Fort Benning Public Affairs
FORT BENNING, Ga. – A housing area built here more than six decades ago is slated for power-washing and other fix-ups thanks to a new initiative in which Fort Benning's top general and other leaders make an in-person walk-through of the post's residential housing areas, a key housing official said Jan. 26.
The plan to do power-washing and other touch-ups to the Norton Court residential area, built in 1957, comes after a Jan. 20 "walking town hall" there, said the official, Kirk Ticknor, interim housing chief with U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning's Directorate of Public Works.
Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Donahoe, commanding general of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, made the walk-through with about two-dozen other leaders and officials, including commanders of the military units to which many of Norton Court's residents are assigned.
The walk-through was part of Donahoe's new initiative to improve oversight of Fort Benning's residential housing by giving himself and other officials a chance to talk face-to-face with residents and get an eyes-on awareness of housing conditions.
"You get more of a genuine reaction maybe, from the people who live there," said Ticknor. "That way there's no doubt about getting some candid views."
Donahoe launched the walking town halls with a Dec. 9 walk-through of the Bouton Heights area.
Fort Benning maintains more than 4,000 Family homes, which it manages through a private company, The Villages of Benning.
About a dozen housing areas will be visited in the course of the year, at a rate of one per month, said Ticknor.
At Norton Court Donahoe had conversations with seven Soldiers and also got a look inside three homes, said Ticknor. Most tenants in Norton Court are Soldiers, many of them attending Infantry or Armor Basic Officer Leader courses, and the Maneuver Captain's Career Course, Ticknor said.
Some view Norton Court as a housing area that's showing its age.
"The common complaints were just the age, the dated appearance of the appliances, the fixtures, the doors," said Ticknor. "You go in 'em and it's pretty obvious they were built in 1957."
There were also concerns about grime on the exterior of the homes and on outdoor partitioning walls, dilapidated fencing, litter, about the timeliness of responses to maintenance requests, and complains about dog droppings resulting from what some residents said was a failure by some pet owners to curb their dogs, Ticknor said.
Norton Court is slated to be demolished and rebuilt but only "starting in the five to ten year time frame," because of funding and other considerations, he said.
"So," said Ticknor, "the theme from the occupants: If these could be modernized that would be real nice and sometimes the maintenance is slow, but they also recognize that they probably need to follow up on some of their own service orders."
As a result of what he saw, said Ticknor, Donahoe has told officials to work up a short-term plan for proper, timely improvements.
"He said, how can we work ... to make things better?" Ticknor said. "For instance, improve the curb appeal, improve communication on maintenance, look at our procedures for pest control and stray animal control."
"I think it's as simple as power-washing the exteriors and getting rid of some old fences in there that just need to be removed, that don't have any purpose," Ticknor said. Some windows should also be replaced, he said.
The group accompanying Donahoe on the Norton Court visit included Command Sgt. Maj. Derrick C. Garner, MCoE's senior enlisted leader; Col. Matthew Scalia, commander, USAG Fort Benning; Ticknor; the commanders and senior enlisted leaders of the 199th Infantry Brigade and 316th Cavalry Brigade, which are two of Fort Benning's training units; and the commander of the post's Martin Army Community Hospital.
Also making the visit were, among others, officials of The Villages of Benning, as well as officials from the garrison's Directorate of Emergency Services, and from its Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
The visit was a success, Ticknor said.
"It accomplished the commanding general's dual purpose," he said. "One was to get more familiar with the issues for those residents," said Ticknor. "Two, it requires the entire management team and the garrison team to get out there and walk the area. You see things differently than you see them from a windshield.
"And it's inspiring," he said, "because the command group is saying, 'Hey, the quality of housing, the quality of life, is important to me. It's important enough that I'm taking a couple of hours out of my schedule every month to go see what's happening, and address the problems."
One resident who talked with Donahoe, Scalia, Ticknor and others was Sgt. 1st Class Richard Fredericks, of Delta Troop, 5th Squadron, 15th Cavalry Regiment, 194th Armored Brigade.
"It think it's a good initiative to try to do," Fredericks said of the walking town halls Donahoe has started. "Because a lot of times when information is passed through the channels, it's just like any game of telephone – it can be translated and misrepresented possibly. So that gives him a chance to see for himself what exactly people are saying."
The next walking town hall is scheduled for the Indianhead Village residential area Feb. 24.