A residential parking initiative at Fort Gordon aims to improve quality of life for military families and show how community leaders are working to solve ongoing housing issues.
The two-phase project was designed to provide two designated parking spots for most households in the post’s Gordon Terrace neighborhood and free roadway space for large emergency vehicles. The project began last month and should be complete by July, officials said Wednesday.
The first stage includes assigning at least one parking spot per household, with the goal of expanding to two spaces for most homes.
The second stage involves placing signs along curbs where parking is prohibited. In addition, notices will be posted requesting residents respect the new policy, said Lt. Col. Hollis Bush, the director of Fort Gordon Emergency Services.
“This initiative came from the ground up,” Bush said of the community approach the fort took to address its residential parking problems.
Parking on military bases is not a new problem.
Much Army housing nationwide was built before the 1960s, when the military was not seen as a career. Now, families are joining for the long haul and trying to fit in residences designed for a single car, officials said.
Before this initiative was created, Fort Gordon had no designated parking, creating a residential demand for spaces, post officials described as a “free-for-all.”
“Beforehand, we had an issue with residents not being neighborly and really just taking up two spaces at a time or parking in front of someone else’s house,” said Courtney Spruiel, the mayor of Gordon Terrace. “There were a lot of disagreements taking place.”
Spruiel represents much of the area affected by the new initiative through a military program that elects leaders to represent housing areas for the Garrison Command.
She began working with residents, emergency officials and Balfour Beatty Communities, the family housing provider at Fort Gordon, in May 2013 to develop a plan to improve parking availability and public safety access.
“When our fire department has to respond to incidents in the housing areas, our biggest concern is getting these large vehicles through narrow streets that sometimes had cars parked on both sides,” said Bush, who manages the post’s firefighters, police officers, guards and dispatchers.
Bush said violators could face fines between $50 and $75 under the same Georgia code that officials use to enforce assigned parking for fort leadership and handicapped spaces.
Spruiel said she was very impressed by the design process of solving the parking issue and that residents have been “very gracious” for a new initiative. The hope now, she said, is that the feelings transfer into other issues.
During an online town hall meeting in March, some residents called on Balfour Beatty to build new houses or renovate older homes with caving roofs and malfunctioning appliances; make neighborhoods more convenient for two-child families and assign housing based on rank.
Maureen Omrod, spokeswoman for Balfour Beatty, said housing at Fort Gordon is assigned in accordance with partnership agreements in place at all Army installations, which take into consideration a service member’s family size, rank and the available housing inventory.
“Higher ranks are not allotted ‘better’ housing,” she said in an e-mail. “Currently, at Fort Gordon, both newer and older homes are part of the inventory available to each level of the installation’s rank structure.”
The practice of housing like ranks together in the same neighborhoods is already in place at Fort Gordon for the 2,800 families who comprise the fort’s 95-percent occupancy rate, Omrod said.
She added the Balfour Beatty team at Fort Gordon receives about 500 maintenance requests each week, all of which Omrod said are immediately prioritized as emergency, urgent or routine, based on the nature of the repair. They’re then directly handled by the provider’s maintenance team.
Spruiel said the unified approach to parking has put more confidence in the problem-solving process.
“I know there’s a stigma with working with privatized housing, but they have been awesome in coming together with us to knock out this issue,” she said. “Residents feel like they can trust and work with us to get their concerns heard and addressed.”