Fort Bliss, Texas – To ensure maximum participation from Fort Bliss residents, Garrison Commander Col. James Brady conducted FY2022’s last Quarterly Housing Town Hall in two sessions at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sept. 27 at the Army Community Services Ballroom.
As part of an Army-wide focus on housing, the garrison commander conducts quarterly Town Halls to disseminate Fort Bliss privatized housing information and provide a forum for direct resident input.
“This is something we do in order to provide an exchange of information from the Garrison Directorate of Public Works, Housing Division, Residential Communities Initiative Branch, and Balfour Beatty Communities,” said Brady.
Using a slide presentation to guide the brief, Brady began by laying down participation guidelines.
“The first principle is that there are no reprisals for what you bring up,” said Brady. “We do ask that you only couch your comments regarding your particular issues, that you’re not bringing up issues for someone else that is second- or third-party information.”
“Please be brief and respectful because we want to allow as many participants as possible to ask questions at the end,” he added.
Joining Brady at the panel were Command Sgt. Maj. Gerardo Gonzalez, Fort Bliss Garrison Command Sergeant Major; Todd Pidone, Deputy Chief of Police, Directorate of Emergency Services; Yolanda Brown, Housing Division Chief, Directorate of Public Works; Leticia Stevens, Community Director, Fort Bliss Family Homes; and Phillip Wrobel, Project Director, Balfour Beatty Communities.
Staff and representatives from BBC and Fort Bliss Family Homes, Army Housing, DPW, DES, and ACS were also in attendance.
First on the agenda was the Plain Language Brief, a bill of rights and responsibilities given to every tenant. The Tenant Bill of Rights is codified by IMCOM and recognized by RCI partners.
“You have rights to good housing, quick maintenance, communication, etc. This is what you would expect of your landlord if you want to do a lease,” said Brady.
The bill also dictates the requirements of the tenant.
“The tenant also has requirements – to keep the home in good condition, to quickly raise maintenance issues, to keep a quiet dwelling that does not impact our neighbors – so this is a two-way street,” said Brady. “Landlord and tenant both have requirements according to the lease.”
Second on the agenda was an explanation of the Tenant Informal Dispute Resolution process, which allows tenants a fair, quick, and equitable resolution to their housing concerns.
If a tenant is unable to work with BBC to resolve their issue, they can raise it to the garrison level as an informal dispute in which the garrison commander will arbitrate the issue as a fair judge.
“We try to work to come to an arrangement that both parties, the landlord – BBC, and the tenant – the resident, are able to resolve their issues at a lower level,” said Brady. “If they are unable to resolve that, then there can be a request for a formal resolution which goes up to IMCOM where they will arbitrate the matter on the resident’s behalf.”
Before turning it over to DES, BBC and FBFH for housing updates, Brady urged residents to take full advantage of the multiple communication methods available to address unresolved issues.
“What we find with our residents is that sometimes they don’t know where to take their complaints or issues to,” said Brady. “We want them to work directly with BBC and their community managers to quickly resolve it.”
A quick Internet search of “Fort Bliss Family Homes” leads you to a list of their most recent contact information. The list provides email addresses, office numbers and cell phone numbers for community managers, assistant community managers, and maintenance managers – not only for the local communities but for the entire FBFH organization.
“If you can’t get a resolution that way, then there’s the DPW Housing Division, RCI Branch which deals directly with BBC,” said Brady. “If that doesn’t work, you can elevate it to the garrison command level, where we can find out if there’s an issue with coordination and resolve it.”
“And last, if you can’t get any resolution or find someone to contact regarding the issue, a hotline (915-744-8903) is available for DPW to answer and resolve your issues,” added Brady.
Brady turned it over to DES, BBC and FBFH for housing updates.
Pidone started by providing an update on DES’ housing operations. Over the last 90 days, DES successfully executed their ongoing two-fold action plan aimed at lowering the number of property crimes (i.e., larcenies and damages) and speeding cars in neighborhoods.
This involved sending extra patrols out in housing areas, conducting motor pool checks and courtesy checks reminding people to lock their garage doors and cars. DES also actively listened to ICE comments and heavily enforced traffic laws especially around school zones, leading to an uptick in speeding and parking tickets.
Pidone concluded by urging residents to call the dispatch center and report any problems they have in the housing areas.
“We see a lot of the community FB Pages where people are talking about larcenies, and we go check out our stats and we’re not seeing it,” said Pidone. “So we ask that you report it.”
Wrobel provided updates on BBC’s ongoing five-year development plan for neighborhood community improvements. Work is now slated to begin by Fall 2022.
This includes HVAC replacement, ductwork, landscaping refurbishment, plumbing, dead tree removal, exterior painting, roofing, fixing up playgrounds and ball courts, and encapsulation of lead-based paint for some homes.
Stevens followed up with updates on behalf of FBFH, starting with a few community reminders regarding the latest COVID-19 protocols and explanations of FBFH’s Work Order Process, Guidelines for Home-based Businesses, and Issue Resolution Process.
Following the updates, Brady opened the floor for a Q&A session. Residents voiced concerns about maintenance responsiveness, ground maintenance, security police presence, mold remediation, road repairs, and frustration with the Regional Call Center.
In response, Brady reiterated the importance of housing town halls.
“Last year we started doing Walking Town Halls – each month we walked through a different housing area which allowed us to interface directly with residents and physically see the issues they were describing,” said Brady.
“This year we’re going to have three Quarterly Town Halls in September, January, and May. The rest of the time we’ll be doing Walking Town Halls – in October, November, December, and again in February, March, and April.”
• Fort Bliss Garrison FB Page: www.facebook.com/FortBlissGarrison
• Housing Town Hall Slides & Videos: https://home.army.mil/bliss/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-public-works/housing-division