Fort Riley, Kansas

 

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Masterminds of property: Real Property Office keeper of Fort Riley assets, buildings

By Suet Lee-Growney | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | November 17, 2017

       Editor’s Note: This story is part three of a three-part series on the Directorate of Public Works Master Planning Division.

     “We are actually a branch out of (the) master planning division, like a hub in a spoked wheel,” said Paula Fultz, real property accountable officer Directorate of Public Works Real Property Office. “We are in the middle of everything; everything comes off of us. If there were no real property, there would be no master planning, there would be no units, no training.”

     The real property office is the gatekeeper of all matters on post that have to do with facilities, certain utilities, land and structures, which include current constructions, historical property, new builds, transfers and demolitions. Fultz said her team maintains, conducts inspections and keeps records on those assets.

      “We are the official record, so everybody has to match us,” she said. “We maintain an inventory record of everything; we manage it for the garrison commander. We have to keep (a) record of every asset we have and the work. We do inspection of all the assets — historical every three years and all the rest every five years ... We maintain records of all the building information. When something is built, it’s transferred from whomever built it to the installation. Also we not only take the assets and add them to our inventory; we also are in charge of disposing of other assets that are kind of old.”

     One of the reasons the staff at the real property office work hard to keep up with managing assets is to ensure that Fort Riley is not trespassed on by outsiders trying to use the real estate without permission, said Fultz. Additionally, they establish proper regulations for maximizing the use of existing assets on post to its users.

      “We are kind of like the property manager,” Fultz said. “We have to make sure nobody encroaches on the government land and if they do then we have to take an action to have it removed ... (We) make sure that (assets) are being used for what they’re constructed for and the space is used wisely.”

      Jeff Mataruso, DPW master planner, echoed Fultz statement on what the real property office is to his division. He added master planners often turn to Fultz and her team to make decisions, especially when it comes to dealing with assets on the installation.

      “It is the one-point source where I go to find information about real property on the installation,” Mataruso said. “Real property has their pulse on a lot of real estate actions, especially physical property on the installation — and equipment too, which can sometimes be very confusing between what is equipment and what’s real property. So (Fultz) and the real property office is there to help (the master planners) decipher how we interpret the language of real property … That’s where I go to find the first line of data.”

 

REAL PROPERTY ACCOUNTABILITY

      All information that passes the real property office is cross-referenced, validated, checked and inventoried for accountability. Fultz said the purpose of real property accountability is to make sure all buildings and assets at Fort Riley are cared for.

     “Accountability is important because we have to make sure everything is validated and everything is properly cared for and we have custody for it and safekeeping,” she said. “We (have) to have track everything; make sure all the occupants in the facility are the correct occupants, that we show proper documentation and maintain real property and accountable records. So when we have an audit, we are ensuring the buildings and assets (that) Fort Riley is responsible for.”

     Every real property asset on post is recorded and tracked using an Army-wide accountability system called General Fund Enterprise Business System. According to Fultz, in addition to the property on the installation, the office also accounts for two satellite sites and six depots around the Midwest.

     “We have two satellite sites: one in Manhattan (Kansas) and one in Topeka (Kansas),” she said. “We are also responsible for six depots in Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois. Fort Riley is the parent installation for those depots.”

     Fultz said the real property office drives and maintains assets on Fort Riley by managing funds for repairs on its assets and form real estate partnerships with contractors to aid in managing the land.

     “We maintain the land,” Fultz said. “The reason it’s so important is because there is funding provided to the installation for all its assets. So we get funding for that and we make repairs, but we have to manage our assets and we have some partnerships like with Corvias ... Real property has to do (with) the real estate action for the partnership. The National Guard is here, we have a license with them.”

     The gravity of loss of transparency in terms of real property has dire consequences to the master planning division as a whole. Since the branch deals with funding, Mataruso said failing to account for assets correction could result to loss of funding for new builds, maintenance and more.

     “If I don’t get real property right, what ends up happening is we can end up losing funding for the installation,” he said. “It’s kind of the eyes-open of the installation and all funding is based on what kind of assets we have in store with real property.

 

SPACE ASSIGNMENT

      According to John D. Jones, realty specialist at DPW Real Property Office, space assignment is the allocation of zones and facilities to a user or unit based on its size and intent of use.

     “The easiest way to say that is every unit is authorized so much space considering how many people they have, how many vehicles they have and that’s how we assign them space,” Jones said. “Every time we make a change, or the commanding general decides to change other things, we have to upgrade all the hand receipts, which means our hand receipts go down to battalion commanders. Because it’s their footprints, they’re responsible for all their motor pools, COFs (central operating facilities), parking lots, everything.”

      Sometimes, during the transference of asset and space responsibility between incoming and outgoing commanders there can be a break in liability. Jones said he bridges that gap by maintaining constant communication with commanders.

      “I talk with commanders all the time and most generally, they understand,” he said. “Every time they have a change of command, sometimes I have to go down there and reiterate to the new one because a lot of times they are coming up the ranks and they never had to have anything to do with real property. We can’t afford it to fall apart, but it happens.”

     When a situation arises where there is loss of or damage to an asset, the real property office becomes involved and a proceeding called Financial Liability Investigation of Property Loss has to be launched. Fultz said her department would have to determine the severity of the situation based on the findings of the investigation. They go through this system to ensure the physical security of Fort Riley assets is not compromised.

     “The main part of it is every facility is supposed to be secured,” Fultz said. “We work with all the tenants and other units on the post, so physical security is one of the things that we work with. If someone loses the key, we don’t go out and make one, we have to change out the locks.”

     Additionally, space assignment also involves contracting the land on the installation to private businesses such as banks, schools, the Post Exchanges, the Commissary and more.

     “We make sure (the contractors) follow the regulation,” Fultz said. “Sometimes we have to work on some kind of agreement for land to be temporarily used.”

     Space assignment is also categorizing assets and space on the installation to a category code, which defines the use of the building. The process involves the Real Property Planning and Analysis System. What RPLANS does is identify and sum up the entire infrastructure on Fort Riley for planning purposes. Fultz said there are occasions where there is no clear definition category for the buildings.

     “Sometimes there isn’t a category that fits the building that we built, and so we have to get something close enough until they come up with something to cover it,” she said. “We work with IMCOM to make a request … and they may change the category code.”

     Space on the installation can only be used if it were assigned through the proper channels, which involves Fultz’s office, based on the building’s requirements. She said doing otherwise could result in a violation of fire code.

     “We’ll find that somebody decided to take the motor pool and build a big office in it, which is not supposed to happen that way,” she said. “Then we have problems with the fire department coming to you saying somebody built an office in this building and it’s not up to fire code or something like that. We are always in the mix of something that’s going on. Space assignment is when sometimes you say ‘I want all my Soldiers right here’ but sometimes we just can’t accommodate them that way because there are footprints cut out based on their requirements.”

 

REAL ESTATE SUPPORT AND COORDINATION

      Real estate support and coordination is the action taken with licenses, liens, right-of-ways, leases or permits, said Mataruso. To handle this, he said the real property office deals with realty specialists from the Corps of Engineers in Kansas City, Missouri, to help administer formal paperwork.

     “The realty specialist helps us write the lease language or to permit language for a particular customer on the installation,” he said. “Real property is mainly responsible for ensuring the language is interpreted correctly, that it spells out the right things for the lease, how long the lease is, and for the customer, what those requirements may be.

     Fultz said this regulation is important because during the times when government needs land that’s not on the installation, they can negotiate an agreement on using land off post. Sometimes, this process requires other branches in DPW to be involved.

     “A lot of times, we just want to be able to use the land and not purchase it,” she said. “We enter into some kind of agreement depending on what is required for the mission. There’s a reason why we have to have it, maybe some kind of navigation device has to be put up on the hill or something and the hill doesn’t belong to us. So have to enter into an agreement with someone. We work very close with (the) Corps of Engineers. We have to go through a process where Environmental has to go to out and check the land.”

     There are instances where space off post is needed, but there is no need to purchase more government property. In that case, Fultz said the real property office would engage the help of USACE to enter into an agreement and create a lease or permit to use private property for government use.

     “If government doesn’t have the land, but needs it (for an) aviation and (a) navigation site or something, we have to do the negotiation for leasing or having a license or permit, depending on what the requirement is or what instrument we use, but this office has to put all that together,” she said. “The Corps of Engineers may end up executing it, but nothing goes to them for the land or use of something without it coming to this office … We have to do the paperwork and send it off. Like I said, we are kind of like the hub.”

     Using off-post land and getting into an agreement to use that property is an example or real estate support and coordination, but this arrangement works vice versa when a non-military entity want to lease space on the installation. These leases, depending on what they are, are updated every five to 10 years, Fultz said. An example of an institution using land on the installation is the Unified School District 475.

     “The school district on Fort Riley is USD 475, they have a lease with us,” Fultz said. “They are responsible for their buildings, but we lease the ground they’re on. They have to meet the regulations that are required to be on the installation.”

     The support and coordination of real estate on Fort Riley is so important, said Fultz, because “the government does not want to buy any more land right now.” But it is equally important that all the buildings, especially the historical ones, are fully utilized because maximizing use of them can preserve their longevity.

     “The reason why we like people coming on the installation is because we have several historical buildings,” she said. “And a building of any type will last longer and survive if there’s somebody in it or it will deteriorate fast.”

       Fultz added if they can have someone in the building keeping an eye out for maintenance problems, or even perform daily upkeeps such as shutting the windows; it would save them the trouble of inspecting each building often.

     “So we like it if there’s an opportunity where we can enter into an agreement where somebody can use a building,” she said. “We want to make sure our buildings have strong upkeep. If there’s a situation where we want to renovate something and it’s vacant, we have to still go out and check that building to make sure the water pipes didn’t freeze or break or somebody didn’t break into it. It takes a lot of people working and we are a small staff.”

      A small crew staffs the real property office, yet they are one of the top go-to people when it comes to their craft.

     “We do quite well for a small office,” Fultz said. “Sometimes we are one of the top installations that are called by other installations to find out how we are doing stuff. So we do talk to other installations quite a lot. A lot of times, they call us because Fort Riley has historical (buildings). We have a good reputation and good work ethic. I enjoy working here; it’s a lot of work though.”