CAMP ZAMA, Japan – U.S. Army Garrison Japan leadership hosted a quarterly town hall meeting here Wednesday to discuss ongoing developments in housing and to listen to concerns from residents.
Col. Christopher L. Tomlinson, commander of USAG Japan, said the primary purpose of the meetings is to elicit candid feedback and allow subject-matter experts to answer questions related to housing.
“The Army is absolutely committed in caring for our people and, as the garrison commander, your health and welfare is of the utmost importance [to me],” he said.
Garrison staff have held similar town halls since early 2019 to ensure residents continually receive safe, clean and healthy housing, he said.
The latest meeting, held online and face-to-face inside the Camp Zama Community Club, provided updates on issues mentioned in a previous town hall, as well as other concerns.
Juan Aponte, chief of Housing Management Division, spoke on the accessibility of playgrounds on Camp Zama and nearby Sagamihara Family Housing Area, or SHA.
Both posts have a total of 23 playgrounds, with five of them currently closed on Camp Zama due to renovations and safety concerns. Aponte said construction has started for three of the playgrounds, slated to be completed next May, while the other two have not yet been funded.
In the meantime, Aponte said Dewey Park and the parks in Wooldridge Village and Kite Peak can serve as alternate play areas for children.
Chiller units will also be replaced by next April at the Honshu Heights and Mountain View towers on Camp Zama. Aponte said a temporary chiller unit will be used this summer.
“We do not anticipate any cooling problems this summer, because of the supplemental cooling,” he said. “That project should not impact any of the residents.”
Tomlinson later fielded a question about the time it takes to transition from heating to cooling and vice versa in the spring and fall inside housing units.
The colonel explained the Directorate of Public Works needs to flush and clean all the systems before they get back up and running. During that time, weather may sometimes present a hot or cold spell.
“This is a process that takes place twice a year, and it’s not an easy process,” he said, “because we’re essentially a centrally heated and cooled installation.
“We do the best to our ability and our DPW team works very, very hard in trying to time this right,” he added. “It’s very technical in its nature, just based on the system supporting our footprint here on Camp Zama.”
Another project discussed were the whole-house renovations at eight homes in Kite Peak (1064 and 1065), which have an expected completion date of April 2024. The construction project to fully renovate 12 homes in Kite Peak (1066 to 1068) is currently on hold due to funding.
Residents in those homes will eventually be required to relocate, Aponte said, while also ensuring they would be notified well in advance and moved at the government’s expense.
With hot and humid weather approaching, Aponte also provided some tips on how to prevent mold in housing units.
The key, he said, is to control moisture and condensation. When using the air conditioner, he said to make sure windows and doors are closed, as well as to use the bathroom fan when showering and exhaust fan when cooking and washing dishes, to prevent condensation.
Residents are responsible for cleaning an area affected with mold if under 10 square feet in size and under 9 feet above the walking surface. If greater than that, or if it is a recurring issue, Aponte said residents can call the housing facilities maintenance branch at 263-4754/5859/5952.
The DPW service desk can also be reached at 263-4274/4613 to report the issue. Use “046-407” and the last four digits if calling from a cellphone. In addition, residents can call the service desk for other emergency or urgent work orders, while routine work orders can be requested at www.ArmyMaintenance.com.
Aponte said the housing division provides services to over 1,300 military members and civilian sponsors, and 2,000 family members.
If any resident has a suggestion, complaint or unresolved issue, they can always contact his office, he said.
“We take this seriously,” Aponte said. “If you’re not satisfied with any service, please contact the housing division first.”
As the peak summer moving season continues, Tomlinson also answered a question on how yard sales are conducted. Yard sales at SHA can only take place on the second Saturday of May and September. While at Camp Zama, the next one will be held June 11 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and another on the second Saturday of October.
“It comes down to community standards,” he said of the policy to protect privacy, public health and general welfare. “It’s basically mutual respect and predictability among our community members.”
Tomlinson then took another question on the aggressive behavior of crows in the area.
The summer is their mating season, he said, and the birds can be highly protective and even swoop down on people and pets. He suggested that residents carry an umbrella with them while walking, and to secure their garbage cans and keep yards free of toys and other debris to prevent crows from getting into them.
At the end of the town hall, Command Sgt. Maj. Justin E. Turner, senior enlisted leader for USAG Japan, mentioned there are also processes in place to keep barracks safe and clean.
While single Soldiers often discuss quality-of-life concerns, including housing, at the Warrior Zone, Turner said first sergeants and barracks managers also hold quarterly Army Barracks Management Program meetings to identify and fix issues.
Soldiers can use the Interactive Customer Evaluation comment card system, known as ICE, to voice their concerns as well.
“If you do have an issue that cannot be resolved through one of those different tools, you can use your chain of command,” Turner said. “They are there for you.”
(Editor’s note: To watch the entire town hall meeting on Facebook, click here.)