention to MacDill Air Force Base, but they're even worse across the Air Force as a whole, according to a study ordered by the service's top brass.

In the wake of news reports about the problems, base commanders were directed by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff, to conduct the review. The results were released Friday.

Here's what they found at MacDill: Mold and moisture concerns were reported in 97 homes, or 17 percent of the total; vermin in 24 homes, or 4 percent; one home reported chipped or flaking paint; and 30 homes, or 5 percent, had other maintenance issues.

And here are the totals for the estimated 10,000 homes surveyed across the Air Force: mold and moisture was reported in 25 percent of the homes; vermin in 13 percent; 5 percent had chipped or flaking paint; and 71 percent reported other maintenance concerns.

"Since October, the leadership has been working very hard to find out who has issues and help fix the issues and ensure they get fixed," said Capt. Samantha Morrison, a spokeswoman at MacDill for the host command, the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

Morrison said she could not comment on the servicewide figures.

"I don't know what the other bases are doing," she said.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Air Force secretary wants to restore trust lost by airmen and families over housing problems

The numbers are small solace for local families contacted Monday, who are unhappy with the response they've received from housing contractor Harbor Bay homes.

"I think it's heartbreaking for families all over," said Traci Lenz, spouse of an Air Force non-commissioned officer and mother of three. Lenz and her family are among those who say mold from base housing contributed to their ongoing health issues.

Still, she welcomed the thorough review.

"The last town hall reported only eight open cases related to mold," she said, "so I'm thankful the wing is getting a true picture of the living conditions in Harbor Bay housing."

Added Amie Norquist, mother of four and wife of an Army officer who also has complained of mold problems in base housing, "It is interesting that they found 97 homes with mold and moisture problems, when the whole time, housing was saying it was less than 10."

Harbor Bay has operated 572 units of base housing at MacDill since 2007. The company is a partnership between Clarke Realty Builders and Michaels Management Services, which oversees housing management at MacDill.

Michaels President Ronald Hansen said he found the figures provided by MacDill to be surprising.

"We asked residents if have any issues to call us, and quite a few people hadn't called," Hansen said. "I'm surprised there are that many. At least now we have an idea of what we are looking for."

He said he wants to know more.

"The question I have for my guys is that there are 97 residents who have problems with mold or moisture. If we don't have a work order, how do we find them?"

Lenz said she has high expectations now, in part because of Secretary Wilson's recent visit with MacDill families.

"I believe that we will see team MacDill work together to restore healthy homes for the members and their families," she said.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman