News>Leaders address community concerns during town hall
Brig. Gen. Scott Zobrist, 31st Fighter Wing commander, speaks during a town hall meeting Oct. 22 at the La Bella Vista Club, Aviano Air Base, Italy. During the town hall, the general spoke about upcoming quality-of-life improvements and fielded questions from the audience. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katherine Tereyama)
Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Craver, 31st Fighter Wing command chief, speaks during a town hall meeting Oct. 22 at the La Bella Vista Club, Aviano Air Base, Italy. To make the town hall more accessible, Team Aviano members could attend the town hall, listen to it aired live on American Forces Network Aviano, or recieve updates via Facebook. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katherine Tereyama)
Maj. Gerremy Goldsberry, 31st Fighter Wing program manager, asks Brig. Gen. Scott Zobrist, 31st FW commander, a question during a town hall meeting held Oct. 22 at the La Bella Vista Club at Aviano Air Base, Italy. To make the town hall more accessible, Team Aviano members could attend the town hall, listen to it aired live on American Forces Network Aviano, or recieve updates via Facebook. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Katherine Tereyama)
by Senior Airman Katherine Tereyama
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
10/26/2012 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Base community members gathered at the La Bella Vista Club and tuned into American Forces Network Aviano Oct. 22 to hear from the 31st Fighter Wing commander and to bring their concerns to his attention as part of a town hall meeting.
Brig. Gen. Scott Zobrist, 31st FW commander, opened the event highlighting numerous base initiatives being implemented to improve quality of life for Team Aviano.
"I'm pretty proud of the fact that the base has come together and made a lot of improvements over the last year or so," Zobrist continued. "It is not in my nature to brag or to boast; however, during a recent discussion with a spouse, it seemed like she was asking 'does the base really care?' It was kind of an 'Aha!' moment for me, because we all see what we're doing to make base the base better, but how is she supposed to know if I didn't tell her? It's our responsibility to push that information."
Quality of life improvements featured by the general include standardized customer service hours, improved family programs, new playgrounds, fitness center upgrades and cold weather gear for some Airmen. For a more detailed list of base improvements, read "Aviano makes people top priority" at www.aviano.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123323489.
Zobrist pointed out that many of the ideas for the base improvements were generated by feedback directly from Team Aviano members through the Interactive Customer Evaluation program, the Commander's Connection website and previous town hall meetings.
While discussing new quality-of-life improvements around the base, Zobrist focused largely on the importance of sponsorship and making in-processing as smooth as possible for all newcomers. He spoke of the initiatives being taken throughout the process to make transitioning to Aviano easier, including a two-hour dedicated spouse slot in Right Start, shortened wait times for housing inspections, new soggiorno processes, in- and out-processing powers of attorney and many more.
"While we can't claim total victory, and I will continue to solicit your help in this area, we have made a lot of strides," the general said. "I spoke with a woman at one of the spouse events, and she had heard that Aviano is a terrible place to in-process. After going through it herself, she said that her experience was completely different and it was made a lot easier because of those improvements and because of the focus on sponsorship. It's a cultural change that has taken hold around the base and we need to keep improving on it."
Zobrist also introduced a new program, known as Vicini Americani, or "American Neighbors," that is still in the planning stage and is currently looking for volunteers who have been in the area for a while and know their community. Once stood up, the program will help American newcomers learn more about their town and make the transition to a foreign country much easier.
"If you like your town and you want to tell newcomers about it, this program is for you," he said. "It's a volunteer community liaison program that will be available in each of the local Italian communities. Volunteers for the Vicini Americani program will welcome newcomers to their town. When I first arrived at Aviano, I got a great welcome to the base, but no one welcomed me to my town. I had to find out on my own where the butcher shop or the veterinarian was. That's what your Vicini Americani liaison will help with."
The general then took the opportunity to highlight some improvements to the operational tempo of the base, and the wing's focus on taking care of people while supporting the mission. He discussed the reduction of weekend exercises, push-back of deployment taskings that go beyond what the base can sustain, opening the Large Vehicle Inspection Station to privately-owned vehicles to decrease travel time, and several other mission-related initiatives.
"It does make a difference," he said. "We've been trying to manage it as much as we can, and each little victory we have, when counted collectively, can make a huge difference for our people."
Zobrist followed up by lauding the people who have brought their concerns and suggestions for bettering the community to himself and Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Craver, 31st FW command chief.
"The message is that the base leadership does care, and we're working to make Aviano a better place," Zobrist said. "We need your positive and negative feedback. Take a sense of ownership. This is our base. Please, if you see a problem, bring it to someone's attention. We will continue to be available to you so we can hear what's on your mind."
Craver built on to what the commander said, adding thanks to those brave enough to speak to them about their problems.
"We can't fix it if we don't know it's broken," the chief said. "So I applaud you for having the courage to pull me aside to discuss your issues and suggestions. Please keep those ideas coming. We are receptive to any of the ideas you might have."
After the opening remarks, the general encouraged those in attendance and listening at home to for their comments, questions, and feedback. The following is a summary of questions and answers discussed:
Q: Can we add contacting the Key Spouse to the sponsor's checklist so that we can make sure Key Spouses and sponsors are on the same page and the incoming spouse is getting the information they need? A: Finishing touches are being put on the local sponsorship operating instructions, and this suggestion will be incorporated into the new document with sample letter templates.
Q: In the case of single parents with temporary custody, what is available for childcare on a short-term, month-to-month basis? A: Single and dual military families have priority slots in the Child Development Centers for full-time child care. Members who anticipate a need for short-term, full-time should submit a DD Form 2606, Request for Child Care, as soon as they have a date for the arrival of the child. Priority for care is based upon status, with single members and dual military families having the highest priority, and by the date on application.
Q: People staying in the temporary lodging facility with pets are charged $10 per day regardless of the length of their stay. Is it possible to adjust the fee to a flat fee since they only clean once? A: All lodging rates (including the daily pet charge) are set at the Air Force level and are not subject to change locally. Pet TLFs are a relatively new concept for Air Force Inns, and considerable funds were provided by the Air Force Lodging Fund to convert units to be sanitary and suitable for pets. Carpeting and wood floors were replaced with vinyl or tile flooring and furniture was replaced with items that resist stains and odors. The fee is also used to defray additional cleaning, maintenance and replacement costs of required pet-friendly items. Further, common areas require professional cleaning on a more-frequent basis and there are also periodic situations requiring flea spraying. The Air Force used each of these expenses in determining the pet TLF additional cost. Lastly, people should keep in mind that billeting rates were raised Oct. 1 to cover operating costs.
For more information about the increase, visit www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123319877.
Q: How do squadrons recycle on base; who is responsible for providing the recycling containers? A: If Team Aviano recycled more effectively, the base would save more than $90,000. To begin this cultural change, the base recently purchased recycling bins and instructional placards that are currently being distributed throughout the base and to the squadrons so that base patrons will be better able to sort their trash into the proper recycling containers. In addition, the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron is working to come up with a bulk waste pick-up solution for the base. The Housing Office will also begin educating newcomers about recycling in their town when they sign their leasing contract. It is a cultural difference between Italy and the U.S., which takes some getting used to. Americans do a fairly good job, but we can always do better.
For more information about recycling guidelines on base, visit www.aviano.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123322974.
For town-specific recycling guidelines off base, visit www.aviano.af.mil/library/recycling.asp.
Q: Why is the temporary library closing and what is the status of the new library opening? Also, is there a possibility of refreshments being offered at or near the library? A: The library is not closing. It is still open in its temporary location in Area 2 until the construction project is completed at the old building. The hours of operation will change starting Nov. 4 when the facility will no longer open on Sundays. The library will continue to open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The construction on the old library will begin in December and is expected to be completed the following December. The base will look into vending options at or around the library.
Q: Why are home fuels payments so erratic? Is it possible to get a regular, accurate bill for gas? A: Home fuels acts as a liaison between the local utility companies and members of Team Aviano. When the bills arrive at home fuels, they pay the Italian utility company then bill the service members. In Italy, these bills are not always as regular as we might expect them to be back in the states. Each utility company has their own billing process and home fuels has no voice in the matter. Team Aviano members who are not satisfied with the frequency of their bills have the option to change companies. The base recently entered into contract with an additional gas utility company which offers five bills per year based on a customer's actual meter reading (versus estimates) and a final bill to be presented shortly after the account is closed out during PCS out-processing. The 31st Mission Support Group is also working to make online bill payment possible. To learn more, or to switch utility companies, contact the Home Fuels office at 632-2272.
For more information about the process, visit www.aviano.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123322935.
Q: At The Exchange, there are some magazines that contain adult material. Is it possible to cover these items in a way that is not visible to children? A: The Exchange has a list of materials that need to be covered, and those items remain covered at all times and are out of reach of children. Sometimes, magazines publish things that the Army and Air Force Exchange Service cannot censor. If someone presents specific cases of materials publishing inappropriate content to The Exchange manager, they will look into making that material less accessible for children.
Q: What can people do once they have reached the three vehicle per tour limit? What does the waiver process look like and how likely is a waiver to get approved? A: There are ongoing discussions with Navy leadership about this issue, since they run the program. In the meantime, there is a standard waiver letter, and these are approved on a case-by-case basis. The current policy allows for a fourth replacement vehicle during unforeseen situations, including but not limited to theft, accident, or mechanical breakdown. An example of the exception to policy letter may be found at pass and registration.
Q: Would it be possible to designate post office customer parking spots since often the closest parking spots are taken by people using other facilities? A: This issue will be reviewed further to identify a viable resolution.
Q: Is it possible to reinstate the Aviano Medical Treatment Facility's Saturday acute care clinic? A: The wing had made a decision to discontinue the Saturday acute care clinic hours due to low utilization rates. Following the town hall, the wing commander reconsidered his decision, and the Saturday acute care clinic will remain open until further notice. Providing access to top-notch medical care is a top issue for the wing commander and base leadership, and the Saturday clinic hours will be remain open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Q: If I do not like my assigned primary care physician, can I switch providers? A: Patients are assigned primary care providers based on provider's current empanelment and the patient's health care situation to ensure each provider's workload remains balanced. If a patient has an issue with their provider, or has not been able to establish a good patient-provider relationship, patients can notify the 31st Medical Group by speaking to a patient advocate, the primary care clinic manager or through TRICARE.
Q: Does the Aviano clinic get updates on the status of Team Aviano members who are patients at the Pordenone Hospital? A: That information is sent to the 31st MDG each duty day and is tracked by the chief of medical staff who works through the patient liaison and the Pordenone physician liaison to monitor care. In addition the command post will notify the 31st MDG commander and chief of medical staff when aware of major accidents requiring emergency care.
Q: Can we have a tour of Pordenone hospital for all parents? A: The 31st MDG commander welcomed this suggestion and will pursue the possibility of conducting a tour of the Pordenone Hospital for Team Aviano members. Additionally, we will look into the possibility of developing a video tour of the hospital to be posted on YouTube.
Q: Can we get more dryers at the Laundromat so that they at least equal the number of washing machines? A: The Exchange will look into the situation to identify potential options.
Q: Is there a way to get some kind of play area at either of the laundromats to allow children to play safely while their parents are doing laundry? A: While there isn't room for a child play area near the in Area 1 laundromat, a new playground is being built in Area 1, and parents may consider taking their children there. As for a playground in the Area F location, the base will look into the situation to identify potential options.
Q: Would it be possible to have a trash can in front of the post office? A: Removing the trash can was a deliberate decision in the past because of misuse by post office patrons. The base is revisiting this topic to identify potential options.
Q: Would it be possible for there to be a place for people to bring used moving boxes so that they can be re-used by people who might need them for a local move? A: You can bring used boxes to your local ecological platform. Anyone who needs moving boxes can use local classified advertisement websites or go to The Exchange to see if they have boxes available.
Q: Would it be possible to have an open salad bar for children at the DODDS schools? A: The Exchange is responsible for the school lunch program and states that it follows the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and, as with all national public schools, those guidelines must be adhered to. A salad bar presents too large of a risk of contamination and spread of sickness to be offered in public schools. While a salad bar is not provided, The Exchange ensures a complete, balanced meal for students by serving meat or meat alternatives, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy daily. Vegetables are cooked with olive oil and herbs, rather than butter and salt, nothing is fried, and reduced fat, reduced sodium and vegetarian entrees are available daily.
For more information about the school lunch program, visit www.shopmyexchange.com/Community/schoollunch/programfaqs.htm.