FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – The Directorate of Public Works, or DPW, recently began the transition to its new headquarters at Lincoln Hall, the former Lincoln Elementary School, 4718 Polk Road.
Aside from preserving the historic structure, Jessica Stonesifer, DPW director, said the move will better position DPW to carry out its mission to serve the Fort Campbell community.
“Lincoln was not only in the best shape of the three schools that were vacant, but it also had the historic significance that we wanted to save,” Stonesifer said. “So, it’s a win-win because we saved the school from being demolished and can keep the history alive. We also used the Army’s facility investment strategy, which is use what you’ve got instead of building new facilities.”
The projected cost of building a new facility was about $30 million, but renovating the school came out to around $7.5 million.
DPW formerly occupied 146,417 square feet of space spread out over 21 buildings.
The nonexistence of a central office made efficiency difficult, said Jeremy Rains, business operations and integration division chief, DPW.
“Getting into one footprint will help us with communication across DPW,” Rains said. “That separation sometimes led to gaps in what was going on and staying synced up on things.”
The new space will also shorten response times and make teams more cohesive, he said.
Additionally, 12 of the 21 buildings designated as DPW workspace were WWII-era wooden structures that presented challenges to maintenance, safety and overall health of employees, Stonesifer said.
“Those buildings were energy inefficient, they had mold, had fire hazards and weren’t a great working space,” she said.
“The lighting is better, the air is cleaner, the air conditioning works, we have fire suppression now which we didn’t have before, so it’s just a huge improvement,” Stonesifer said.
The move to a new facility reduces the amount of working space to 82,646 square feet of permanent offices, a fact Stonesifer said will lead to better customer service.
“It eliminates the stovepipe that happens with each of our divisions working geographically separated from one another,” she said. “The consolidation also allows us to reduce the number of conference rooms, printers, office supplies ... saving space and money. Overall, it will allow our employees to collaborate better, network internally within the organization, and build teamwork.”
Lincoln Elementary School was the first school constructed in the United States under the sponsorship of Public Law 81-874, Section 6.
The law provided federal funding for schools for military dependents when an alternative free public education was not available.
It opened in 1952, which was two years before the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, making Lincoln Elementary School one of the first to integrate in the state of Kentucky, Stonesifer said.
DPW is honored to be a part of preserving the building’s historic significance, she said.
The school closed in 2016.
DPW will preserve as much of the building’s character and style as possible, Stonesifer said. Items such as the school clocks, the gymnasium – complete with school mascot – and the bathrooms have all been left intact, Stonesifer said.
“Back on one of these hallways there were painted handprints with children’s names beside them and unfortunately during construction we had to paint over that,” Stonesifer said. “My intent is that we get to go back as employees to do that and pay homage to what was there and also bring it into today’s mission of what the building serves.”
The move to the new facility has been more than a physical experience, Stonesifer said. For some employees, the move is an emotional one that brings them full circle.
“We have employees who have either had children in this school or who actually attended elementary school here, so they get to be a part of this building’s legacy,” she said.
Of the roughly 320 employees, more than 200 of them will be working in the new facility, which represents a massive portion of the DPW operation and a good example of how the Army uses its resources efficiently, Stonesifer said.
With the exception of Forestry and Roads and Grounds, most department employees will be in the new location.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the Army to show how we’re good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Stonesifer said. “We needed a modern, professional facility without building something new and I think this is the next best thing.”
DPW will continue to move into the building as construction is completed, with a projected finish date of late August.