Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, addresses audience members at a housing town hall meeting Feb. 26 at the Commons. The 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum command team hosted two community town halls so that residents could voice concerns regarding housing issues with leadership and representatives from across the division, garrison and Mountain Community Homes. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Thomas Scaggs)
Fort Drum leaders address residents’ concerns during housing town hall meetings on post
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (March 1, 2019) – The 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum command team, senior leaders, Mountain Community Homes representatives and subject-matter experts hosted two community town halls Feb. 26 to address housing concerns on post.
Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, said that he is troubled and saddened by the reports about housing conditions here and on installations Armywide.
“As the secretary of the Army has said, we have failed our Soldiers and their Families,” he said. “We have to accept that up front as leaders here, but we have to get it right. We have to start now to rebuild trust.”
Piatt said that these housing town halls will be just the beginning of an ongoing dialogue that will result in action, such as improving procedures and controls for housing oversight – to include better work order tracking systems.
“We’ve initiated some things right away,” Piatt said. “I’m directing that we do a 100-percent inventory and assessment of all our housing units by March 6.”
This deadline also includes a 100-percent inspection of the barracks, and Piatt noted that more than 400 rooms had already been completed before the town hall.
Piatt assured attendees that although every home on post will be visited, it will be the residents’ choice to discuss their housing issues or to allow a home inspection by a member of the command team. Housing visit consent forms were distributed at the town halls, and it is available on the installation Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/drum.10thmountain/.
“We’re going to knock on doors, we’re going to ask if you want us in for an assessment or if you want one done from the front door, or you don’t want one at all,” Piatt said. “It’s up to you. I’m not going to invade your privacy, but I want to know what your issues are.”
Additionally, the Commanding General’s Hotline was updated so that people can call to inform the command team about a housing problem or request an on-post home visit.
“It directly goes to the Mountain Operation Center where you get the on-duty officer or noncommissioned officer to take your information and report it to the chief of operations, and that report comes up to me, the command sergeant major, the garrison commander and our chief of staff,” Piatt said. “(We), or your chain of command, will act on that immediately.”
After the first town hall, several quarters were visited by requests from the residents. Piatt said he was grateful for the feedback, and he wanted to assure attendees that they can talk freely about their homes.
“There are no reprisals – anybody who thinks they’re going to get in trouble for telling us something is wrong with their quarters or you need help just doesn’t understand the 10th Mountain Division,” Piatt said. “We’re encouraging you – and I’m directing the leaders here – to tell us what your concerns are. No one will get in trouble. What we do is get information, and then our goal is to fix it.”
During the town halls, Piatt applauded those with the courage to step forward with their stories, and he asked them to meet with their unit leadership who were in attendance after the town hall so they could help to resolve issues.
The major items discussed at these forums included mold, snow removal service, pest control, inadequate door locks, filthy floor tiles and carpeting, and inefficient maintenance service.
Some came forward about poor housing conditions that they believed resulted in health problems. Others expressed frustration about moving from one installation to another, and finding no better – or worse – living quarters wherever they go.
“If there’s a life-health-safety issue or mold issue and we can’t fix it immediately, then we have to find another place for you to live, either temporarily or permanently,” Piatt said. “That’s the standard right now.”
“This is not the last of our town halls,” he added. “We’re going to continue them at our community centers, and we’re asking you to give us specific topics to address so we can bring the subject-matter experts in to that location. The chain of command will also attend.”
Piatt said that Col. Kenneth D. Harrison, Fort Drum garrison commander, will serve as the community housing advocate for residents, and every brigade will appoint a housing advocate.
“So on the military side, we will have an advocate who will take our issues and lobby for them and advocate for us to improve our facilities and housing,” Piatt said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Ryan Alfaro, garrison senior enlisted adviser, is the principle advocate for single Soldier housing, and he is working on implementing the Army barracks management program.
Harrison said that he attends the weekly Newcomers Briefing with Alfaro so that new community members can talk about their experiences and issues while moving into their new residence.
“Any issues we collect there is non-attributable. It is attended by barracks reps, and Mountain Community Homes always has a representative there,” Harrison said. “We collect issues and we follow up on them immediately, and I think that has worked very well.”
Harrison said that Fort Drum Public Works is directly involved with quality assurance oversight of all processes with Mountain Community Homes.
“They spot-check service requests, they look at construction, preventative maintenance, all maintenance,” he said. “They manage a relationship with Mountain Community Homes to monitor and respond to resident issues, and they guide those dispute resolution processes.”
Harrison said that the garrison commander’s office is responsible for approving plans, budget and new construction for Mountain Community Homes, and conducts a monthly meeting with their staff, along with Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation representatives and Fort Drum Public Works personnel.
“I’m responsible for issue and dispute resolution,” Harrison said. “I participate and help with issue resolution, and I’m a decision-maker in dispute resolution.
“To this date, in over a year and a half as garrison commander, I have never had a dispute formally come to me – it has always been resolved before that,” he added.
Harrison said that every community member receives a resident handbook (https://winnmilitary.entrata.com/media_library/12710/598b18e555af6749.pdf) that explains the process for issue resolution, which starts by submitting work orders through Mountain Community Homes.
“Issues can be elevated to me if they are not satisfied at the Mountain Community Homes level,” he said.
Harrison also said that he has an open door policy for Soldiers and Family Members to speak directly to him, or they can file an Interactive Customer Service (ICE) comment – either anonymously or with contact information so that person can receive a response.
For dealing with reports of mold in the home, Harrison said that Fort Drum currently has 16 trained inspectors and has purchased testing equipment that can provide results within hours.
Piatt said that military Families endure a lot of stress in their lives while maintaining readiness and working with a high operational tempo, so their homes should not cause any additional burden.
“We must, and we will, fix it,” he said. “We encourage you to tell us your concerns. There are no concerns too small and no concerns too great. We will take it on, and we will find a path to get it fixed.”
In addition to notifying the chain of command through the CG’s Hotline, Mountain Community Homes residents at Fort Drum can submit feedback on service requests and their quality of life in privatized housing at https://www.fortdrummch.com/resident-resources.
Residents are encouraged to request a home visit from Fort Drum leadership by contacting the CG Hotline at (315) 772-6666 or their community center as follows:
Adirondack Creek Community Center – (315) 955-6640 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Crescent Woods Community Center – (315) 955-6641 (email@example.com)
Monument Ridge Community Center – (315) 955-6642 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rhicard Hills Community Center – (315) 955-6643 (email@example.com)
Residents can request maintenance service by calling (315) 955-6650. According to Mountain Community Homes guidelines, an emergency service request can be made 24-7, with a response time within two hours. Requests classified as urgent will have an eight-hour response time during business hours, and routine maintenance requests receive a response within three business days.
For more information about Mountain Community Homes, visit https://www.fortdrummch.com/resident-resources.