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Housing Privatization at Edwards: The Next Steps

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Earlier this month the Air Force awarded a contract to Picerne Military Housing of Rhode Island as the contractor best-suited to manage Edwards' Air Force Base military homes. A quick look at PMH's website shows the company has an established history of managing military communities for the U.S. Army. Under the Air Force contract, PMH will add to their portfolio more than 4,100 Air Force homes on six Air Force installations, including Edwards.

As the 95th ABW begins to take the next steps here at Edwards in the housing privatization process, I want you to know what is involved in the transition, what will need to be accomplished in the next few months, and how deeply the wing will be involved in advocating for Edwards before and after the transaction closes in September 2011.

Selecting a developer for a privatization project is the most critical step in fulfilling a vision the Air Force Chief of Staff has for creating an Air Force Community of Excellence. Meeting the rising costs of building and maintaining quality homes, while sustaining a wartime tempo, was simply not affordable inside the Air Force budget. By embracing the benefits of privatized housing our Airmen and their families across the Air Force will be able to live and thrive in military housing as nice as what we have here at Edwards. Many of you will eventually PCS to privatized homes at other Air Force bases and hopefully will experience a more consistent standard of excellence brought about by housing privatization.

Here's how we're going to do this, and do it right:

At this time representatives from the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Installations and Environment, in conjunction with the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment and PMH, are working details that cross all six Air Force installations covered by this contract. In mid-June representatives of PMH will visit Edwards to begin negotiations with me, Mr. Jim Judkins and the Civil Engineer team to discuss details of the deal that are unique to Edwards.

In these talks we will review PHM's proposal, their strategy and time line for completion of improvements and details of property management and maintenance under their lease. We will also work with PMH to develop an understanding that they are a critical partner in maintaining and improving our Edwards Community of Excellence. This will be our opportunity to fine-tune a mutual understanding of our expectations, as well as the unique requirements at this remote and isolated installation.

Picerne Military Housing has a number of great things to offer us to improve our Community of Excellence. Other bases have seen increased landscaping, improved playgrounds, community water parks and pools, even new community centers as part of their privatized renovations. The PMH team focuses on putting "families first," and it offers many programs for residents that we can't provide under government funding and regulations, such as fun family functions, and even scholarships for military members' spouses and children. Our negotiations will define what kind of changes we'll see at Edwards in the years ahead. After the closure of the deal, we expect to see work begin on construction of new community facilities and improvements to landscaping and homes. This improvement process will be ongoing through 2016. We'll also likely see minor renovations to some houses, most of them after families depart so they are not disturbed while they occupy their homes.

I expect negotiations will require most of the summer to complete, but following the first session with PMH I will call a town hall meeting to discuss the initial aspects with you and solicit your feedback. Understand that the negotiations will occur at all levels - Edwards, AFMC, even at the Air Force level - so the details of our talks are sure to change as we go forward. Ultimately we will move forward as the Air Force requires and ensure a success to this privatization effort.

In the community town hall meeting we held last winter you let us know that privatized housing was a special-interest issue for you. One of the particular areas of concern you identified involved the cost of utilities. The AFCEE Web site has a published list of most-asked questions and their answers. It is a good source of initial information and can be found at: newafpims.afnews.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-100127-088.pdf
In that document, you will see a few methods to determine energy costs and, for the vast majority of us, these are normally covered by BAH. We also want you to know that AFCEE must approve rates proposed by the private owner before they are applied to your bill, which provides a "check and balance" in the system.

For now, the best way for you to begin to understand what will happen is to become informed and continue to learn of developments as we transition. We will continue to publish information and updates via our base newspaper, Web page and social media sites, and I encourage you to visit the Web page at www.picernemilitaryhousing.com to discover the communities PMH is building and managing today.

Also, we've added the EAFB Housing e-mailbox at 95abw.ce.housing.questions@edwards.af.mil, to capture your comments and concerns. We will then repost them in the near future with additional information and frequently asked questions in a housing blog. This will give us an online community to free-flow information as we move toward September.

The negotiations to come are a huge step forward in meeting the CSAF's vision and keeping our military communities attractive and viable in the years to come. I ask for your patience, as we begin the process of privatizing Edwards's housing.