FORT BENNING, Ga. – In a March 2020 photo taken before adoption of COVID-19 precautions, Fort Benning officials, residents of Family housing attend a  and representatives of The Villages of Benning, which manages the housing day to day in partnership with the Army, discuss a wide range of housing matters. This "Mayors Meeting" and others like it, including housing town halls, are among a variety of measures Fort Benning has in place to foster good communication and timely response to housing residents' needs. To further aid that communication process, The Villages recently took several new steps that include a new phone line residents call for a more direct path to those who handle their maintenance needs, produced a digital flyer that outlines the steps for getting housing help, and changed briefings for new residents from quarterly to monthly and now hold them online to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19. Among those in the photo are Col. Matthew Scalia (standing), commander, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning, and Denise Bleiler (seated, to Scalia's right), community director with The Villages.

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Public Affairs)
FORT BENNING, Ga. – In a March 2020 photo taken before adoption of COVID-19 precautions, Fort Benning officials, residents of Family housing attend a and representatives of The Villages of Benning, which manages the housing day to day in partnership with the Army, discuss a wide range of housing matters. This "Mayors Meeting" and others like it, including housing town halls, are among a variety of measures Fort Benning has in place to foster good communication and timely response to housing residents' needs. To further aid that communication process, The Villages recently took several new steps that include a new phone line residents call for a more direct path to those who handle their maintenance needs, produced a digital flyer that outlines the steps for getting housing help, and changed briefings for new residents from quarterly to monthly and now hold them online to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19. Among those in the photo are Col. Matthew Scalia (standing), commander, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning, and Denise Bleiler (seated, to Scalia's right), community director with The Villages.

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Patrick Albright)
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Fort Benning Public Affairs

FORT BENNING, Ga. – Those living in Fort Benning's Family housing now have a new phone number they can call that gives them a more direct path to the people who handle their maintenance matters day to day.

The phone number, 706-685-7848, is answered Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., said Denise Bleiler, community director with The Villages of Benning, the private company that manages Fort Benning's more than 4,000 homes in partnership with the U.S. Army.

The Villages' resident engagement specialist answers the calls, and directs them to the appropriate Villages manager to address the need directly, Bleiler said.

If the resident engagement specialist is away from her desk, she's still reachable, said Bleiler.

"If she's not there leave a message or follow up with an email and she will get back to them within the hour," Bleiler said.

The Villages is asking residents to first try two other avenues and to call the new number if the first two didn't lead to a satisfactory outcome.

The first step is to submit an online maintenance work order, or, if the matter is deemed a maintenance emergency, to call The Villages' 24-hour maintenance hotline: 706-685-3929.

Another option is for tenants to call the community management offices for their particular housing area.

FORT BENNING, Ga. – Family housing at Fort Benning, in a March 2020 photo.

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Public Affairs)
FORT BENNING, Ga. – Family housing at Fort Benning, in a March 2020 photo.

(U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Public Affairs)

(Photo Credit: Patrick A. Albright)
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If they deem the matter still unresolved they can call the new resident engagement number.

"It is a way to enhance customer service and for residents to contact us if they are not able to find a resolution either with maintenance or their management office," said Heather Bearden, assistant community director with The Villages.

Residents also have the option of calling the hotline maintained by Fort Benning officials, the garrison housing emergency hotline: 706-626-2002. It's answered 24 hours year-round, said Keith R. Lovejoy, Housing Division chief with U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning's Directorate of Public Works.

"All the information that's taken from that emergency hotline is given to myself and the garrison commander," said Lovejoy. "We immediately call the resident and if need be, we can get the property manager to respond quicker."

But in creating a new, separate number that goes strictly to The Villages staff, the aim is to streamline handling of resident maintenance needs by bringing them to those who can most quickly act on them.

"It's basically similar to the garrison hotline," said Bleiler. "We have our own hotline now.

"Because we want to solve our own problems," she said. "We would love for people to come to us and let us know what their issues are and give us a chance to fix them first. Because we already got them and as soon as they get to the garrison they come back to us anyway.

"We want people to contact us so we can give them better follow-up," Bleiler said.

The Villages has also emailed to residents a digital flyer labeled "Resident Resolution Process" showing whom to contact and in what suggested order. The Villages also now includes it in the information packet given to new tenants, Bleiler said.

Digital flyer developed by The Villages of Benning to show Family housing residents here the suggested steps for getting help with their repair and other housing-related needs.

(Courtesy of The Villages of Benning)
Digital flyer developed by The Villages of Benning to show Family housing residents here the suggested steps for getting help with their repair and other housing-related needs.

(Courtesy of The Villages of Benning) (Photo Credit: (Courtesy of The Villages of Benning))
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That resolution process is not new, but The Villages decided it would be helpful to outline it visually in a digital flyer, said Bleiler.

"We've always had this as our process but we never spelled it out for our residents," she said. "So what is new on this one is we just spell our process out for all residents to see it in writing."

The Villages has also recently changed how it conducts the briefing they hold for new tenants.

The newcomer briefings highlight key items related to living in Family housing at Fort Benning, including how to call for repairs, dispose of trash, among other matters.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic struck earlier this year, the briefings were quarterly and attended in-person.

Once the pandemic hit, they were halted but resumed in July, with The Villages deciding to hold them online using a videoconferencing system, Bleiler said.

"We do it over Zoom," said Bleiler, "and we personally will send an invitation to every new move-in, because we have their email addresses, inviting them to this briefing."

The additional steps to make residents aware of the resolution process and the changes to the briefing are part of what Bleiler said was an effort by The Villages to build the best possible communication flow between itself and tenants.

"We just want people to see," she said, "that we do hear their voices, and what they tell us matters."