FORT BENNING, Ga. – The Maneuver Center of Excellence’s third walking town hall differed from the previous two in order to cover all of Patton Village. With more than 600 units, the teams divided Patton Village into four areas with representatives from key garrison activities in each group.
Construction on Patton Village started in 2008. The two previous walking town halls were in older housing areas, built in 1957 and the other in the early ’60s, said Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning.
Acknowledging that this housing area has a different set of problems – it’s larger with more people, Donahoe said, “We know that we have issues with some of the HVAC systems in the houses, we’ve been talking about how we do move-in inspections and move-in education … to learn how to better take care of the houses. … Who is responsible for what? Responsibilities for the garrison, responsibilities for the Villages of Benning and responsibilities for residents, so we are all part of this.”
Prior to breaking into teams, Col. Matthew Scalia, garrison commander, instructed those gathered to be proactive in communicating with the residents.
“I don’t want this to be primarily housing … it’s another way for us to receive input from residents, to hear their concerns, issues, suggestions,” Scalia said.
Demonstrating how seriously senior leadership takes the walking town halls, representatives from the major agencies that impact a Soldier’s quality of life participate in order to talk schools, maintenance, MWR activities, safety and security, Scalia said.
“This town hall is proactive in nature, so please engage directly,” Scalia said.
“Gaining, establishing and maintaining trust and confidence with the residents here, at the same time making sure there is understanding of the shared responsibility for living on Fort Benning,” Scalia said.
Each team consisted of personnel from Villages of Benning, directorates of Emergency Services, Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, school liaisons, and command teams of representing the units of the Soldiers who live there.
The commanding general and Kevin Clarke, director of Emergency Services, among others walked Phase 3 of Patton Village because of stray bullet rounds striking homes in January. With the case still being open, Military Police Investigations Branch is offering a $1,000 cash reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the damage and negligent discharge with a firearm. Officials believe the rounds came from off post and recommend residents call 911 if they hear gunfire.
Issues residents talked to another team about include response times for routine maintenance, erosion and drainage, retribution for complaints and expectation management.
Command Sgt. Maj. Derrick Garner, senior enlisted advisor to the commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, listened as the residents spoke of rotting door frames, plumbing issues, rodents and lack of insulation in rooms over the garage.
One resident asked about the typical response time for a nonemergency work order. During the discussion with the team he discovered the failing railing on the stairs is a safety hazard that is considered an emergency. The team took note of the issue and assured the resident it would be fixed.
Another talked about paying more than $1,500 a month rent for a home that had plumbing issues and standing water in the yard. Continuing that in the civilian world, these problems would be fixed. But here, nothing is done to fix the problems as the basic allowance for housing is deducted monthly.
“If I’m paying for a product there is an expectation that it is serviceable,” Garner said as he told the resident he understood the frustration situations like this cause.
Megan Brodbeck, who has lived in Patton Village for two years, thanked the team for their support of the walking town hall.
“I’m really glad you are doing this,” she said.