FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Managing an array of buildings and facilities ranging in age from brand new to more than half a century old while operating under the constraints of an already strained budget is one of the tasks for the Master Planning Division of the 88th Readiness Division.
In an annual process, the Master Planning Division of the 88th RD Directorate of Public Works participates in two separate real property planning boards – one in the fall, one in the spring – with the goal of addressing any concerns or deficiencies units may have with facilities.
“The spring real property planning board is the opportunity for the functional commands to provide their facility issues as well as their five-year stationing plans to the readiness divisions,” said Bud Berendes, chief, Master Planning Division, 88th RD.
The information gained during that spring meeting is then measured up against data collected by the Master Planning Division and further aligned with guidance put out through the Department of the Army and the Army Reserve. That guidance comes in the form of an annual Facility Investment Guidance by the Army and the Army Reserve publishes a supplemental Facility Investment Strategy.
“We come back at the fall real property planning board and we say, based on your guys’ input from the fall, here’s where we plan to make facility investments via military construction,” Berendes said.
The functional commands are then able to vote on the proposed projects as another data point for the 88th RD commanding general to use when making his assessment.
“We take the Army’s FIG, we take the Army Reserve’s Facility Investment Strategy, we take guidance from the CG and we create a prioritization methodology that has all these criteria that are weighted and it scores each project objectively,” Berendes said. “Everything is done objectively and that’s our top five. We go through that process every year. It really is an objective process to where data is driving where we feel our investments should be made.”
The needs of the tenants of these buildings are the primary concern, and driver, for these projects.
“We engage with the units and the Soldiers the whole time,” said Tucker Robeson, community planner, DPW, 88th RD. “Essentially anytime there are deficiencies in the properties in terms of how they function operationally for a mission. That then gets identified and every single operational deficiency that we have in any facility is essentially registered and accounted for in a project. We are constantly collecting that feedback from the tenants about what are the deficiencies and what can we do about them.”
With that prioritized list of projects in hand, Berendes and the Master Planning Division are then able to compete to fund those projects at the Army Reserve and Department of the Army level.
“We’ve actually been really good over the last 10ish years of taking care of our urban centers. So, Chicago, Indianapolis, Seattle,” Berendes said. “A lot of those locations have seen new facilities in that time frame.”
However, when it comes to locations outside of the larger urban areas, Berendes and his team find other options besides new construction to meet the readiness needs of units assigned there. Seeking Maintenance and Repair Army Reserve, or MRAR, funds has proven to be successful, as well.
“We’ve competed really well on the MRAR side of the house,” Berendes said. “That’s where we’ve focused our investment, just knowing that the (military construction) budget is limited.”
Through this process, Berendes said two projects were completed – one in Independence, Mo., and one in Council Bluffs, Iowa – with another underway in Manitowoc, Wis., and another expected to be funded for a facility near Columbus, Ohio.
With an MRAR-funded project there are some limitations. However, it offers the most flexibility to repurpose existing square footage of a building.
“It will take that facility and essentially strip it down to the stud walls,” Berendes explained. “It will move walls around if we need more admin space or if we need more storage space. It will completely reconfigure the inside of that facility and build it back up so that it is essentially brand new inside.”
Berendes acknowledges that there is more he and his team would like to do if they had an unlimited budget and could fund the more than $1 billion worth of long-range capital investment strategy projects. However, they work diligently to make the best use of the money available to them.
“We’re doing everything that we can with the budget that we have to ensure that we are providing a high-quality facility for (Soldiers) to occupy to help them meet their mission requirements,” he said. “They should know that we’re not making arbitrary decisions on where to spend money.”