Fort McCoy News June 14, 2013

Housing town hall reviews present, future plans

Public Affairs Staff

South Post military Family members attending a town hall/open house meeting at Fort McCoy May 22 learned residency in the area is set to double with the approval of a fiscal year (FY) 2014 housing project. The event also allowed attendees to learn about the services available on the installation and reinforced how to take care of any problems or issues in the housing area.

Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott said Fort McCoy is going through some changes in the South Post Family Housing Area that ultimately will result in a cultural shift of the experience at Fort McCoy. An FY 2014 construction project is scheduled to add 56 houses. It's the only project in the Army that has been approved to construct housing in FY 2014, he said.

Photo for housing article
Garrison Commander Col. Steven W. Nott (right, standing) and
Garrison Command Sergeant Major Command Sgt. Maj. Bill Bissonette
listen to resident input at a town hall meeting.

"The housing area we have right now of 57 homes is important, always has been, but by doubling in size it's really going to force a change on how Fort McCoy delivers services to Families," Nott said. "We'll have twice as many children, twice as many couples.

The density will tip the scales to where we will be looking at coming to the customer, not expecting you all to come to us."

A case in point is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, he said.

With a doubling of Families, the VITA program may find it feasible to have volunteer tax assistance on South Post at the community center instead of only at the Installation Legal Office.

Renovations currently are being made at the South Post Family Housing community center to expand the facility and move the Family Housing office to that area. Nott said although the project is on a temporary hold the plan is to have the project completed this fall. In addition to the Family Housing office, the renovated facility will include a large room that can be used to support various activities, such as parties, communitywide meetings, etc.

The increase in resident density provides a unique opportunity for South Post Family Housing residents to shape the future, he said. A relook of the existing housing policy is in progress.

Any input, recommendations or suggestions should be submitted to Ross O'Neil, chief of the Fort McCoy Housing Division, or Sherry Oslie, Fort McCoy Housing Management specialist, Nott said. Contact the Housing Office at 608-388-3704, O'Neil at 608-388-2804 or Oslie at 608-388-3906.

Recommendations will be forwarded to Nott in August for further review. He said he is opening up the process for suggestions because not all of the good ideas come from the top down. Factors, such as funding, must be considered so not every suggestion may be implemented, he said.

"Our intent is to implement new policies and business practices before the first resident moves into this expansion, (which currently should be done by about January 2015)," Nott said. "Because once people start moving into the new houses it all will be done within two or three months. Before that first resident moves in it is my intent that these things are locked in."

"We want to be proactive and not reacting, number one," he said. "Number two. What's my vision? I want an area that's safe, a housing area that is fun, and it should be an area that encourages community. Basically, it should be the best housing area in the entire U.S. Army, if not in the United States."

O'Neil said many of the existing housing policies for the South Post Family Housing Area date back to the time when there were 24 houses on South Post, and many things have changed due to the installation adding 33 housing units in recent years. That number will double again within the next two to three years.

Two areas not in the current policy — guidance about solicitation and signage — will be included in the new policy, he said.
"And, if there are concerns we haven't addressed and you think we should include in the updated policy, let us know," O'Neil said.

"The feedback we receive out of these meetings, begins a process of change that allows us to incorporate your suggestions into our future policies."

Nott said that the residents serve as the eyes and ears for the housing staff and Garrison Command Group.

"If you see something wrong, please let us know, otherwise we can't fix it."

To a resident question, O'Neil said issues such as having a Commissary or Exchange facility located in the housing area to serve residents are part of the Housing Master Plan, but not a part of the Housing construction projects. Likewise, there are plans to include park-type areas and hiking trails in the upcoming construction project, but the most important aspect is to complete the housing and related infrastructure. If there isn't enough funding for the parks/hiking trails, they won't be done in conjunction with the housing project in FY 2014, but may be done at a later date, he said.

Garrison Command Sergeant Major Command Sgt. Maj. Bill Bissonette said the Exchange has a business model that requires a proposed facility to make money before it can be built to serve a location, such as a housing area.

Everything is on the table to have these types of facilities out in the area, and garrison officials will talk to Exchange/Commissary representatives to see what can be done, he said.

Construction issues should be reported in a timely manner to the proper officials so they can be resolved while any warranties are still in effect.

Nott said other concerns in the housing area can be reported to the South Post Mayor Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Zuehlsdorf or directly to the garrison command sergeant major for resolution. When the community center renovation is completed and the Housing Office has moved in, the facility will serve as a one-stop location to resolve concerns and obtain information about activities in the Fort McCoy community.

Zuehlsdorf encouraged South Post residents to be safe, have fun and to cultivate a community spirit.
Residents can reach him by calling 608-388-3597 or deputy mayor Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mark Miller at 608-388-5134 with any issues, questions or comments.

The event concluded with an open house, where various installation organizations staffed tables to answer questions or to provide information about their services or programs.

(See related story.)