Story by Frank Fisher, Fort Benning Public Affairs
FORT BENNING, Ga. — Family housing residents at Fort Benning should find getting needed house repairs a smoother process under recent steps taken to improve response to their needs, officials here said.
Under those arrangements, residents have a variety of options for getting help: a recently designated set of phone numbers they can call when they need work done; an online portal they can use to submit and track repair requests; – and crucially – a network of key officials they can contact if their requests are not properly acted on.
“There are just so many ways to reach out right now” if Fort Benning residents need housing help, said Keith R. Lovejoy, Housing Division chief with U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning’s Directorate of Public Works (DPW).
The garrison oversees Fort Benning’s more than 4,000 Family homes, which are managed day to day by a private company, The Villages of Benning.
To bring about the improvements, officials have held a series of meetings in recent months and put together a network of officials and phone numbers for residents to contact, and also put in various internal procedures to ensure the help requests get proper action.
“It’ll make it a lot easier for residents to communicate their concern and their maintenance issues, and when they’re not resolved properly, we can now get them resolved properly,” Lovejoy said.
As part of that recently revised system, officials said, a first step for residents needing repairs or other housing help is to call the Villages of Benning maintenance office at 706-685-3929, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. After-hours calls will be forwarded to a call center that serves Villages of Benning.
Residents are also encouraged to sign up to use the online Active Building portal that allows them to submit and track maintenance requests. It’s been in place since October 2018. They can enroll by calling the Villages of Benning management office that covers their particular housing area, said Lovejoy.
“That is a new system where the residents can actually go online and put in work orders, schedule work orders, check on work orders that are out there,” said Lovejoy. “And they can put in concerns or problems that they’re having.”
“They can call their management office and let them know they want to be part of Active Building,” said Denise Milton-Runnels, the garrison’s deputy housing chief. “The Villages will send them a link and they just go on and they submit their information to become a part of Active Building.”
Following are the local Villages of Benning community management offices and their phone numbers:
• East Main Post: 706-685-3925
• Indianhead: 706-685-3933
• Davis/Bouton: 706-685-3940
• Custer and Upatoi: 706-685-3930
• McGraw: 706-685-3935
• Patton: 706-610-5500
If residents have reported a maintenance or other problem through the Active Building portal and are dissatisfied with the outcome, they should report it to their local Villages of Benning manager, Milton-Runnels said.
Another option in getting help through Villages of Benning, said Lovejoy, is to call the Villages of Benning community director at 706-685-3939.
If, however, a resident has contacted Villages of Benning and is still dissatisfied, the next step is to contact the Army’s own on-post housing advocates, who are with USAG Fort Benning’s DPW. They can be reached from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
• Stephanie Cross, resident liaison: 706-545-3009 or 706-304-5530 and email@example.com,
• Denise Milton-Runnels, deputy housing chief: 706-545-8119, 706-545-3431 or 706-330-3172 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and
• Keith Lovejoy, housing chief: 706-545-3803 and email@example.com.
Online, DPW’s Housing Division website is at http://www.benning.army.mil/Garrison/Housing.
In addition, if warranted the on-post housing advocate can elevate the issue to the level of the USAG Fort Benning commander.
Residents can also contact the garrison commander or garrison command sergeant major by calling 706-545-1500.
A further option is to contact the garrison’s 24-hour, emergency housing hotline at 706-626-2002.
It’s the call to make for an urgent problem like a burst pipe, flooding or other problem needing urgent attention, and is answered by Fort Benning’s staff duty desk, said Lovejoy.
But it can also be called if residents believe their efforts to get help with housing needs have gone unresolved and they want to elevate them to the garrison leadership’s attention.
“It’s kind of a back-up too,” Lovejoy said. “If all else fails and you have not been able to get your issue addressed and you need that level of command emphasis to get the situation corrected.”
The hotline is answered by Fort Benning’s staff duty desk, he said.
Another route to action is the U.S. military’s online Interactive Customer Evaluation system, or ICE.
Comments entered into ICE reach the garrison within 24 hours, Lovejoy said.
“All the DPW supervisors, the housing chief, all the advocates see it,” he said.
DPW then sends the matter to Villages of Benning for action, which must follow up in writing as to what they’re doing to fix the problem.
“And if it’s not right or we think it still needs work,” said Lovejoy, “then we’re calling the resident back and saying ‘Hey, did this thing really get fixed?’ ‘Oh yeah, they did a great job. Thanks for the follow-up.’ Or, ‘No, we still got an issue, and we’d like to get it worked on a little bit more.'”
Fort Benning housing officials say there’s one thing especially that tenants can do to help Fort Benning help them with maintenance needs: Don’t wait but call the problem in right away.
“When they have a problem — no matter how small or how big it is — they need to report it and put a work order in,” said Lovejoy. “That is the number one thing to get the ball rolling. Even if they think it’s nothing, it could turn into something more than it is.
“Especially in the case of leaks,” he said. “If there’s any sort of leak, that’s the biggest thing. Because any type of moisture can turn into something different.”
Those newer measures are only one part of a robust regimen of steps Fort Benning has been taking since about a year ago to improve housing services overall. The earliest measures focused largely on curbing lead-based paint hazards, an effort that continues to make marked progress, officials said.
But more recently officials have also put strong emphasis on helping make it easier for residents to get repairs done properly. That came in part after they learned from residents at a recent housing town hall meeting of instances in which maintenance needs had not been handled properly, and that in some cases the Active Building portal was incorrectly listing as completed certain work orders that were incomplete.
Fort Benning’s next housing town hall meeting is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 11 a.m., in building 7, immediately following the CARE meeting.
Officials believe the effort to inform residents about how to best get action on their maintenance needs will lead to improved service and markedly increased resident satisfaction, Lovejoy said.
“The garrison recognized that there was a breakdown in communication between the residents and the property manager,” he said. “So we’ve been going all out to make sure that residents have multiple ways, multiple avenues to contact different people that are advocates for them in the system.
“Nobody’s ready to spike the football, but we are moving the ball down the field,” said Lovejoy. “It’s a continuous process that will continue to get better as we keep refining it.”