Altus AFB, City Create Task Forces to Address Quality of Life

  • Published
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Office

In Altus, Oklahoma, members from Altus Air Force Base and the city have come together to address quality of life issues facing both local and military residents. One group in particular, the Altus public-public and public-private (P4) committee, focuses on partnership to leverage needs and resources to improve the Altus community. After consistently hearing concerns arise regarding quality of life, the P4 committee stood up five task forces to address housing options, short-term lodging, cost and quality of life, spouse employment, and public relations.

Housing Task Force

 One task force formed to address the lack of affordable housing options in the surrounding Altus area. This task force aims to draw in developers for additional housing centered on multi-family-style living options such as apartments, townhomes, and duplexes. More than 70 percent of active duty base personnel are resourced for multi-family housing options from their basic allowance for housing (BAH). In accordance with the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness’ policy, 76% of BAH is allocated for rent and 24% for utilities. The average BAH rate an Altus Airman receives is approximately $1000 per month; with about $760 of it apportioned to rent, military members end up paying out of pocket for suitable housing. Further, the group found that housing options currently available exist at a price point more suited to the upper ranks of E-9 and O-4 to O-6 while the majority of base members fall within the ranks of E-1 to E-8 and O-1 to O-3.

Chuck Butchee, the deputy squadron commander for the 97th Civil Engineering Squadron and P4 base facilitator, shares that housing developments are on the horizon for the median demographic of the base populous. “It is all about bringing people to the table to communicate and work toward a common goal,” Butchee said. “The more people we get in the room, the closer we are to finding a solution.” Part of the success so far includes educating local leaders and base personnel on current policies and microeconomic housing variables.

Short-Term Lodging Task Force

The short term rental and lodging market also affects the availability of long term rental homes. This group’s goal is to provide structure and stability to the industry, particularly crash pads, in hopes of re-establishing a natural rental market. Crash pads are a fully furnished home, available for rent by the room or its entirety, by the day, giving temporary duty (TDY) students a more comfortable option when coming to Altus for training. Currently, the crash pad industry has repurposed approximately 100 affordable homes from traditional rentals that families within the E-1 to E-8 and O-1 to O-3 categories could occupy.

The group is currently looking into ways to regulate the industry as they typically operate within residential areas. Their primary concern is to ensure lodging locations are up to date and in accordance with Joint Travel Regulation requirements while creating an equal opportunity for hoteliers and crash pad owners alike.

 “It is a great opportunity financially for the city and for the TDY students. The intent is not to keep anyone from making a profit; it is to make sure the Airmen staying in these crash pads are provided with certain suitability,” Butchee explained.

Cost and Quality of Life Working Group

The cost of living and quality of life working group aims to address everything that affects the total cost of living, including a variety of basic living amenities. Since its inception, the group has researched the reason behind the perceived higher utility rates. With a city sales tax of 2%, compared to 4% in surrounding cities, the city has to offset the deficit with higher utility rates to sustain municipal operations. In order to raise the sales tax, voters must vote to pass a tax increase. The cost of living and quality of life working group is working to recommend changes and present possible solutions for action.

“These are not just concerns of Air Force members; we have community members who are concerned about where we are at in terms of cost of living,” stated James W. Gover, Chairman of Altus and Southwest Area Economic Development Corporation. “We want to educate the community on what the reality is in terms of cost of living so there is a better understanding of the utility bills.”

Spouse Employment Working Group

The spouse employment working group’s goal is to connect Altus Air Force Base dependents and spouses with potential employers in the Altus community and initiate growth for new employment options. Locally, this task force is looking into the development of telecommute work spaces, not only giving spouses job opportunities, but also a network of other professional individuals who relocate often as military dependents. Ultimately, the group works to recruit companies to consider military spouses for job openings.

“Military spouses and dependents bring a unique set of experiences, professionalism, degrees and certifications to organizations,” said Rodger Kerr, President and CEO of the Altus Chamber of Commerce and Director of Altus and Southwest Area Economic Development Corporation. “We want organizations to see that in the two to three years spouses and dependents are here, what they can bring to the table advances the team and makes the organization richer.”

Public Relations Working Group

The public relations working group’s mission is to connect Air Force families, friends, and neighbors by communicating beneficial and accurate information in a positive way. In an effort to be more transparent with the community of Altus, the group is standing up Altus Connected, an informational hub where residents can obtain information, news, and updates regarding the City of Altus via their website or social media platforms.

 “We are trying to tackle the misinformation that exists about Altus,” explained Rollann Horschler, co-chair of the public relations working group. “Our goal is to create and maintain relationships between members of Altus Air Force Base and members of the community.”

The city, civic and business leaders of Altus and the surrounding communities want to see the base succeed and personally want to provide competitive services, housing options, and experiences while stationed at Altus. 

“The base is important to this town. It is not a separate entity. We are all one.” said Horschler.

All task force members have a common message: keep bringing concerns to the table. The successes of the base and community depend on communication with each other. In an effort to further grow and develop, civic and base leaders are focused on bringing about a positive change for the members and locals of Mobility’s Hometown.