JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
For the past few months members who work on McChord, those visiting and those living on McChord have noticed that the grass has grown out of control and that the grounds maintenance has seemed to go by the way side.
Both the Joint Base Lewis-McChord and 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs offices have received numerous complaints on this situation and in an effort to inform the community we will attempt to answer the growing question of “Why is the grass so tall on McChord?”
“Grass cutting and landscaping for McChord Field's 1,400 acres of grass used to be provided by a long-term contract that expired in 2014,” said Mr. Joe Piek, JBLM public affairs officer. “In the follow-on contract, challenges with a contractor and drought water condition very much degraded the quality of grounds appearance across McChord Field.
“In the interim a series of ‘bridge’ contracts have been awarded. The focus of these ‘bridge’ contracts has been on maintaining grounds around high visibility areas such as the McChord Field Main Gate, the 62nd and 446th AW headquarters buildings, the medical clinic, the PAX terminal, and Western Air Defense Sector facilities.
“The recent award of another ‘bridge’ contract will address basic grass trimming and edging for the remainder of McChord's grounds.”
“We have been watching this, been concerned, and working to address this over the last year and a half with the JBLM Department of Public Works and Army Contracting,” said Col. Leonard Kosinski, 62nd AW commander. “The grass is starting to get cut, buildings are being cleaned and repaired and we’re working towards the level of appearance expected for McChord.
“We have Air Mobility Command’s largest exercise, known as Mobility Guardian, coming to JBLM in August 2017 and are working together with our joint base partners to ensure the base appearance is addressed to meet that timeline and sustained after that.”
Recognizing the situation, the JBLM Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation has "flexed" some of its grass cutting resources to McChord Field to help out, according to Piek.
Shrinking DoD budgets, increasing mission-driven requirements and funding allocated to JBLM to pay for building maintenance, repairs, utilities, base support contracts and the manpower to do the work has been cut significantly over the past several years stated Piek.
This situation is not only affecting McChord as it is seen across all of JBLM as well.
“Six years ago, JBLM Directorate of Public Works had more than 30 full-time employees, plus 15 summer hires to do grass cutting, spraying, trimming, and storm debris removal on Lewis Main and Lewis North, said Piek. “Now, 12 JBLM DPW employees (a 75% cut) mow more than 2,500 acres on Lewis Main and North, which includes the training ranges. These same 12 employees are responsible for snow plowing and storm debris removal.
“DPW prioritizes "high-visibility areas" to receive grounds maintenance. These areas include locations on Lewis Main and Lewis North like Memorial Park and Camp Lewis Cemetery, certain headquarters buildings, the Liberty Gate, the Lewis-Clark monument and Iron Mike and other improved areas. Training ranges must be mowed two to three times each summer to ensure targets are visible.
“Every area to be mowed is already scheduled from April through October, but because of personnel cutbacks the time between cuttings is longer.”
Piek addressed other grass contract and grounds maintenance that is not worked by JBLM DPW or the McChord Field contract.
“DFMWR cuts and maintains the grounds around all their recreation, child development, and child and youth services facilities, as well as both JBLM golf courses,” said Piek. “Lincoln Residential cuts the grass throughout base housing, except for residents who have fenced-in yards, or residents who have requested to mow their own lawns.
“Contracts for trash pickup are gone. The Joint Base Headquarters has two, three-Soldier details that pick up trash along three routes on McChord Field, Lewis Main and Lewis North, as well as a few exterior roads just off base.
“The details also picks up trash around the Lewis Main and McChord Field Exchanges and commissaries, and any areas outside unit footprints. The details cover the routes sequentially, and how often they complete the loop depends on how much trash they have to pick up, or whether they are diverted to a high-priority trash removal site.
“The base cleanliness we expect starts with every individual on base doing their part to put trash in the right place. We will not achieve the cleanliness standards that people expect to see on a military installation without everyone pitching in and picking something up if they see it on the ground.”