At Fort Meade town hall military leaders ask residents to speak up regarding mold, other issues
By DONOVAN CONAWAY | The Capital | Published: January 22, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Military leadership fielded questions about mold, their health and potholes at a town hall Tuesday night as part of ongoing discussions regarding housing concerns at Fort Meade.
It was an opportunity for Fort Meade housing residents to pepper Fort Meade garrison commander Col. Erich Spragg about lingering mold issues. Maj. Gen. Omar J. Jones IV, commanding general of Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region and U.S. Army Military District of Washington also attended the town hall. The event was held at the Fort Meade Post Theater.
“People are our main focus," Jones said in his opening statement. “If we take care of our people then everything will fall into place. We have to get that right. If we get housing and our people right, then the Army and joined forces will be able to do everything we need to at home and abroad.”
The town hall is part of ongoing discussions of mold issues on the military base. Residents have found mold throughout their homes — over kitchen appliances, under floorboards and behind wall paneling and in ventilation systems. While mold can simply grow on surfaces, commonly in places where moisture has collected, it shouldn’t with proper maintenance and preventative measures.
Jones emphasized the importance of communicating feedback, whether positive or negative.
“Please tell us what is not working. Broadly what we can do better or specifically what is not working," said Jones. "Tell us so we can get it fixed, I promise you the commitment to get it fixed is sincere, and we what to make it right.”
J.C. Calder, Corvias-Fort Meade operations director, spoke about the goal of the company and what they have done so far. Corvias manages Fort Meade’s military housing.
“Our priority was to address homes according to the amount of mold identified in the homes," Calder said. “If a resident had or still has a current health concern we would move that up. Reviewing and identifying the scope of work was a lengthy multi-step process, and I appreciate everyone’s patience. That is something that has never been done before on any installation. We have come along way since February and we clearly understand our work isn’t done, our goal is to be the number one choice for people that are PCSing (Permanent Change of Station) here.”
About 85% of the homes on Fort Meade had some level of spectated fungal growth and officials have mediated about 1,021 homes though there are 1,214 or more to go, Calder said. Mediation was chosen by location and size/amount of mold identified. Mold growth of 10 sq feet or less is considered minor in nature; over 10 sq feet is considered to be medium to high priority and anything over 100 sq feet is inhabitable and a top priority, Calder said.
“We don’t anticipate Corvias to be finished with this project until this time next year,” Spragg said.
Residents speak up
A big question that arose at the meeting was “How is Corvias going to prevent mold from happening again ...?"
“It is very important and clear we don’t want to be in the same scenario a few years down the road,” Calder said. “Some improvements are weather sealing and stripping and upgrading the HVAC units. As we are building new homes, we are going back to see were there any issues that were driving factors to cause mold.”
Resident Tina Rich asked about lingering pothole issues. It wasn’t an issue that Corvias could solve, but Spragg offered a response.
“Our Fort Meade app offers a feature where you can take pictures of potholes, and it will give us the coordinates,” Spragg said. "What I need to get better at ... is to have these guys driving around and checking stuff out, like sewage, lights and potholes.”
The whole town hall meeting was live-streamed on Facebook, one online question referred to the health registry. The registry was opened for people to sign-up if they feel health concerns are related to their time at Fort Meade. Anyone with health concerns is also advised to see a physician.
It’s protection for the future, said Lt. Col. Devin Wiles, who works in preventative health.
"If 20 years from now and there is a problem and something comes up that you think is related to your time here at Fort Meade, then this gives you recourse," Wiles said. "Place your names on the registry so we have an account. That way the Army will provide any medical care required if it is necessary. "
Jones made some closing remarks at the end of the town hall, urging residents to continue speaking up.
“Until we get to the point where every resident in Fort Meade is satisfied, you have to tell us and use any of those means of communication that are out there and let us know until we get it right," Jones said. "Tell other residents to tell us. I welcome that feedback because that is the part I most enjoy. If I can make an impact on people in their lives or for their families, it is absolutely rewarding.”