Fort Bliss Garrison Commander, Col. Stuart James, center left, along with other Fort Bliss senior leaders, and installation housing partner, Balfour Beatty Communities, held a housing town hall, Dec. 4, 2019, to provide an update on improvements and progress, as well as gather resident input. | Photo by Michelle Gordon
Fort Bliss senior leaders, along with the installation housing partner, Balfour Beatty Communities, recently held a housing town hall, to provide an update on improvements and progress, as well as gather resident input.
“Senior Army and Fort Bliss leadership are proactive when it comes to engaging residents of privatized housing directly to ensure their concerns are captured and provided to our housing partner,” said Guy Volb, director of Fort Bliss Garrison public affairs. “In addition to resident town halls, they also visit individual homes and conduct drive-arounds throughout the housing areas to identify community deficiencies.”
Fort Bliss Garrison Commander Col. Stuart James opened the forum with brief remarks and then immediately turned the floor over to BBC Project Director Brian Beauregard and Community Manager Jessica Holston.
Holston said BBC is currently focused on reducing call wait times and increasing the overall phone experience for residents. She said now when a resident calls BBC, a person answers the phone, rather than an automated redirect. This change ensures residents do not get lost in a phone tree and they get answers to their questions.
“The ball was being dropped and we definitely saw it,” she said.
For routine maintenance requests, Holston encourages residents to use the Rentcafe.com online portal to submit work orders rather than calling. During the month of October, only 45 percent of total work orders were placed through the online portal and BBC representatives would like that number to increase over the next few months.
“It’s a great convenience factor for our families,” she said. “You can put as many details as you want and then someone will call you to schedule the work order. We’re always looking for ways to make things easier and better for our families.”
Holston added that the online portal for routine work orders frees up the phone line for residents with emergency work orders and urgent matters.
Beauregard provided an update on outstanding issues. He said all of the issues identified at the first housing town hall in February fall into five categories: policy changes, safety, customer service focus, standards, and health.
He spoke about two of the main safety concerns, animal control and playgrounds.
Now that the installation animal control contract is expanded to include the housing areas, residents can call (915) 642-5477 for animal control. Beauregard said between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. the response time is within one hour, and after hours, weekends and holidays, the response time is two hours.
James told the audience that the animal control issue gained command visibility because of an Interactive Customer Evaluation comment. ICE sites allow DoD customers to rate products and services provided by DoD offices and facilities worldwide. The Fort Bliss ICE site is https://ice.disa.mil/index.cfm?fa=site&site_id=435.
“Your ICE comments matter,” he said. “We got feedback from the community about an animal eager to get into the housing area, so we were able to rectify that issue. Keep your ICE comments coming because they allow us to see issues that we may not otherwise see.”
The on-post playgrounds are all receiving some much needed love and attention.
Beauregard said during 2019 his team invested more than $700,000 in playground upgrades, including: repairing and replacing equipment, replacing and replenishing fall protection materials, and providing shade structures.
“In 2019 we addressed a total of 16 playgrounds across six housing areas,” he said. “And for 2020, we’ve earmarked a million dollars for playgrounds. If approved, that will address between 20 and 26 playgrounds across nine different housing areas. It’s not going to address everything, because there are 60 playgrounds across Fort Bliss, but we are hoping that over the next two years we’ll be able to get to all of them.”
Ongoing BBC actions include: pre-clearing inspections, street lights, playgrounds, quality and completeness of work orders, and timeliness of work orders in historic homes.
“Our BBC partner has heard your concerns and they put their money where their mouth is by hiring additional people to take care of the issues on the installation,” James said. “The Army has also funded 11 more Army housing inspectors to assist in making sure our partners are held accountable and to ensure we are correcting the problems that have been identified in the Fort Bliss housing areas.”
One of the main concerns brought up during the forum had nothing to do with the quality of housing. Many of the attendees, as well as recent ICE comments, identified speeding as the biggest concern in the housing areas and near the elementary schools. Beauregard said while BBC is doing what they can with signs and speed cushions, they are working with the installation leadership to address the problem as a whole.
Fort Bliss Police Chief Mike Barnes was part of the town hall panel. He addressed the concerns of the attendees and assured them that his team is aware of the most prevalent speeding areas, and they are taking action.
“Speeding is a community effort,” James said. “We’ve had a speeding problem on Fort Bliss and we are addressing it through several means. We are strictly enforcing the speed limit and correcting the bad habit that has perpetuated across the installation.”
As part of the Army-wide focus on housing, Fort Bliss housing town halls are held quarterly at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center. The time of the event alternates between day and evening to provide an opportunity for all residents to attend. The September town hall was held at 6 p.m. to accommodate those who work during the day, while the most recent one started at 10 a.m. on December 4th, to allow parents with school-age children to attend during the school day.
The next town hall will be held in the spring.