Brig. Gen. Heidi J. Hoyle discusses resident input

Brig. Gen. Heidi J. Hoyle, Chief of Ordnance, discusses rthe importance of resident input during opening remarks at a military housing town hall meeting Feb. 11 in Memorial Chapel. Hoyle was the senior officer in attendance, representing the commanding general who was away from post on temporary duty. Also pictured is Command Sgt. Maj. Petra M. Casarez, Ord CSM.

The most-recent resident town hall here was a good indicator of the progress that has been made with military housing fixes in the areas of maintenance, oversight and customer relations.

Participants of the Feb. 11 session in Memorial Chapel offered compliments for courteous maintenance teams, prompt service, better common area care and attentiveness by the Hunt Communities privatized housing staff. That’s a stark contrast to a similar meeting a year ago at which multiple residents pleaded for help with mold issues, excessive fees, poor housing upkeep, shoddy repair work and much more.

“We are excited about what is going on,” acknowledged Brig. Gen. Heidi J. Hoyle, Chief of Ordnance and the senior officer present with the commanding general away on temporary duty. “There has been a lot of progress. Having said that, though, I know there is a lot more work to be done. We’re not patting ourselves on the back or high-fiving in the end-zone saying (the housing situation has been fixed). We are continuing to move out and further improve the process, solving problems along the way.”

Also confirming the mission hasn’t changed, Garrison Commander Col. Hollie J. Martin said leaders at all levels of the Army are dead set on ensuring military members and their families have the “absolute best quality of homes in the areas of life, health and safety.” She pointed out that Gen. Gus Perna, commanding general of Army Material Command, took it a step further in his remarks during a first-time housing summit at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., in January (read more at www.fortleetraveller.com; type “AMC Summit” in search bar).

“Whether you are at Wainwright, Polk, Irwin, Belvoir, Hood, Riley or any other post, the end state is for every installation to be a Soldier’s and family’s No. 1 choice for where to live,” read Perna’s words projected on the town hall’s viewing screens. “When a Soldier gets orders, we want there to be jubilance because he or she is moving to the best installation. That is our vision. … We have to drive ourselves to this end-state.”

“I want jubilance about coming to Fort Lee,” Martin said. “We’re not going to be satisfied until every resident ranks their time living here as a 10-out-of-10.”

Having planted that vision, Hoyle and Martin took turns recapping what the Army and Fort Lee has done over the past year to assess and resolve family housing issues. Items on the lengthy list include, but are not limited to, a 100 percent inspection of barracks rooms and family home assessments with resident approval; a 24/7 housing hotline (804-734-6300 at Lee); the hiring of additional quality assurance personnel in family housing offices (seven here); conducting two resident satisfactions surveys in the past year; quality control checks on completed work orders; and 100-percent inspections of all homes between occupancy.

Senior Director of Operations Eric Skeeter detailed Hunt’s contributions, starting with the standup of the “Rent Café’” app, which allows residents to submit and track work orders and rate the service once it’s completed. The company formed a Community Advisory Board with a representative from each neighborhood. All employees have completed 5-star customer service training, and the company has implemented a landscaping checklist to better monitor work performed by a contracted vendor.

Hunt’s hired duct cleaning service – certified by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association – has completed 100 percent of the targeted homes in Harrison Villa and Jefferson Terrace, and 52 percent in Madison Park. Skeeter said a near-future Jackson Circle project is being planned.

 “We’ve really worked on communication,” Skeeter added. “That has been our main focus over the last year – improving the clarity with our residents, our military partners, with everyone. We hope that customers recognize it as something we’re committed to.”

Much more is on the horizon, the briefers pointed out. Hoyle mentioned the Resident Bill of Rights that will become official with the signing of the next National Defense Authorization Act. It will give military commanders the authority to settle resident disputes and families will have more rights when signing for military quarters as well as the ability to examine the recent history of work orders for the home.

Martin laid out the actions that have been taken or are being considered for implementation to improve quality of life and move toward the “jubilance” encouraged by Perna. Fitness Center hours have been extended to better accommodate customer needs and a plan is in the works to open Clark to active duty Soldiers 24/7, she pointed out. Family and MWR’s Leisure Travel Office will extend its hours from April through September when most are planning vacations. Child and Youth Services is offering Parent Night Out events quarterly. The TenStrike Bowling Center and Sustainers’ Pub are open later on weekends, and the Golf course is now open 7 days a week.

“All of this stems from the input you have given us, which is why we place so much emphasis on completing surveys and voicing your thoughts at community events like this one,” Martin said. “We are partners in this endeavor.”

The Q and A portion of the town hall lasted approximately 45 minutes, with alternating questions from the in-person audience and those watching via Facebook Live. A resident from Washington Grove expressed his appreciation for the information that was shared and what he has witnessed in the way of improved customer service.

“When my family moved in, we began to experience some headaches and allergic symptoms,” he said. “We wanted to make sure it wasn’t related to mold and Hunt was very responsible and willing to investigate it with us. An environmentalist came out, and they found that we did have a drainage issue. That has been resolved in our unit. I really appreciate the collaboration and the way things are changing.”

Several other residents also spoke favorably about maintenance workers. “The staff is friendly,” said Christina Dafney in a Facebook post. “I get follow-up calls along with emails to ensure the work was complete. Thank you for the continued support, allowing my family to enjoy the living arrangements here.”

An Adams Chase resident wanted to know how Hunt defined “fair wear and tear” versus “broken and needs to be replaced.” The question was related to window blinds, often a point of contention for residents.

Skeeter thanked her for the observation and agreed that Hunt needed to do a better job of clarifying it. Martin asked for a checklist that clearly defines what is broken versus worn through normal use, and said it should be shared with residents.

Other discussions touched on the following:

  • Cleaning up pet waste on lawns and sidewalks, a problem raised by a Washington Grove resident. Waste cleanup stations are located in most common areas throughout housing, Skeeter confirmed.
  • Age at which children are allowed to play outdoors unsupervised (resident asked if it could be lowered). Command Sgt. Maj. James House, garrison CSM, confirmed it’s age 11 and unlikely to change for safety reasons.
  • Speeding and distracted driving in Washington Grove. The resident specified it was contract and postal delivery vehicles. A representative from the military police encouraged individuals to call the police desk at 804-734-7400 to report it.
  • Juvenile misconduct in the Adams Chase neighborhood. Representatives from the military police said that too should be immediately reported.

Community members who would like to watch the full town hall proceedings can access the video at www.facebook.com/ArmyFortLee. The next Resident Town Hall will take place in May.