By James BrooksMarch 23, 2019
Vicenza, ITALY (March 22, 2019) - USAG Italy-area Army officers completed visits to all of more than 2260 government-owned, government-lease, and barracks rooms in Vicenza and Camp Darby as part of the Army-wide Housing and Barracks Assessment to identify and resolve unsatisfactory conditions.
"We had great support from the community in meeting the deadline to visit 100 percent of occupied government housing," said USAG Italy Garrison Commander Col. Erik M. Berdy. "The 173rd Airborne Brigade provided the greatest support in addition to fulfilling their operational requirements. I think their efforts reflect the great amount of speed and urgency on this community issue."
The main focus of the visits was to identify life, health or safety issues. Three families were temporarily moved due to water damage, mold remediation and an inoperable heating unit. One other family is being moved at government expense to a new house due to flooding and water damage to their government leased quarters.
"Life, health, safety issues are addressed immediately but sometimes repairs take more than a day to resolve so we offer to move the family to a local hotel until repairs are made," said USAG Italy Housing Director Lewis Smith. "In an average 30-day period, it's not unusual for the housing department to arrange temporary accommodations at a local hotel for Soldiers and their families until repairs are made. For larger problems that require more time to remediate, families are moved to a new house at government expense."
According to the housing department, there are 93 work orders outstanding for Villaggio and government-leased lodging and 270 in the barracks. None of these are life, health and safety related but still important to resolve.
NEW HOUSING INITIATIVES
In addition to the new housing hotline phone number announced during the March 1 town hall to make trouble reporting simpler, USAG Italy Public Works is moving forward to improve some of their work processes for housing assignments and work orders.
USAG Italy Public Works Officer Norman Stiegler is working with his housing department and other tenant commands on these improvements.
"We got a lot of feedback from residents during the town hall and the house visits. We are following up with repairs with resident quality assurance checks. Also, any quarters that have been vacant for more than two weeks will be re-inspected prior to a new resident moving in. In addition to ensuring appliances are inspected and serviced, we'll make sure residents are provided English-language appliance handbooks," said Stiegler.
Also, concerns of water and air contaminants raised at the March 1 town hall meeting led to the addition of new links on the garrison website where Soldiers and families can find official information and sampling results. Those new internet links can be found on the comuni page: https://home.army.mil/italy/index.php/comuni.
MEETING THE DEMANDS OF THE FUTURE
With a scheduled, multiple-year construction project to literally rebuild Villaggio with modern, energy efficient homes, a build-to-lease proposal for another 127 homes in the nearby Vicenza area and a comprehensive review of the private rental inventory, USAG Italy housing is slated to improve in the coming years. The garrison is also working towards other improvements in the way housing is handled. Finding the financial resources for these projects, in some cases, will be key.
"We're looking at a web-based work order system that will make it easier to request repairs and allow us and the resident to track them. We're exploring the possibility of having in-house legal assistance to help residents in private rentals. We're also looking at ways to improve our phone system for the customer service desk and contractor. We lack the ability to put customers on hold so we can handle multiple calls at one time. These initiatives take money and we have to wait and see what happens with our housing budget," said Stiegler.
Housing is also looking at other long term investments using 'sweat capital." Quarterly meetings with barracks residents; invigorating building and neighborhood coordinator training programs; and improving housing paperwork and web-based handbooks are all on the project list.
The Commander's Readiness and Resiliency Council also turned its attention toward housing to put the same readiness and resiliency working group processes to task.
"I'm meeting with a group of spouses to explore a Villaggio neighborhood group that can work together to address issues and propose solutions in government owned housing. As the neighborhood is redeveloped, this group could also be helpful. We'll need someone to play a leadership role so for now, it's an idea we hope Villaggio residents will run with," said USAG Italy's CR2C coordinator Amy Cates.
A second town hall will be scheduled in the near future to bring the community up-to-date with housing progress and answer any lingering issues.
"I have been in the U.S. Army for over 30 years, and I have lived in military housing all over the world. This issue matters to me," said US Army Africa Commanding General Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, Jr. during the last town hall. "You are among the less than one percent who have chosen to serve and defend the nation. We owe you this. You deserve the very best housing we can provide."
Do you have a housing concern that you want to bring to the attention of leadership and can't wait? The housing hotline can be used to bring issues directly to senior leadership. Simply call 0444-71-5116 and select option 3.