Town halls, new hires, improved service highlight year of housing improvements
By Stephen Standifird
Public Affairs Office
In February, after meeting with residents and visiting privatized housing at various installations, Army senior leaders issued a call to action within the Army to take steps to correct housing issues.
“We owe our Soldiers and their Families safe, high-quality housing,” then Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, said. “That did not happen in a troubling number of cases and that is unacceptable. We have to do better, and we will.”
Fort Leonard Wood responded to the call by holding their first housing town hall Feb. 27 to allow residents to speak directly with senior leadership. Town halls continued quarterly thereafter hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood Commander, Col. Eric Towns.
“We brought all the chains of command from across post into the room, opened it up to residents, and that really set the foundation here on Fort Leonard Wood,” Towns said. “That enabled us to open the dialogue with the residents to determine what their concerns with housing were.”
About 250 service members, families and leadership attended the first town hall.
The town halls were only one step in the plan to address concerns here. Each chain of command was instructed to conduct home visits with 100 percent of their people to allow residents to voice their concerns. All 1,806 homes on post were visited and feedback was gathered to improve the processes, Towns said.
Those visits will continue as part of a new policy set by the commanding general titled Command Policy 14, Command Visitation Program.
Within that policy, leadership has been instructed to visit a Soldier’s home within the first 60 days of occupancy, and every six months thereafter “in order to improve the overall welfare of our military community” by ensuring families have a “safe, clean living environment.”
These visits are about ensuring residents are happy with their home and are not experiencing any issues, Towns said. These visits are not only for residents on post but off post, as well.
“No matter where our Soldiers and their families live, their chains of command have a responsibility to ensure their homes are being kept to a standard by their landlords,” Towns added.
A 24-hour hotline was also established as another avenue for residents to voice their concerns directly to the Garrison Housing Office.
The Garrison Emergency Operation Center Housing Hotline can be reached at 573.329.3926, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The housing contractor at Fort Leonard Wood, Balfour Beatty, also offers RentCafé, a phone application and online platform for residents found at https://www.rentcafe.com/residentservices/apartmentsforrent/userlogin.aspx.
Residents can submit a work order, track the progress and even verify when the work was complete, said Luis Rosario-Febus, Housing Division chief.
“Service members will need to register to the portal and they can submit and track work orders on their home computers or mobile phones,” he said. “Reservists, foreign military personnel, civilians, and retirees living on post can pay their rent on the mobile phone, as well. Active-duty personnel pay their rent through allotment, but still can use the RentCafé portal to access and submit work orders.”
All of these engagements have provided feedback to justify two new hires in the Directorate of Public Works housing department.
The new employees are responsible for 100 percent engagement with life, health and safety issues and 100 percent verification of all maintenance that occurs during change of occupancy, according to Rosario-Febus.
Balfour Beatty also hired two new employees who are focused on quality assurance, quality control and resident satisfaction.
Addressing housing concerns and ensuring resident satisfaction is a top priority.
“One of my chief responsibilities is to ensure the safety and well-being of the residents here at Fort Leonard Wood,” Towns said. “I take that responsibility very seriously.”
Question and Answer :
Jason Williams, Balfour Beatty project manager
What is the No. 1 routine maintenance performed in housing on Fort Leonard Wood?
A: Our number one request for routine maintenance generally stems from minor plumbing issues. Clogged toilets, sink and slow bath tub drains come in at number 1.
Most are usually resolved quickly and can be prevented by following these rules:
Baby wipes should not be flushed down toilets.
Grease should never be dumped in sinks.
Excess food should be dumped in the garbage before rinsing off in the sink and dishes should be rinsed off before putting them in the dishwasher.
Bathtub drains can be cleared with a ZIP strip in seconds.
What are the most challenging fixes, and why do they take time to fix?
A: Exterior requests for seasonal work ie…tree removal, bush trimming and animal trapping.
Dead trees are inventoried and tagged prior to Oct. 1 and there is a window from Nov. 1 through March 1 to have them removed. This is an environmental rule to provide a habitat under the Endangered Species Act.
Fort Leonard Wood is currently experiencing a wave of Ash Bore Beatle and currently have approximately 150 dead Ash trees. We will do our best to get these removed in the early part of the removal season.
Tree trimming is also a seasonal issue and we try to do pruning and trimming during the dormant periods. We had an above average rain fall this year and our tree canopies have done well this year. We will trim these back from roof tops this winter.
Our major problem in the housing areas is the population explosion of the ground hog. We have currently allowed our pest control contractor to set live traps, but it is a slow process.