SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than a hundred Dutch soldiers are staying in hotels because their local barracks are uninhabitable, the ministry of defence has confirmed to DutchNews.
The AD reported on Friday that most of the buildings in the Walaardt Sacré camp near Huis ter Heide in Utrecht are no longer fit for habitation, so troops are temporarily bedding down in hotels in Zeist.
The buildings are reportedly not fire safe, sorely in need of new fixtures and fittings and infested with vermin. A total of 150 soldiers have been decamped to alternative accommodation after a meeting about the ‘acute situation’, a defence spokesman confirmed.
The last are expected to leave the broken barracks tomorrow and it is expected to take months to restore four structures with new floors, plumbing and ceilings, and far longer to knock down and rebuild a further seven.
Costs are unknown, although the ministry of defence has a number of contracts with hotels to provide longer-term rooms for the troops.
‘The youngest of the buildings was almost thirty years old and we wanted to sell the complex so had not invested in them for many years,’ said a defence spokesman to DutchNews. ‘But we have now chosen not to sell them.
Periodically we look at property and if it no longer meets the norms, we take action and that has now happened.’
The military unions the AFMP and VBM confirmed to the AD that they were aware of the situation.
VBM chairman Jean Debie said on BNR Nieuwsradio that a decision to move maintenance responsibilities away from defence and to another government department have compounded the situation: ‘This is a result of political decision-making and €2bn in cuts’ he said.
‘There’s a huge backlog of maintenance for infrastructure and military buildings.’ The defence spokesman added to DutchNews that there are perks to the move for some of the troops: ‘I have heard from the commander that some people think having a hotel room with a really good bed is great, but others think it’s nice for an evening but not a place to hang up posters and make their own.’ (DutchNews)