Elmendorf Housing Improves With Public/Private Partnership
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska, Sept. 13, 2005 A public/private housing partnership has improved the quality of life for those living in Elmendorf Air Force Base housing, officials here said.
Rev. Carl L. Anderson Sr. receives a coin from Master Sgt. Joe Garza. Garza is with the 494th Aerospace Expeditionary Force Truck Company. The coin he presented is that of an organization for senior noncommissioned officers at Elmendorf. A street in Elmendorf base housing was named in honor of An derson's son, who was killed in Iraq. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
When Beverly Roberts, Elmendorf's housing manager, arrived in 1991, the base's whole-neighborhood housing renovations were progressing at about two a year. By the mid-1990s, progress had slowed to about one neighborhood a year.
"By the late '90s, we were (down) to one every other year with limited amounts of money," she said. "There was no way under the traditional Air Force way of military construction and renovation we would have gotten here within the next three decades, let alone with in a very few years."
"Here" is brand-new and renovated housing. Within the next couple of years, 60 percent of the housing on Elmendorf will be new and the remaining 40 percent will have been renovated, thanks to privatization of the housing areas. Legal ground for privatization of military family housing comes from the Military Housing Privatization Initiative enacted by Congress in 1996, she said.
At Elmendorf, the process started in 1997 with proposals. Phase I was awarded in March 2001, and Aurora Military Housing, a private company, received 584 housing units. Those initial units were demolished and replaced with 828 units.
Aurora owns the structures, but leases the property they sit on. Additionally, Aurora does not pay property tax, per se, but what Ken Berthiaume, financial manager for Elmendorf's housing office, called a "pilot." It's a sum negotiated with the local government.
The initial push for Phase II started shortly after Phase I began and was awarded in October 2004. During this second phase, Aurora took control of 986 original units that will evolve into 1,194 when the phase is finished.
"So, consequently, we'll go from 1,814 to 2,022 housing units (total)," Roberts said, explaining that the base is trying to make up for a 208-unit deficit. To accommodate that growth, an additional 352 acres of land was acquired from Fort Richardson.
Aurora's involvement doesn't end with the construction and renovation. The company has a 50-year agreement attached to both Phase I and II to maintain and manage each of the neighborhoods included in those phases. Roberts and her staff have shared their expertise in managing military housing with Aurora's personnel, who aren't necessarily used to the differences between military and commercial property management. And Elmendorf's housing office checks to make sure that things are going smoothly.
"The Air Force has come out with a standard of ... 10 percent surveillance of all (private management companies') different functions," Roberts said. "Here, we do 20 percent because I want 20 percent. I want to know there's a high satisfaction rate. I want to get the most bang for the buck."
That "bang" shows up in the new housing, Roberts said, explaining that most of the units in Phase II are two-bedroom enhanced units. They have the traditional two bedrooms but also have a bonus room with a window and closet that could be used as a bedroom.
Another feature being included in Phase II is an egress from the basements for reasons of fire safety, and an Arctic recreation room. The Arctic room is an additional 300 square feet of carpeted space. This extra space is important for an area like Elmendorf, where most people choose to stay inside during the winter, Roberts said.
Servicemembers and their families also benefit from Aurora incentives. The company offers financial rewards to residents and neighborhoods for maintaining an attractive yard and to residents who conserve energy.
"They're very good to deal with," Roberts said. "They really try to bend over backwards for the military. They do nice things for the military."
That includes gestures like the recent naming of a street in memory of Airman 1st Class Carl L. Anderson Jr. in a Phase II neighborhood. Anderson was the first airman from Elmendorf to die while serving in Iraq.
A native of Georgetown, S.C., he was a vehicle operator with the 3rd Logistics Readiness Squadron when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device near Mosul on Aug. 29, 2004.
One year later, a ceremony was held to dedicate Anderson Circle in the Moose Crossing neighborhood.
"We were very happy that this squadron decided to do this," the airman's father said at the dedication ceremony.