Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor, senior commander of Aberdeen Proving Ground, has pledged to work closely with the private entity that manages housing on the Harford County Army post to resolve a maintenance backlog and ensure preventive maintenance happens going forward.
“They owe me an action plan to catch up on the deferred maintenance and to get us in a sustainable plan for preventive maintenance ... to make sure that our families are in housing that’s safe, clean and healthy,” Taylor said Monday.
He referred to Corvias Military Living, a private Rhode Island-based firm that manages thousands of housing units — both older dwellings and new units built by Corvias — at Army and Air Force bases around the country, including some of the largest such as Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Meade in Maryland.
Residents at Aberdeen Proving Ground have put forth a number of concerns about their housing at APG and the Edgewood Area to the south, such as the quality of drinking water, multiple home repairs that have not been attended to and keeping up with maintenance of playgrounds and common areas in housing communities.
Corvias is responsible for 778 dwellings at APG and its Edgewood Area, including single-family houses and duplexes for soldiers and their families, civilian workers, contractors and retirees, as well as 72 barracks rooms for soldiers, according to statistics provided by APG and Corvias representatives. More than 96 percent of the non-barracks units are currently occupied.
Taylor, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Gutierrez and Taylor’s husband, Lucas — all of whom live in post housing — sat down for an interview in the general’s office following a town hall meeting with residents.
Concerns about post housing have also been expressed to The Aegis prior to Monday’s meeting. Kathleen Kelm, a retired major in the Army Nurse Corps who lives in the Edgewood Area, spoke up about her drinking water while participating in a Feb. 18 protest in Bel Air against President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration to reallocate federal funding to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The drinking water in housing is terrible,” Kelm said at the time, noting she has had to purchase water filters.
Taylor stressed Monday that the drinking water on post is safe. Water is provided by the City of Aberdeen to APG and by Harford County to the Edgewood Area.
“It’s frequently tested,” Taylor said. “It is safe.”
The town hall meeting Monday lasted for more than two hours. The event, which happened in the APG Post Theater, was closed to media. Senior Army officials, including Taylor, and Corvias representatives, attended.
“It was a very good turnout,” Taylor reported. “Everyone was engaged in a very productive way to help make the housing here at APG better.”
The general noted there are “a variety of maintenance challenges” with post housing, which ranges in age from new communities such as Bayside, built by Corvias starting in 2011, to older communities built by the U.S. government in the 1980s and even in the 1930s.
Taylor said Corvias has a 50-year lease on the Bayside community, and leases on older areas vary at five years or longer, depending on the community’s age and the Army’s long-term plans for it.
Aberdeen Proving Ground opened in 1917 as the United States entered World War I, and it is Harford County’s largest employer with more than 21,000 civilian Defense Department workers, soldiers and military contractors. They are tasked with missions such as testing weapons, vehicles and equipment, cyber security, protection from nuclear, chemical, biological or explosive attacks and medical research.
The military began exploring privatizing on-base housing in 1996, when Congress approved the Residential Communities Initiative. Corvias, under the leadership of CEO John Picerne, decided to get into military housing. The company, at the time, was called Picerne Military Housing and was part of the Picerne Real Estate Group. The Army selected the company to privatize housing at Fort Meade in 2001, according to the Corvias website.
The firm has been featured in extensive investigative reporting by Reuters on the state of military housing around the country, with allegations of deplorable conditions such as mold, rodents and structures that are falling apart, leading to long-term health effects for military personnel and their families.
"We let down some of our residents,” Picerne said during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in mid-February, according to CBS News. “I am sorry and we are going to fix it.”
Taylor said residents at APG have not experienced the same issues that have been reported in other parts of the country. He said Corvias had been “letting us down,” though, in its management of post housing with “under-resourced” maintenance staff and an ongoing maintenance backlog for new and old housing.
He said the company must provide, within two weeks, a plan for preventive maintenance, and report to him by Friday on how it plans to deal with issues such as providing ceiling fans, spigots where residents can clean contaminants such as road salt off their vehicles, and ensuring window blinds are safe for children.
The general has also encouraged Corvias officials to hold quarterly meetings with residents.
Army leaders have also been going house to house, surveying APG residents about their concerns, and they plan to complete those surveys by March 18, Taylor said.
A hotline has been set up, and residents should call 410-278-4721 if they have any issues, especially any “life, health or safety issues,” that cannot be resolved through contacting their landlord, Corvias, Taylor said.
“We have a duty to be good stewards, good caretakers of this housing, make sure we leave it better than we found it,” Taylor said.
Philip Molter, a spokesperson for APG, stressed that the hotline is only for people who live in post housing, not those who work on post but live elsewhere.
Visiting post housing
Molter, who also lives on post, gave an Aegis reporter a tour of the new Bayside community and the older Patriot Village, which Molter said was built in the late 1970s or early ‘80s.
He pointed out how the dwellings in Patriot Village, which has 418 units, are mostly duplexes through “four-plexes,” meaning there can be two, three or four residences in one building, and each has a carport.
Bayside, with 252 units over two sections, resembles a typical Harford County subdivision, with small houses, most of them duplexes, although some are single-family ranch-style houses, according to Molter.
Children were out in both communities Monday afternoon, walking or riding scooters.
Many Bayside houses have rooftop solar panels, and Molter indicated fields of solar panels built near Bayside and Patriot Village, as the Army works to develop more renewable energy use at its facilities.
Taylor said the Army is working “at a corporate level” with its “privatized housing partners” to improve housing on its facilities throughout the world.
He noted post housing is the best option for most military families because of the availability and cost of housing in areas surrounding Army installations.
Gutierrez, the command sergeant major who serves as senior enlisted advisor to Taylor, said he has lived on post with his wife and son since last September. He said his residence does have some issues because of its age, and those issues are prioritized by Corvias staff “based on the level of emergency.”
He said staff have responded quickly to problems such as plumbing leaks or when a refrigerator is not working.
“The community would benefit greatly from the CG’s [commanding general] recommendation” to hold quarterly meetings with Corvias staff and residents, Gutierrez said.
Taylor noted he has lived on many different facilities during his more than 30-year Army career. He has been at APG since April 2017.
“Most housing here at APG is among the best that I’ve seen among the military bases that I’ve been to,” he said. “The real problem here is not maintaining the homes sufficiently.”