Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

TOP STORY >>Base builder bankrupt

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

At Little Rock Air Force Base, not a spade of earth has been turned or a nail driven since May 7 on American Eagle Communities’ stalled $127-million contract to provide housing for LRAFB airmen and families and it now appears the developer responsible is apparently in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings regarding its Moody Air Force Base privatization contract in Georgia.

American Eagle Community LLC has incorporated separately in each state for its various privatization jobs, but in Georgia, Regions Bank, a trustee on the $30-million construction bond, has filed for receivership in Lowndes County Superior Court, according to an article in the hometown Valdosta Daily Times.

Although no one for American Eagle Communities at LRAFB or the Air Force would comment, the government is said to be looking for a new developer to take over the Moody contract.

Meanwhile, American Eagle Communities reportedly sold its interest in 2,985 Navy housing units on Puget Sound in Washington state for an undisclosed sum to Forest City Military Communities, subject to approval by the Navy, it was announced August 1.

Central Arkansas subcontractors and suppliers have been left holding the bag for at least hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work and materials and still the failed developer collects about $9 million a year in rents from LRAFB airmen in privatized base housing.

Members of the Arkansas congressional delegation have begun to take note.

“The situation is very concerning to everyone,” said Cong. Vic Snyder, D-Arkansas, a long-time supporter of the base and chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

“It’s not clear to me at this time how this is going to get resolved to the best interest of our Air Force families.”
Sen. Mark Pryor’s office said he would address the issue Thursday after a tour of the base.

The developer, American Eagle Communities LLC, is two years behind schedule at LRAFB, according to Brig. Gen. (Select) Rowayne Schatz, the base commander.

In addition to the 25 homes that have been completed and occupied, about 70 concrete slabs have been poured. The contract calls for 468 new homes and 732 homes remodeled by 2011.

Schatz said about 200 homes should have been built or remodeled by now.

At Moody Air Force Base, where work stopped in January, Wing Commander Col. Kenn Todorov took Cong. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, and other officials on a driving tour Monday to see the dilapidated condition of Moody Air Force Base’s privatized housing project.

“The Air Force continues to work with all parties to find ways to move the projects forward, Mike Hawkins, an Air Force spokesman familiar with all four Carabetta Air Force housing-privatization contracts said Tuesday.

The Carabetta family, either alone or as managing partner of American Eagle Communities LLC, is the developer of Air Force privatization projects at Little Rock, Moody, Patrick and Hanscom Air Force bases.

Despite Carabettas’ 25-year history of bankruptcy, corruption allegations, unpaid contractors, slowly paid contractors, unfinished projects, unhappy partners and lawsuits, the Air Force determined that past performance was satisfactory for all four Carabetta/Shaw projects, according to Hawkins.

In an August 1 editorial, the Valdosta Daily Times asks how that can be and suggests an investigation may be in order.