Story by lanessa hill on 09/10/2019Transparency, enforcement, accountability and teamwork were all words said repeatedly during recent housing town halls held August 20 and 22 at Fort Detrick and Glen Haven Apartments in Wheaton, Maryland. As the Army Housing Campaign continues, leaders from Fort Detrick and partnering Balfour Beatty Communities met with residents about efforts to improve Army housing and the way ahead.
U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick Commander, Brig. Gen. Michael Talley opened up the afternoon town hall on the installation expressing his dedication and expectations to correct the issues at hand.
"We need to roll up our sleeves as leaders and get after it. It's time for results, it's time to stop talking and making promises," said Talley.
Recently released results of the Army Housing Survey show that performance as seen by residents has decreased. At Glen Haven, rates dropped by 10 percent to 65.7percent in 2019 from 76.1 percent in 2018, resulting in an overall "needs improvement" rating. Fort Detrick dropped 3 percent ending at 73 percent, resulting in an "average" rating.
The top concerns of residents at both locations are the quality of maintenance and the lack of responsiveness by Balfour Beatty Communities. Residents of Forest Glen also placed security and pest control as their top concerns.
"I hope to engage the Montgomery County Council Executive in discussion. I need him to know what our security concerns are. I need him to know that we have children we are concerned for," said Garrison Commander, Col. Dexter Nunnally.
Nunnally reminded attendees at each session that housing is his priority.
Nunnally stressed that some issues will take longer than others to remedy but day-to-day concerns, such as basic customer service and responsiveness will change now. Balfour Beatty determined that new leadership was necessary to move forward and appointed two new community managers for Fort Detrick and Glen Haven. The manager for Balfour Beatty at Fort Detrick is Teresa Steele and the manager for the Glen Haven complex is Russell Downey.
Another topic discussed at several town halls was the issue of "brown water." This issue has been reported by 39 homes, to date. Aged infrastructure across the Army is a concern and the 70-year-old water lines at Fort Detrick are just one example impacting the post.
In a recent letter to residents the Garrison and Balfour Beatty announced that Garrison and Fort Detrick Family Homes will work together to install water filters in a limited number of homes as part of a pilot program to determine the filters' effectiveness in resolving the brown water issue. This pilot program will last for a period of 30 days. The installation of the water filters is expected to begin in a few weeks. At the end of the trial period, the results will be provided to the tenants.
The filters may not be a final solution, but it is a start to making progress towards correcting the issue. If the filters are found to be effective, work will continue to install them in the remaining homes that previously reported brown water.
Feedback from residents about concerns and issues while living in Army housing is vital. This is a team effort.
Nunnally also stressed how important it is for any resident experiencing brown water to submit a work order. "I need everyone who has brown water to report it. I don't know what I don't know and the only way I can get a clear picture of the extent of the problem is to know where it is occurring. Currently I am tracking 39 impacted homes but I hear from many of you that this may be affecting more."
Long-term solutions to fix brown water issues are also in the works and the request for funding is at the U.S. Army Installation Management Command level.
"We have two projects submitted for 9.9 million dollars each. The first is to replace sewer lines and the second project would replace the infrastructure of the water distribution system," said Nunnally.
Both projects come down to available funding by the Army.
Lastly, leadership discussed communication. Residents will receive a notice when maintenance is done to their homes and online resident portals will be used more frequently to notify residents of housing improvement progress.
The Garrison Commander set high expectations and several measurable due outs for Balfour Beatty to complete. Balfour Beatty owes the commander answers regarding pest control, specifically what terms are in the contract and what is an acceptable amount of time residents should expect to wait after they place a maintenance call.
He also asked the managers at both locations to ensure maintenance worker qualifications and licensures are up to date and maintained.
To improve communication and add another layer of information sharing to the residents, both locations will begin posting events and notices in commonly used areas.