By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Fort Carson Army and on-post housing leaders hosted a quarterly town hall Nov. 20, 2019, for Soldiers and Family members at McMahon Auditorium in an effort to update on-post housing residents about initiatives and endeavors designed to improve their living experience at Fort Carson.
The group also relayed important information about housing topics and capped the event with a Q&A session.
Maj. Gen. Matthew W. McFarlane, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, opened the event by welcoming community members and informing them that division, garrison and command elements on post are committed to solving challenges for all housing residents.
“Our team of Army leaders and Balfour Beatty Communities representatives are here tonight to talk about where we’ve been, based on the housing surveys and town halls we’ve conducted, where we are currently and where we’re going,” he said to attendees at McMahon and those watching and listening on Facebook. “We need your feedback so that we can adjust our action plans and know where to focus our resources. Your voice counts. What you’ll hear from us tonight was developed from the input of last spring’s housing surveys and our two previous town halls, and we will continue to use additional surveys in the future. We are looking for details of your experiences to help us make sure we are addressing specific issues.”
McFarlane explained Army and Balfour Beatty leadership teams want to be transparent about the conditions and status of housing on Fort Carson, what the issue points are and how they are working through them to ensure residents have satisfactory housing on post. He mentioned that while life, health and safety issues remain a priority for the leadership teams, attendees should highlight the issues that frustrate them the most.
“For instance, what’s frustrating for me, as a housing resident, are issues with cable television and internet service on post,” he said. “I also think it takes too long to download Balfour Beatty’s app (Rent Café). But we’re working on improving that download time.”
Hal Alguire, director of Public Works, spoke about Fort Carson leaders’ efforts to obtain higher Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) rates for the coming year.
“Our BAH is low compared to other Army installations and areas,” he said. “Housing costs have risen 9.7 percent locally, just in the past year, while our Army BAH has risen only 12 percent in the past eight years. So, we’re expecting the Army to raise our level of BAH next year. That’s important because that’s our revenue stream. So, the rise in BAH should help our housing partner, Balfour Beatty, demolish some of our older homes and build new homes on post.”
Alguire also brought up housing residents’ issue-resolution process and provided instructions on the specific steps residents should take in their efforts to resolve their issues.
Balfour Beatty Project Director Steve McIntire addressed the company’s Rent Café app and that it was recently developed based on feedback from residents.
“The app is a new tool and we’re experiencing some growing pains with that, but its already proven effective as a means for residents to communicate with us about work orders, tracking work orders and community events. We appreciate your feedback on the app, both through the app and our office,” he said. “We are at a 38-percent participation rate with the app and we feel the higher that gets the better residents can communicate with us and the better they can track their work orders and obtain a good feel for what is going on in the community. We are working to improve the app, and we encourage all residents to download it.”
McIntire also mentioned that BBC will be transitioning from carpeting in housing common areas to plank flooring, resulting in a more durable and easier-to-clean surface. He talked about improving neighborhood playgrounds, roads, pest control measures and radon testing.
As the town hall transitioned into neighborhood topics, Command Sgt. Maj. T.J. Holland, senior enlisted leader, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, implored residents to call BBC, rather than confront unruly neighbors or contact police.
“We can get a problem resolved faster and more efficiently through Balfour Beatty, than we can by asking our military police to respond to a neighbor’s unsightly trash issue,” he said. “We are all tenants, and we have responsibilities, but that feedback can be placed with the right agency. You deserve to live in a safe environment.”
Attendees then had a chance to address their concerns and issues with leaders during the town hall’s Q&A session. Residents brought up issues regarding work-order resolution, pest control, housing inspections, and Balfour Beatty’s turnover procedures, as well as vehicles speeding through neighborhoods.
Some residents have also experienced mold issues, either through specific leakage or from roofing issues, and all were addressed by housing leaders.
McFarlane followed up by saying mold is a life-health-safety issue and that a process exists for addressing those issues in homes.
“We will follow up tonight and make sure we are clear with residents as to how we will address the problem,” he said. “We owe information to residents on internet service as well, and we want to ensure that we have functional and satisfactory service.”
In closing, McFarlane emphasized the importance of consistently improving on-post housing.
“We’ve made some progress, but we still have a way to go,” he said. “We need forums like this and we have a survey still out, but these are going to help us see where we need to go. We are putting resources toward improving housing. It’s not happening as fast as you or I would like, but we’re certainly addressing the issues we’re faced with.”