An official partnership between Leesville and Fort Polk began on Thursday evening at Leesville’s City Hall.

Mayor Rick Allen and Fort Polk Garrison Commander Col. Jarrett Thomas signed an Intergovernmental Support Agreement between the City of Leesville and the United States Army Garrison Fort Polk.

“This is more than just making a profit,” Allen said. “This is supporting Fort Polk like no one else has done.”

The US Department of Labor (DOL) in 2010 announced a new regulatory strategy called “Plan, Prevent and Protect,” dubbed the P3 Initiative.

The initiative is a set of federal regulations designed to require all US businesses to proactively demonstrate their compliance with wage laws, anti-discrimination laws and safety laws.

The initiative is intended to require employers to “take full ownership” over compliance with DOL requirements every day, not just when the DOL is conducting audits, and to promote transparency when it comes to the health and safety of employees.

“When P3 Initiative legislation passed in 2010, most didn’t want to be first,” Allen said.

Col. David “Gregg” Athey, Garrison Commander at the time, caught wind of it and began pushing for it in Vernon Parish.

“Col. Athey left us in really good shape,” Allen said. “Col. Thomas was scheduled to take command and he got very involved with Leesville’s action prior to his even taking command.

“Thomas picked up right where Athey left off. It was a great transition for us and for the Army.”

Allen returned mid-February from an Installation Innovation conference in San Diego. “Sitting in this big room with probably 550 people in there, Leesville and Fort Polk is the topic everybody’s talking about,” he said. “It’s very humbling to know that, nationwide, they are watching what we are doing and trying to create a template to do what we are doing with the military.”

The Installation Initiative is all about “sustaining the military value of military installations.”

Mike Reese of Fort Polk Progress said entering into this arrangement is atypical. “There’s no other city in the state of Louisiana that can say they’ve done this.

“Things like this allow Fort Polk to operate more efficiently and as we do that, we secure the missions that are here today and we will secure future missions at Fort Polk because of that,” Reese said.

In his 22 years of service, Thomas said he hasn’t met a community that is more supportive of what the Army is trying to do.

“The agreement is at least 10 years. By signing this agreement we are making this a greater partnership between us.

“This gets our soldiers off grass-cutting duty and back to their units to prepare themselves and others to fight our nation’s wars,” Thomas said.

Approximately 50 new employees will be cutting grass inside Fort Polk maintaining about 5000 acres. This venture is separate from the City’s Public Works Department.

Reese called it a win-win situation. “The city has the opportunity to help soldiers focus on training and their mission. And it gives the city an opportunity for a new revenue stream – to reinvest in the city.”