Sen. Thom Tillis hears about continued housing problems at Fort Bragg
By STEVE DEVANE | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: September 28, 2019
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Fort Bragg residents told U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis about their continued problems with housing on post during a town hall meeting Friday.
Tillis said he wanted to know about specific issues while he worked on finding a broad way to handle problems with military housing. He asked those who were continuing to have issues to contact his office.
About 150 people attended the meeting, which was held at the Family Readiness Group Center at Pope Army Airfield. Tillis' office would not allow the question and answer portion of the meeting to be recorded, citing privacy concerns for soldiers and their families.
Housing at Fort Bragg has come under scrutiny this year after mold, lead paint and carbon monoxide were found in some homes. An Army survey of 43 posts that was conducted between April and May found Fort Bragg received the lowest ranking for its privatized housing.
Corvias, the company that manages housing property on Fort Bragg, was not invited to the meeting, according to post officials. The company has said it is investing about $100 million to renovate, rebuild or tear down houses at Fort Bragg.
Tillis said the housing provider, the military, Congress and the administration failed military families. He said he wanted to deal with the residents' current problems, but also wants to find a long-term fix for the situation.
"We've got to make sure to put a process in place that will endure," he said. Tillis said he has seen some improvements in the situation at Fort Bragg.
"We're trending in the right direction, but we've still got a ways to go," he said.
State Rep. Billy Richardson, who represents Cumberland County, was at the meeting. He said he was there as a member of the General Assembly, as a lawyer and as a landlord who owns about 900 units in the area.
Richardson said the housing problems at Fort Bragg are a crisis.
"We have people in this community who are deathly sick because of mold," he said. "This is a serious situation."
Richardson suggested hiring medical staff who specialize in mold to work at Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center.
"It needs to be done," he said. Richardson said that if he doesn't take care of his rental units, Fort Bragg officials wouldn't allow soldiers to stay in them. He suggested giving Army commanders the power to deal with the housing problem on post.
"They care for their troops," he said. "If you give them the authority, I guarantee you, they'll fix it."
Two residents told Tillis that their children have become sick because of mold in their houses.
Another had a house that was flooded.
"Nothing is getting resolved," that resident said.
One resident said that when maintenance workers came to remove carpet, they broke her refrigerator and dishwasher.
"Everything is just chaos here," the resident said. "This isn't right."
One resident said her asthma became worse after she moved to Fort Bragg about four years ago.
Another resident said she and her five children had to stay in a hotel for 22 days while their house was being readied for them to move in. After they got in, she had to put in more than 20 service orders for issues that needed to be fixed in the first month, she said.
A resident said workers in housing at Fort Bragg seem overwhelmed and disorganized.
"It seems quite chaotic," she said.
Tillis said he wants to put in place a "Tenant Bill of Rights" for those who live in military housing. He encouraged residents to keep a diary of problems they are having.
"Write it down. Type it up. Share it with us," he said.
Col. Phillip Sounia, the post's garrison commander, said after the meeting that Fort Bragg is hiring seven permanent inspectors and plans to hire 16 temporary workers that it hopes to make permanent. He said the post is regaining its oversight capability for housing.
Sounia said Corvias is dealing with life, health and safety issues within 24 hours. The company is dealing with urgent matters within 48 hours, he said.
Corvias is looking to hire about 30 more maintenance workers, Sounia said.
"As they hire more people and more qualified individuals, our repair rate with improve dramatically," he said.
Sounia said Fort Bragg officials are listening to the complaints.
"We're addressing issues," he said.
Post officials are trying to let Corvias work through the issues.
"When they rise to a point that they're not getting addressed, we're definitely getting engaged and addressing them," he said.