TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
At the end of a well-advertised housing town hall event in February, Tinker Air Force Base Commander, Col. Paul Filcek, asked the roughly two dozen in attendance how many of them actually live in base housing. After eight hands went up, Filcek then asked them to put their hands down if they were either on his staff or members of the housing resident council. No hands remained.
“Well,” Filcek said, “I guess we just ‘Town Halled’ ourselves.”
This is in stark contrast to similar, much more contentious events held during the previous year and a half. In that time, mold and moisture complaints had gained the attention of senior Air Force and Oklahoma elected officials. In October 2019 the Air Force gave housing contractor, Balfour Beatty Communities, 90 days to develop a plan to address those issues.
Filcek says the plan is working.
“If you take a snapshot of January 2020, compared to January 2021, the volume of mold and moisture work orders is less than 10% of what it used to be,” said Filcek. “The average time to repair mold and moisture in homes is a fraction of what it used to be.”
Tinker and Balfour Beatty officials both acknowledge there is still work to be done. As of March 22, there were nine open mold and moisture work orders following issues caused by record temperature lows during Winter Storm Uri in February.
In part, that number is due to the addition of an on-site environmental specialist who conducts regular home inspections to look for moisture issues. While previously reported numbers may have mainly been caused by resident complaints, current numbers reflect previously undetected issues from mold remediation inspections.
Other mitigation efforts include window and roof replacements, siding repairs, and sealant for openings to prevent moisture intrusion. Balfour Beatty is also working to install air transfer grills in the units and has initiated a pilot program to replace current thermostats with newer models designed with dehumidification settings.
According to Filcek, residents seem to agree the measures are working. During the past calendar year there have been zero congressional complaints for housing concerns. Formal surveys indicate that residents are generally satisfied, and occupancy numbers are the highest they have been in more than 15 months. Most telling was the annual CEL survey for 2020 in which Tinker housing rose 15.5 points over 2019 scores, 3.6 points above the Air Force average and well within the top third of all locations in the Air Force.
“The overwhelming message in all of this is that we cannot stop, even for one minute,” said Filcek. “There will be problems, there will be families in crisis. The house will always have a vote - but never again will the family not have a voice. That’s the good news today.”