WASHINGTON — Military families living on-base at Fort Gordon in Georgia say they’re still dealing with housing problems a year after a bipartisan Senate investigation revealed mistreatment of families in privatized housing on the base.
Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) released the new report Tuesday that details improvements that have been made and gaps that still remain following his investigation last year into housing problems at Fort Gordon and other bases.
The newly released findings are focused on Balfour Beatty Communities, the private housing company that operates homes on the base.
The report said since the release of last year’s findings in April 2022 about reported mistreatment of military families, there have been more reports of Balfour Beatty failing to “properly respond to repairs or handle environmental hazards, like mold growth.”
Ossoff led a discussion about these ongoing concerns on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, which included input from several military spouses.
“This has been an ongoing issue for so long with so little change,” said Joy Viera, a military spouse who previously lived at Fort Gordon.
The report said Balfour Beatty has made improvements including increasing maintenance staff at Fort Gordon, expanding training, and implementing a new quality assurance plan for gas and venting work orders.
Still, military families reported ongoing issues, according to the report.
“Despite these improvements, this inquiry identified numerous examples of Fort Gordon residents facing ongoing housing challenges, including persistent mold and shoddy workmanship by maintenance staff,” the report said. “Multiple tenants reported recurring problems with mold that put them and their families at risk of serious health consequences, including several instances where independent, third-party inspectors deemed their homes unfit for habitation.”
The report said the Army has implemented new reforms to address the deficiencies identified in last year’s Senate investigation.
“There are some reasons to believe that some progress is resulting from that more intense approach by the Army, but it’s still a long way to go to get to the outcome that we seek which is safe healthy housing for every family at Fort Gordon and other bases around the country,” Ossoff told our Washington News Bureau.
Ossoff said Balfour Beatty declined the Senator’s invitation to join Tuesday’s discussion, and instead there was an empty chair with a card with the name of the company.
Army officials did, however, join the conversation and highlighted improvements in oversight.
Ossoff questioned the Army officials about how they measure progress in fixing the housing problems.
In response, Rachel Jacobson, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy and Environment, said they are tracking things like the number of complaints and the response time to get the problems fixed, among other measures.
“Our awareness now I believe is much greater than it was a year ago,” said Jacobson. “I think because of all these issues that came to light, because of all our own internal investigations, it was a wakeup call.”
In response to the ongoing concerns, the report calls on Balfour Beatty to ensure the technical quality of maintenance work, consistently identify and remediate mold in homes, and more effectively plan for long-term sustainability of the project.
Military spouses called for more specificity in the tenant bill of rights and changes to it to better protect families.
“Military families should be able to sign off on their work tickets confirming they are accurate and true to what was performed and what the issue was,” said Breanna Barnhart, a resident at Fort Jackson, which is also run by Balfour Beatty. “That would hold Balfour Beatty accountable but there’s lacking verbiage in our legislation.”
In response to the investigation, a spokesperson for Balfour Beatty Communities said: “Balfour Beatty Communities is totally committed to the health, safety, and well-being of our residents and we acknowledge that we have more work to do. In this we are committed to working with the Army and with Senator Ossoff. We appreciate that the progress being made has been recognized. We declined the invitation to participate in today’s event because we have multiple two-way communication channels in place to maintain transparency into maintenance requests, keep residents informed, and allow them to share their feedback and raise concerns, and because we continue to meet routinely with the local Military Housing Office and Command to ensure any resident housing concerns are being appropriately addressed by our team. We continue to invest in people and resources to offer the best possible living experience for the men and women who serve our country.”
Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.
©2023 Cox Media Group