Community members who live and work on the installation know that Fort Polk's barracks are aging. Original construction of the buildings in the late '70s and early '80s was designed for a 50 year lifespan.

Difficulty in securing funds for barracks, coupled with harsh conditions and several years of less then adequate preventive measures have contributed to the current conditions. Of 34 barracks at Polk, 31 were built between 28 and 35 years ago and are not scheduled for replacement until 2028, according to Directorate of Public Works officials.

A recent Installation Status Report shows that 80 percent of Fort Polk barracks are in need of repairs. Living spaces lack sufficient heating and cooling, ventilation is nonexistent and site drainage is ineffective.

These factors have contributed to mold and mildew issues, which have the potential to affect Soldiers' health. Additionally several years ago, the Army changed it's regulation on square foot per Soldier standards to support the all-volunteer force, which translates to "One Soldier, One space (1+1)."

The good news is that close to $10 million worth of renovations are currently ongoing, and recently Congressional funding was approved to improve 13 additional barracks -- $182 million was allocated to begin renovations on those facilities.

Along with additional funds received, central energy plants will be repaired to provide better heating and cooling capability for a majority of the barracks.

Future plans are to provide the same for administration buildings in the company areas. Drainage and erosion are contributing factors to the constant moisture problems in the barracks. DPW's plan is to aggressively redirect storm runoff and create better drainage away from buildings and the crawl spaces that retain water. Close to $3 million is dedicated for this portion of the project.

This will be a multiple phase project scheduled to take close to four years to complete, said Ellis Smith, director of DPW.

During construction and renovation, Soldiers will be asked to relocate based on construction work scheduled in certain barracks. The Resident Community Initiative is working on plans to relieve as much stress as possible as well as an Army First Sergeants Barracks Initiative which will create a centralized barracks management program.

"Our team has worked hard to obtain this funding to enhance the living conditions for our unaccompanied Soldiers. The execution of these projects will require close coordination between DPW, FWD COE (Corps of Engineers) and the Soldiers that will benefit from the enhancements. Thanks to everyone involved that has assisted us in reaching this milestone," he said.

The project, yet to be given an "Army name," will show Fort Polk's commitment to quality of life improvements and impact on Soldier morale.

By 2012 more than half of the barracks will have been upgraded to a "One Soldier per room" format.

The remaining barracks still require funding; an estimated $200 million will be needed to finish.

Page last updated Tue October 14th, 2008 at 15:09