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An online community forum

Northwest Guardian

Published: 02:25PM November 15th, 2012
An online community forum

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

More than 40 representatives from various JBLM agencies gather at the JBLM Headquarters building for the installation’s second virtual town hall meeting of the year.

A group of more than 40 Joint Base Lewis-McChord agency representatives and senior leaders gathered at the Emergency Operations Center Nov. 7 to conduct the installation’s second virtual town hall of the year. The forum used Facebook to allow JBLM community members the opportunity to ask questions about JBLM issues, including housing, public works and community services.

“This kind of event gives us the opportunity to talk to the JBLM community and provide answers to questions they have in an environment that is more convenient for them,” JBLM deputy commander Col. Valerie Hasberry said.

Officials fielded questions during the 90-minute session on a variety of topics, like “Are there any plans to build additional gyms on North Fort?” and “Is JBLM prepared for upcoming storms and power outages?” and quickly churned out responses. Many questions concerned road construction on the installation, said Steve Perrenot, JBLM director of Public Works.

“The construction we’re doing is to improve the quality of life on the installation. It’s progess,” Perrenot said. “But we’re so far behind because we haven’t had money for decades. It’s a lot of pain for a lot of gain, but right now, (the community is) feeling the pain.”

Perrenot said the town hall also allowed his staff to analyze the effectiveness of their communication practices with the public.

“They’re asking a lot of questions about issues we feel we’ve done a good job communicating about, but obviously we haven’t,” he said.

But the criticism is welcome, Perrenot said, and he enjoys interacting with JBLM community members through the virtual town hall forum because there might be public works issues that his department doesn’t know about.

“I don’t have enough eyes within the Directorate of Public Works to see or find everything,” he said. “So the best way that we find out about things is by people telling us.”

JBLM Commander Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. said concerns about road construction have already been identified as one of the biggest issues for the JBLM community because travel around the installation is such a challenge right now. But Hodges said he also believes part of his job is to provide customer service to the installation population.

“What better way to get feedback on how well we’re providing services than by having a town hall meeting?” Hodges said.

The goal of installation leaders is to have two virtual and two live town halls every year. The next live town hall is scheduled for March 2013.