By Vince Little, The BayonetJuly 22, 2010
FORT BENNING, Ga. - The administrative shakeup within Fort Benning Family Communities had little impact on residents as a seamless transition was made to the installation's new property manager, post officials said.
Interstate Realty Management was brought in last month to replace Pinnacle Property Management. Fort Benning terminated Pinnacle's contract June 11 based on findings of alleged fraud and impropriety in an ongoing audit that began in late 2009, said Phil Cowley, FBFC project director.
"(It was done) for cause, specifically for business practices that were not consistent with the quality of services FBFC seeks to provide for our military family residents," he said. "Poor contract administration and associated controls were two key areas of concern. These two areas are still being researched through an ongoing audit."
Cowley said the audit, which doesn't have a set end date, will determine the extent and effect of the problems. Pinnacle had been the post's property manager since January 2006.
FBFC chose IRM because of its ability to step in as replacement manager with as little disruption to family housing residents as possible, said deputy garrison commander George Steuber. The administrative move did not affect leases or require action by residents. He said most office and maintenance personnel who worked for Pinnacle were hired by IRM during the changeover.
IRM also manages houses on three Air Force bases and three other Army posts. It's an affiliate of Michaels Development Company, an integrated real estate development and management firm. IRM has more than 50,000 market-rate and privatized military housing units under management.
Housing officials said they want to make sure military residents continue receiving a high-quality standard of living and services.
"IRM is doing a complete bottom-to-top review on the current standards and policies for families living on the installation," said Keith Lovejoy, the Residential Communities Initiative asset manager. "This review and subsequent standardizing of policies of the resident guide will help improve communication and services across the entire housing community. We're trying to get everybody on the same sheet of music."
The assessment is ongoing, he said, but a revised resident guide will be posted online in the near future.
Cowley said the new property manager will improve contract administration, increase service proficiency and boost online interaction with residents.
"We expect IRM will provide first-class customer service to our Soldiers and families, and this change will ultimately enhance the quality of services," he said.
Two significant issues are on the housing agenda right now, Lovejoy said: ongoing Indianhead Village renovations for enlisted and junior NCOs and planning for a major overhaul of Custer Village.
Q & A WITH DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT
Amanda Weeks is the new director of community management at The Villages of Benning. In an interview with The Bayonet, she discussed the future of on-post housing, Interstate Realty Management's work within the Department of Defense and how the company plans to raise the standard of living for Soldiers and families:
After the recent management shakeup, what are the new expectations for IRM'
Taking care of Soldiers and their families is our top priority. When we assumed responsibility for management operations here, Major General Michael Ferriter (the commanding general) told us that he wants the experience of living on post at Fort Benning to be "magical," so we will be doing everything we can to make living here a great memory for all our Soldiers and their families. This means offering them desirable housing, excellent maintenance services, wonderful community amenities and fun activities that create a strong sense of community. We are already working diligently toward this goal.
What's next for housing' What are some major issues and items on the agenda right now'
Make a difference with each passing day. We are emplacing our proven systems into the maintenance department to improve the overall handling of work and also ensuring the efforts include all the work needed to make living on base desirable. Great things are also in motion for our leasing and welcome center. We are trying to create a more inviting environment by creating a comfortable waiting area and establishing our offices in a more private setting for resident discussions. Additionally, a new marketing director will be implementing our Community Connections Program by coordinating exciting resident events for families. We are very focused on the inbound families, including those joining the Fort Benning family from Fort Knox (Ky.). We want to make their transition as smooth as possible, providing them homes as soon as they reach the post, allowing for the opportunity of door-to-door moves and limiting disruption to their families. Of course, we have a lot more going on and we will be publishing a newsletter soon with more information.
Where else does IRM manage houses across the DoD'
Interstate Realty Management is part of a family of companies that have been developing solutions and nurturing families through quality housing opportunities for the past 40 years. Since 2004, we, the Michaels organization, have been serving the communities of military families at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Fort Huachuca (Ariz.), Yuma Proving Ground (Ariz.), Andrews Air Force Base (Md.) and MacDill Air Force Base (Fla.).
How will IRM work to improve the standard of living for Soldiers and families at Fort Benning'
Living on post and being part of the military community is a positive part of Army life. As the CG told us, living on post means the Soldiers are minutes to work, they can take advantage of great schools, their (Basic Allowance for Housing) goes further and they have the opportunity to be part of the Army family here on base. We will do everything we can to foster that strong sense of community at The Villages of Benning and to make sure that the housing is as good or better than the housing they could find off base. We are moving quickly to improve every aspect of the community and instituting new procedures that will ensure top-notch customer service and maintenance. We are very proud of our accomplishments elsewhere and feel very privileged to be able to provide housing for the heroes here and to serve their families. We look forward to making the Villages of Benning America's best Army housing.
* Residents are urged to resubmit work orders more than three weeks old to ensure they're in the new system. For inquiries, call 706-685-3929 or e-mail email@example.com.
* For more information about the recent change, contact your local management office, call the transition hot line at 866-570-1448 or e-mail FortBenningMngtTransition@gmail.com. The Web site is available at www.villagesofbenning.com but remains under construction.