By Tammy Sharp

Fort Polk Progress

The following is the third of three articles detailing Intergovernmental Support Agreements between local communities and Fort Polk. To read the other articles, click here and here

FORT POLK–An Intergovernmental Support Agreement (IGSA) between the Vernon Parish Police Jury and Fort Polk could save taxpayers upwards of $20 million over the next 10 years and provide a source of revenue for the parish totalling approximately $1.3 million, said Vernon Parish President Jim Tuck. Congress authorized the development of IGSAs among military branches and local and state governments for installation support services in 2013.

Officials signed the agreement at Fort Polk on May 24, renewing an expiring five year agreement for another 10 years. 

“It has been a successful IGSA, benefitting both the community and the Army,” said Tuck.

The parish executes the agreement through its contract with the local business Waste Connections. The agreement ensures daily servicing of municipal waste throughout the installation, the collection of recyclables, and supports each rotation of soldiers through the Joint Readiness Training Center by collecting and hand-sorting field waste, according to an email from Nathan G. Jernigan, P.E. Chief, Operations and Maintenance Division at Fort Polk’s Directorate of Public Works. 

“These tasks were successfully performed through two major hurricanes, two tornado events, a major winter storm, while working in a COVID environment!” Jernigan wrote. “In all of this, no Mission impacts were realized due to Solid Waste Service concerns. These results reflect the team’s exceptional leadership and commitment to the partnership.” 

Officials began working on the original five-year IGSA in 2016 and executed the contract in 2017. 

IGSA’s ensure that Fort Polk remains competitive and the most cost-effective installation in the Army, said Senator Michael Reese (R-Leesville), who was instrumental in creating the first agreement. In addition to the cost savings, soldiers training at the JRTC can focus on combat readiness training, instead of trash sorting, he added.

At the time, the Vernon Parish IGSA was recognized as one of the most cost-saving agreements of its kind. 

“Initially when we did that IGSA, it was the biggest, greatest savings of any other IGSA,” said Tuck. 

In fact, Fort Polk’s three IGSA’s were the first major ones the Army and the Department of Defense undertook, said Chief of Army Partnerships, Ivan Bolden. “Those three resulted in an annual savings of several million a year. That was huge. Right now we’re averaging about $30 million a year. That’s a significant amount that the Army is saving.”

“Johnny Bevers (then deputy garrison commander) and Col. Thomas  (then garrison commander) for having the intestinal fortitude to bring those across the goal line,” said Bolden.  

“They are still significant,” Bolden said of the current Fort Polk IGSA’s. “If they’re averaging $6 million in savings, that’s 20 percent. The three IGSA’s at Fort Polk are providing 20 percent of the savings for the whole Army.” 

Bolden added that he was glad to see the 10-year agreement initiated  between the parish and Fort Polk and indicated he’d like to see agreements go up to 20 years. 

“It’s better to amortize assets over a 20-year period as opposed to a 10 year period,” he explained. 

In addition, he’s pushing the idea of partnerships involving non-appropriated funded (NAF) projects, he said. Cities and states could help run the Army’s MWR businesses and projects, such as golf courses, parks and recreational amenities. 

“We could save money and create efficiencies with that,” he said. 

Of the 186 or 187 Department of Defense IGSA’s, the Army has about 107 of them, he said. “We have clearly leaned forward and pushed and encouraged. Our communities have taken the call and said yes, we want to do these. 

“I understand Rosepine had to hire 30 plus people for the contract, so that was a win for the community. These things are very beneficial to the communities and the soldiers. I love being able to put these together.”