Housing war breaks out at Fort Knox as soldier count decreases - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Housing war breaks out at Fort Knox as soldier count decreases

Posted: Updated:

LOUISIVLLE, Ky. (WDRB) - "Daily drive of one mile. You can't beat that but then of course she's always on me about walking," said Gregg Mowen, principal of Fort Knox High School. 

Gregg and Carrol Mowen are all smiles about their new home on post at Fort Knox.

Mowen and his wife, who is also a teacher, jumped at the chance to move from Elizabethtown.

"There's swimming, all types of fitness opportunities, first run movies down the street," Mowen said.

New rules allow civilian employees and military retirees to live in rental properties previously set aside for soldiers and their families. It comes as Fort Knox prepares to face a critical loss.

"Soldiers are living in every area we have. We're talking about 960 soldiers leaving," said J.R. Cardin, Housing Chief for Fort Knox. 

The cause for departure is not deployment. Soldiers are leaving for good. The Defense Department cut The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division from Fort Knox. The move is part of a massive restructuring that will see the U.S. military scaled back to pre-World War II numbers.

Hardin County is down 3,500 soldiers, along with their families.

"It's a difficult thing to swallow," said Lydia Drexler from Gold City Realty Property Management. She also said she is disappointed by the decision. Gold City Realty Property Management is located in Radcliff, just a few miles from the Hardin County Army post.

"I'm both shocked and concerned," Drexler said. She built and personally owns 100 of the 170 properties she leases. "I don't really feel that we as private industry should be in competition with government housing and that's exactly what they've created," Drexler said. 

Though WDRB was told only 52 retirees with civilian families live on post currently, these days you'll find "for rent" signs scattered across the county.

The realtors' association fears the market is getting saturated. Too many rentals and not enough people to sign a lease. Adding to the stress, many of the properties are actually owned by soldiers who have been transferred away to other states.

"What happens is they're not going to be able to make their mortgage payment. It's going to go into foreclosure and it's just going to be a vicious cycle," said John Flanagan, of the Radcliff Small Business Alliance. 

"If you're not willing to take some cuts to survive it will be difficult," Drexler said.

Back on post, leaders said they are taking cuts. "We're only doing this to try and supplement our income," Peter Ross, Project Director for Knox Hills, said. 

The government does not own Knox Hills. Knox Hills is a private company with an exclusive contract to develop and manage military properties. It's built 630 properties at Fort Knox in the last five years.

"We have a pretty sizable debt that we borrowed to build these new homes and make improvements to these communities," Ross said. 

Now the post and the private sector face the same dilemma. There may not be enough money or enough people to go around.

"We've been assured through the years to build, build, build," Drexler said.

It seems the loss of the 3/1 almost caught this entire community off guard. They missed the signs as the country exits wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We decided that this was the place for us," Mowen said. But not even the Mowen's escaped the cuts. Half the schools at Fort Knox are closing in May.

"I'm always cautiously optimistic," Drexler said. 

But much like our military, this community is stripped with resiliency. The people at Fort Knox are still hopeful in the face of adversity.

Manufacturing is growing in Elizabethtown and that's bringing more people and more jobs. The military's recruiting and retention school is also moving here. And hopes are Fort Knox could come out on top if there's another round of Brac base realignment in 2017.

"We're going to have to work harder to make less money but if you work harder, and make less money and you can still pay your bills, you'll still be here," Drexler said. 

No one knows better than a soldier that only the strong survive.

Copyright 2014 WDRB News. All rights reserved.  

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WDRB. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.