HINESVILLE, Ga. (WTOC) - Fort Stewart leaders are once again asking military families for feedback on on-post housing through a survey. They say any feedback – good or bad – is necessary for their next steps. The latest push follows changes at the highest levels of the Army to improve housing on installations across the country.
A WTOC investigation this summer showed the issues, including for dozens of families on Fort Stewart. They complained of problems like mold and issues getting maintenance repairs done. The Army and its housing partner, Balfour Beatty, are spending $2 million to replace roofs on some of the oldest houses on Hunter Army Airfield. That’s in addition to repaving some roads on Hunter as well. The Garrison Commander said it’s proof they’re listening to soldiers.
The workers replace about one roof a day in this section of Hunter Army Airfield. The roofs are just one of the updates to these homes that were built in the 50s. The insides are updated as well. Leadership took WTOC on a tour at Hunter. They showed us a few different homes and discussed ways they’re improving housing.
“One thing that we need to ensure is that our family member, when those soldiers deploy, are taken care of here,” Fort Stewart Garrison Commander Colonel Bryan Logan said. “The last thing those soldiers need to worry about is the safety and the welfare of their families living in housing.”
Private companies now manage housing on military installations. The government made the change about 20 years ago, deciding it was easier to let an outside company maintain and replace the housing. They signed 50-year contracts with those companies. However, some military families believe the private companies aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.
Recently, a soldier and his wife sent pictures of their ceiling caved in. WTOC showed them to Colonel Logan, and they shocked him.
“In a case like that, no way. I will tell you that leadership hasn’t been brought in to those areas, and that’s what needs to happen like yesterday,” Logan responded.
The colonel said he and his staff will come to homes if work isn’t done up to standard. He said he made visits like that recently.
“It is our program. It is our community that we take care of. Having me and my staff out and about being visible and truly to understand that our primary focus is the welfare of our soldiers and families,” Logan said.
In a recent survey done nationwide by the Military Family Advisory Network, nearly 17,000 responders complained of problems like mold, structural concerns, and even cases of rodents in their homes. That includes 70 families on Fort Stewart or Hunter Army Airfield.
WTOC took those results to Army leaders in June. They agreed that the Army needs to do a better job holding their private partner accountable. In response to that, the military housing office hired more quality assurance employees who double check work orders and do move-in and move-out inspections with Balfour Beatty. They are adding more employees in the coming weeks.
“Our relationship with our partners is based on continual dialogue and ruthless accountability,” Logan said. “Every Monday, we review all of the work orders, all of the processes that have been completed. If there’s any emergency work orders that have occurred in the past 24 or 72 hours. Really, those are focused on life, health and safety issues.”
Balfour Beatty said they’re committed to doing the same.
“We continue to work with our Army partners to identify opportunities and implement solutions to improve privatized military housing and ensure all residents have access to a quality home supported by the highest level of responsive customer service,” the company said in a statement given to WTOC.
“We hold them accountable for any friction, any issues that we have with our soldiers or family members. I can’t speak on Balfour Beatty at other installations,” Logan said. “I can tell you here at Fort Stewart, they’re extremely responsive to any issues that we become aware of with our residents.”
Colonel Logan said they’re still concerned that not enough families know how to file a complaint or make a word order request. You can do that by calling the maintenance hotline or through the Fort Stewart app.
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