WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, HAWAII -- U.S. Army Hawaii leadership wants residents to know it's dedicated to enhancing residents' quality of life on post housing, to include both family housing and barracks.
"Our responsibility is readiness; not just the operational readiness of our force but to ensure that force is ready because their families, our families, are cared for properly," Maj. Gen. Ron Clark, senior commander, U.S. Army Hawaii, and commanding general, 25th Infantry Division, said in a previously-held housing town hall.
In September 2018, installations across the Army held town halls to communicate the hazards of lead in the environment in response to media reports of lead in on-post housing.
Due to how lead-based paint was used prior to 1978, the Army uses the assumption that all homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. When new residents sign into pre-1978 post housing they receive notification about the potential lead paint hazard. They are given information from the Environmental Protection Agency and sign an addendum stating they received it.
Generally speaking, the existence of lead-based paint is not an issue.
"Lead-contaminated paint is not a hazard if it's contained under other coats of paint that are intact and undisturbed," said Col. Kristen Casto, director for the Army Public Health Center in a lead-based paint video. "It is only when lead-contaminated paint deteriorates or becomes exposed, releasing chips that contaminate surface dust or soil, that it becomes a significant hazard."
Of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii's 7,880 on-post family residences, 1,451 family homes were built before 1978. Over the past year, all homes suspected to have lead-based paint were inspected by the Directorate of Public Works' Compliance Branch, and any areas with old paint chipped away have been abated by being painted over.
Anyone who lives in a pre-1978 home and notices paint peeling or chipping should call their community center and report it. They should also take measures to ensure their children or pets do not eat any paint chips.
In February 2019, unit and garrison leadership conducted visits to all on-post housing and barracks to assess the scale and scope of housing issues.
U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii held five town halls across Oahu to address housing problems and answer questions from residents. These will continue quarterly.
Feedback from the town halls prompted direct and immediate action to remedy housing issues on post to include increased personnel, expanded service hours and additional feedback mechanisms.
In response to resident concerns regarding housing conditions on U.S. Army Hawaii installations, the Directorate of Public Works has hired eight additional permanent housing managers to inspect homes, track resident feedback and oversee work order satisfaction.
"The garrison is now conducting 100% of inspections between move-out and move-in," explained Col. Tom Barrett, garrison commander, during a housing town hall held in April. "We recognize one of the concerns is what was supposed to be fixed in your home before you moved in was not ready for you to move in. That's part of the reason we've hired new inspectors."
Since being hired this past spring, the housing managers have conducted more than 1,700 change of occupancy maintenance inspections over the summer PCS season.
The new housing managers are also responsible for following up with 100 percent of all residents with life, health and safety issues, and follow-up on at least five percent of all other work orders completed by the Island Palm Communities maintenance team for quality assurance. More than 2,400 residents have been contacted to verify they were happy with the work provided.
In March, the garrison set up a command hotline, (808) 656-3279, which is still active for residents to take their concerns directly to the chain of command if they have any issues with resolving a housing issue.
To increase responsiveness, Island Palm Communities has also hired additional personnel for their call centers to decrease hold times and maintenance staff. They've expanded weekday and weekend hours so maintenance personnel can complete work orders after residents are home from work.
To help combat mold and lead-paint issues, specialized companies have been hired. Three additional duct-cleaning crews have been hired to assist with routine cleaning of central air conditioning systems.
In May, a mobile app was launched that allows residents to submit and track work orders from their mobile device.
Intending to reach out to the community on a regular basis, three additional housing town halls were held in the summer. Housing town halls will continue to be held quarterly in conjunction with the monthly Community Information Exchange.
The Army's commitment to ensuring quality housing and continued oversight is an enduring priority for Army senior leaders.
"We need to hear from you to know and understand what is going right and wrong," said Gen. Gustave F. Perna, commanding general, Army Materiel Command, in an Army Housing Newsflash commentary. "I encourage you to communicate through your chain of command and the (local) Army Housing office. We will also continue quarterly town halls with your installation leaders as a forum for feedback. Bring us your issues, as well as your success stories."