by Keith Pannell
U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Public Affairs
“With the Army’s increased emphasis on improvements to family housing, a planned 300 million dollars in housing projects will continue to change the landscape over the next six to eight years for the Baumholder Military Community,” said the U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Director of Public Works, Gregory A. Williams.
According to Senior Housing Management Specialist Jim Gillis, funding for a lot of the projects has already been approved: “Baumholder has a lot of support to rebuild, and we are truly grateful.”
“The first phase of the neighborhood revitalization begins in Smith Housing with a ground breaking next year, (followed by) the Wetzel Housing new construction from 2021-28,” said Gillis. “The first 72 units in Wetzel are already being designed and coordinated closely with the new DoDEA Elementary School project.”
Those 72 units will be townhomes located in the lower Wetzel area. The Army previously had housing on that parcel, so a lot of the infrastructure was in place and ready for upgrading and improvements.
Gillis is adamant that the garrison does not want to change the picturesque landscape of the housing buildings flowing up the hills of The Rock, as the Baumholder Military Community is known.
“A lot of Veterans remember seeing those housing buildings while coming to work in the morning and I want that still here when they return,” said Gillis. “But, the ‘guts’ in most of Smith Housing will change.”
“We plan to modernize them,” he explained. “We’ll take buildings with 24 apartments and renovate and expand them out so there will be only 16 apartments left in the building. Those 16 apartments will have elevator access and be way bigger than the 24 were before to accommodate for American furniture and more elbow room. Yes, the renovated Smith Housing will have elevators.”
Around the same time new homes are going up on Wetzel, the Department of Defense Education Activity will have a 150 million dollars project going on as they build a new elementary then middle/high school and stadium, much like the recently opened high school at Vogelweh.
“We need the housing on Wetzel as quick as possible, but we can’t start too soon or we’ll be stepping on each other,” Gillis said.
Residents may already notice vacant or half-filled buildings in Wetzel. Gillis explained those buildings will be phased out and then demolished as all of Wetzel Housing will be new construction, whereas Smith Housing will be a mix of modernized and new modular tower housing.
“Part of the FY21 construction project for the first 72 new units in Wetzel, will also introduce the first modular tower in Smith Housing,” said Gillis. “We’ll be the first in U.S. Army Housing Europe to get this. It’s a model unit that includes tuck-under parking and elevators.”
“Most senior level Army leaders have lived the German housing experience at some point in their careers, which means they carried children and groceries up the stairwells,” said Gillis. “With that said, I expect a lot of dignitaries are going to want to ride the elevator and see what the next generation of Army Housing is all about.”
The planned modernization and new construction were needs identified for Baumholder before wide-spread Army housing issues surfaced this spring, but those needs were also driven by feedback from Soldiers and families about their experiences while living in Army-owned or leased housing.
“The feedback from our community is critical to shaping future housing and services provided by the Army,” said Garrison Commander Col. Jason T. Edwards. “Soldiers and families living in installation housing have a right to safe, clean and healthy homes. Our mission is to ensure that happens. Residents are encouraged to use existing reporting systems to request maintenance of their quarters. Additionally, Soldiers and families are encouraged to bring any issue to installation leadership and the Soldier’s chain of command.”
Senior garrison leaders and tenant unit commanders completed visits to all barracks and Army-owned housing in March to gain an assessment of their conditions and to ensure families are moving into homes that have no outstanding maintenance issues. A second round of follow-up barracks/housing visits is planned in the fall.
For housing issues that have not been resolved in a timely manner after submitting a housing work order, residents can use the Commander’s Housing Hotline, a 24/7-monitored and responsive phone line, to communicate concerns to the garrison command team.
Baumholder Housing work orders can be submitted during duty hours at 0611-143-531-3060, or DSN 531-3060. The emergency or after-hours number is 06783-6-115 or DSN 115. Work orders for barracks residents can be called in to 0631-411-7175 or DSN 483-7175. Soldiers and families residing in Air Force-owned housing at Vogelweh or Landstuhl can call the 24/7 maintenance line at 06371-463-9510.
If work orders are not responded to in a satisfactory manner, the Commander’s Housing Hotline can be reached at 0611-143-541-3032. The housing/barracks work order numbers and commander’s hotline information can also be found on the front page of the garrison website at https://home.army.mil/rheinland-pfalz/.
Col. Edwards also conducts quarterly town halls to provide Soldiers and families a forum to voice housing concerns. The next garrison town hall is tentatively scheduled for late September and will again be live-streamed to allow for maximum community participation during the event or easy-access viewing afterward, as well as real-time submission of questions and concerns.