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Congressmen Inspect Military Retirement Home
Story and Photos by Keith Burton - GCN   Filed 4/22/06

Congressman Gene Taylor from Mississippi and Congressman Ike Skelton of Missouri, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, toured the Armed Services Retirement Home on the Beach in Gulfport Saturday, April 22nd. The huge complex was the home of over 450 retired servicemen until just after Hurricane Katrina. GCN has a special report on the building and the debate in Washington about its future published elsewhere on GCN. The Department of Defense (DoD) is considering five options, mostly to close the complex, which is opposed by Taylor.

"I know what this home meant to people, and I know what it can mean to people. I am going to be a help to Gene to help put it back together," said Skelton.

Taylor said the DoD hasn't looked at all the options and certainly closing the property is not what he would like to see.

"For hundreds of years we have had a tradition of taking care of our older soldiers. One of the things we will be impressing on Congress is getting this back to the way it was before the hurricane," said Taylor. "I like the idea of putting our veterans on the nicest street in Mississippi. Our veterans deserved it."

The complex was damaged by flood waters from the hurricane, even though it is over 25 feet above sea level. The main floor of the building was overrun by nearly two feet of water, which ruined the air conditioning, telephone and medical facilities.

The building was evacuated after the hurricane and has remained empty since, with just a skeleton crew on hand for security and cleanup. Since the storm, the building has been without its air conditioning system and while carpets and equipment have been removed, it is beginning to mold around the walls. Fans are running inside the building to keep air circulating though officials say that will likely not be enough if money for repairs are not found soon.. A large part of the building's electrical system was also damaged. But the upper floors and rooms are in good shape.

In the DoD report summary from to Congress dated February 28th, 2006, five options have been sent up to Congress regarding the fate of the Gulfport campus.  As Taylor complains, only two would maintain the facility in its present location.

  • Option #1, at the total cost of $589.54 million would restore the home over a span of 6 phases.
  • Option #2, would demolish the existing tower and rebuild the home to meet both future needs and ADA compliance. The cost: $383.8 million.
  • Option #3 would align AFRH- Gulfport with something called Coastal Renewal Vision, turning AFRH-Gulfport into a “blended use” facility and ending AFRH presence on the Coast.  Price tag: $85.5 million.
  • Option #4 would relocate the facility to another undetermined location. Cost also $85.5 million.
  • Option #5 would be to abandon the Gulfport facility by selling it at fair market value with the proceeds going to the AFRH trust fund.  Cost said to be unknown but minimal.

Taylor believes the home can be brought back to operational status for under $100-million, far less than the proposals currently being discussed. But he fears that some with the Dod are trying to make the costs so high that it would discourage support for renovating the home. "I don't want this property disposed of and sold to the highest bidder," said Taylor.

Below are some photos of the property taken during the Congressmen's visit.

          

         

      



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