By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — When Pfc. Sean Tam, his wife Hilary and their children arrived at Fort Carson for their first Army assignment a year ago, they were unfamiliar with and unaccustomed to life on a military installation.
As Tam began working as an armament technician for the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, Hilary Tam settled the Family into on-post housing. Within a few weeks though, the family began noticing some issues with their home’s flooring and plumbing.
Hilary said she would send in work orders to Fort Carson Family Homes, which is operated by Balfour Beatty Communities (BBC), Fort Carson’s housing management partner, and technicians would arrive within a few days to repair issues.
“We’ve been home owners in the past, so we know every home has its problems, especially older homes, but this one had so many issues that it was difficult to keep up with everything,” Hilary Tam said. “Once my husband and his commander got involved, BBC decided to move us to a different home on post.”
BBC leaders decided it was best to move the Tams so BBC repair crews could tackle everything in the previous home before moving another Family into it.
The Tams were elated upon moving into their second home here on post last August — a newer home, built just three years ago. However, it didn’t take long for Hilary Tam to notice some leaking plumbing fixtures and wet drywall.
Throughout the work-order and repair cycle, Tam said she was often frustrated by the process, mostly due to communication inconsistencies.
“I thought the communication process was fairly convoluted,” she said. “It seemed like people just weren’t talking to each other.”
That all changed, she said, when Fort Carson Family Homes Community Manager Christy McGrath and maintenance head, Jeff Karbe, got involved.
“Christy came out and looked at the problems and Jeff followed up to make sure all the work was getting done right,” Tam said.
This was also about the same time that BBC launched its Rent Café app for housing residents.
“It’s the greatest thing they could have ever done,” Tam said. “Filing and tracking (maintenance) work orders got a lot easier. But perhaps more importantly, there’s a paper trail. I really like it because I can describe issues in detail; and every work order I’ve requested since the app launched has been repaired exactly as I expected.”
Since the Army began hosting regular housing town halls last year, communication was one major area that residents identified as problematic.
Steve McIntire, BBC’s project director at Fort Carson, said that’s where the Rent Café app has been most helpful. But it’s not the only communication upgrade BBC has initiated.
“We are really trying to enhance communication directly between BBC and housing residents,” he said. “The Rent Café app has proven to be an excellent tool, but we also receive feedback through the resolution process. We solicit feedback through surveys on move-ins, move-outs and work orders that we receive.”
BBC has also added two resident engagement specialists, whose sole duty is to engage and communicate with residents. BBC has also been working with Fort Carson Army leaders to deliver quarterly housing town hall updates and publishes a monthly newsletter electronically.
Residents haven’t been shy about what they would like to see. Additional and improved neighborhood playgrounds was a favorite for many.
“Right now, we have 69 playgrounds across the Fort Carson Family Homes community,” McGrath said. “This year, we have already demolished four playgrounds, and we’ll be adding three new ones in the Kiowa and Cheyenne neighborhoods, as well as one between the Sioux and Shoshoni neighborhoods before the end of the year.”
Repair of damage to roofs, gutters and windows, parking issues and vehicles speeding through neighborhoods also ranked high on resident surveys.
McIntire indicated that BBC contractors have replaced 1,155 building roofs, nearly 2,000 windows and installed more than 90 miles of gutters on homes following the 2018 hail storm that caused significant damage to many buildings on post.
“We’ve also refreshed our traffic signage in neighborhoods and continue to communicate with military police, who enforce speed limits on post,” McIntire said. “We’ve also benefited from the creation of Army unit sponsors in every neighborhood. The unit sponsors communicate with residents and our management team and help resolve issues and identify potential problems.”
The last Fort Carson housing town hall update was conducted virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions and measures. In the meantime, BBC technicians will continue to conduct maintenance on homes and complete projects as they don personal protective equipment and employ other safeguards to ensure the safety of Families and residents.
The next housing town hall update is slated for August and could also be conducted virtually depending on the protective measures set in place at the time.