The official also denied that club employees were summarily dismissed without pay or annual leave.
The charges were made by American Federation of Government Employees Local 987 President Tom Scott in a recent edition of the union’s newspaper, The Union Advocate. Scott later confirmed the allegations in a telephone interview with The Patriot.
“They did not tell the patrons the real reason or put their health score on display,” Scott noted in The Union Advocate article. “They waited to get one more large party before announcing the closing and told employees to go home without pay or annual leave. It will be two or three weeks until the infestation is under control.”
Base officials announced earlier this month that the historic Horizons Club – formerly the officers club – had been closed because full restoration of the kitchen was impractical and too costly. The announcement said the facility would reopen as a conference and event center offering catered meals.
Col. Mitchel Butikofer, installation commander, took strong exception to the union allegations. In a written statement to The Patriot, Butikofer said termites were not found at the club and steps were taken to ensure a safe and secure work environment for workers and a healthy environment for customers.
“At no time was service provided by the facility with it having anything other than a satisfactory health rating,” he stressed. “The Father’s Day events were planned well in advance and would have caused an unnecessary detriment to customers if cancelled on short notice.”
Butikofer said an aging pipe system beneath the club had given way in the week prior to closure creating an environment conducive to pests.
“Once discovered, a pest control company already on contract was brought in to address the issue and a thorough cleaning was performed before, during and after the (Father’s Day) events,” he reported. “Public health continued to monitor the situation daily and was onsite to ensure proper sanitation during all scheduled events.”
The commander said 40 non-appropriated fund workers were impacted by the club closure.
“Most were reassigned to other operations on base, a few requested retirement and several others elected to use annual leave,” Butikoker said.
Unemployment benefits were granted to “flexible” category workers if they applied for them, he added. Flexible category workers are employed based on the needs of the facility and do not receive benefits. Regular workers are entitled to receive benefits, Butikofer pointed out.