It is an unusual permanent change of station season at Fort George G. Meade, and once again, the COVID-19 pandemic is the culprit.
The permanent change of stations (PCS) season is when service members move to their new installations due to a change in duty. It is often in the summer so families are situated before school.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the PCS season in 2020 to be delayed, with some people not moving. Instead, the 2021 season is seeing people leave and arrive at installations that would have last year, on top of the normal numbers of people, said Allan Grant, transportation lead at Meade.
The PCS season is also longer this year, extending into November, Grant said. Fort Meade has seen 1,000 moves so far but could see far more this yearbut could see as many as 3,000 moves.
The pandemic has caused additional wrinkles for moving, Grant said. Its effects on the lumber industry means there is a shortage of crates to hold service member items. There are not enough carriers to ship those items, as well. Truck drivers are also limited.
Ports are backed up, which means there are delays for service members trying to ship their items to their new homes overseas, he said.
There are headaches all around, Grant said.
At Meade, the unusual PCS caused issues for residents who are not leaving. Last week, Corvias Property Management, which runs the residences on the installation, announced that it would temporarily halt any regular work orders so that its workers can focus on urgent and emergency work orders, which would include something like an air conditioning breaking or an inoperable toilet.
The company blamed the national labor shortage and the PCS season’s demands for the halt, according to a company Facebook post.
The announcement came shortly before the Meade garrison’s bimonthly town hall. Col. Christopher Nyland, garrison commander, told the installation’s residents he found out when they did.
Nyland, like the other Meade residents, received an email from Corvias with the announcement. The company also posted on its Facebook page. Nyland received a short heads up in a meeting, he said.
There was a breakdown in communication, Nyland said during a town hall to address the issue. While Corvias has a plan to address the inability to complete routine work orders, it should have had that ready for the residents earlier.
The failure to communicate erodes the trust the garrison has been trying to build since 2019 with its residents. Homes at Fort Meade were part of an investigation that led to Senate involvement about black mold and poor conditions on military installations.
Corvias is currently being sued by several former residents over the housing conditions.
Nyland called for a town hall Aug. 4 to address the lack of communication between the garrison, the residences and Corvias. Peter Sims, head of Asset Management for Corvias, joined to represent the company.
“I knew it was frustrating for me as a resident, but also for the garrison commander who is responsible for ensuring safe and quality housing for all of you,” Nyland said during the town hall.
During the town hall, Sims announced the company would no longer halt routine work orders and would start to work on the backlog of requests. The email announcement was problematic, Sims said during the town hall.
“We’re doing our very best to accommodate those people that are moving in, moving out, in addition to emergency work orders and urgent work orders that comprise about 25% of the work orders we get,” Sims said.
By prioritizing getting houses ready for new residents and emergency or urgent work orders, there could still be a delay in addressing routine work orders, Sims said. The company is working to address them as quickly as possible, within the constraints from the lack of workers.
Corvias is actively hiring, Sims said.
Labor shortages and the unusual PCS season are not unique to Meade, Nyland said.
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