A year-and-a-half has passed since efforts began to improve housing both here at Fort Detrick and across the wider Army overall. We continue to make progress on a number of fronts.
During a Housing Summit from Jan. 14-16 at Army Materiel Command (AMC) headquarters in Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, Gen. Gus Perna, AMC Commander, assured attendees that improving housing conditions continued to be a top priority for both himself and Army leadership. It continues to be a priority for leadership at Fort Detrick as well.
"We are absolutely committed to provide safe and secure housing on every installation and making every installation an installation of choice for our Soldiers and families" said Perna. "The summit is another step in our commitment to hold ourselves and privatized housing companies accountable to provide a high-quality standard of living and to earn back the trust of our housing residents."
Since our last housing update article in Sept. 2019, we have continued to address issues with our partners at Balfour Beatty Communities (BBC). In December 2019, Garrison Commander Col. Dexter Nunnally sent a letter to BBC leadership highlighting four continuing concerns from housing residents: work order processing, maintenance inspections between occupancy periods, pest control, and preventative maintenance. In response, and following a meeting with two senior BBC executives, a plan has been developed to address ongoing concerns.
Further, Nunnally also met with Montgomery County (MD) Executive Marc Elrich in December 2019 to discuss military housing in his county and overall residential concerns. As a result, Elrich is developing a series of actionable items in order to assist us.
Fort Detrick leadership continues to address resident dissatisfaction from Glen Haven in Silver Spring, Maryland, during weekly conference calls with BBC.
Notably, and as a result of the aforementioned meetings, the following efforts have been implemented:
• BBC is addressing understaffing issues at Glen Haven Apartments, and is currently in the process of hiring additional, licensed technicians. They are further training staff on policies and customer service expectations. Once fully staffed, BBC expects to see improvements on work order submissions that include pest control and preventative maintenance.• Recently, BBC entered into a contract with Valet Living Doorstep trash pickup services, which will provide trash removal to all apartment residents from Sunday -- Thursday. All trash placed inside approved waste containers will be disposed of by Valet Living Doorstep during these times.
• Through a Courtesy Officers Program, police officers with Montgomery County are now living in Glen Haven Apartments and performing duties to deter crime.
• Resident stickers for automobiles are now available to identify which vehicles are owned by residents and which are not. This idea was implemented following a resident suggestion.
• Rodent pest control can now be marked as urgent when submitting work orders. Pest control companies will add to their service agreements the term "emergency response" to work orders and will respond within 24 hours. Buildings are currently being treated for pests on a rotational schedule and units are treated after a tenant moves out.
• With regards to clarifying communication methods, BBC is working on translation services for Spanish-speaking residents for all announcements and general resident information.
• BBC will be sending out a monthly reminder about recent changes in the work order process to residents.
• At both Fort Detrick and Glen Haven, residents will soon be able to learn the maintenance history of large appliances like heating and air conditioning units and water heaters by scanning bar codes that will be placed on the units themselves.Fort Detrick continues to make progress by providing open lines of communication with both residents and BBC, and is further committed to making ongoing structural and service improvements to provide safe and secure housing for those living at Fort Detrick and Glen Haven.
The next town hall at Fort Detrick is scheduled for Feb. 10. The next town hall event at Glen Haven is scheduled for Feb. 12. This is a team effort, and hearing from residents about concerns and issues while living in Army housing is vital to making lasting change. Thank you for your patience, support, and feedback.