Guest Column: Putting the rumors to rest in Freeport—well, sort of—part one

Landlords, concerned citizens, media, Ald. Nickee Bender and administrative staff were present Feb. 15 at an afternoon meeting wherein Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp and his Community Development Director Shelly Griswold sought to put rumors to rest that their proposed $37,000 “property maintenance code inspector” expense and the corresponding $37,000 revenue line item of “rental inspection fees” were not targeting landlords in their desire to improve the city (and the budget).

Repeatedly, the mayor’s staff claimed there was no basis for the wild unsubstantiated rumors circulating of “rental property inspections,” even though it was their budget and staff who chose the language (Griswold and Gaulrapp adamantly denied any knowledge of the language “rental inspection fees,” and gave full credit to the accountant).

Griswold said they were only “looking down that road” and “nothing had been decided.” Yet, without public input of the City Council or greater public (even after former Mayor Dick Weis was soundly defeated on this issue), the Gaulrapp administration made plans to hire yet another inspector to go fishing for “properties in violation,” all the while claiming they hadn’t considered “what properties” and “what violations” would be cited. Now, they want to form a task force!

But wait! The city already has a building inspector, plumbing inspector, nuisance inspector and animal control person. And the mayor said the latter two are being cross-trained for nuisance and animal control.

City Hall touts they are short-staffed (who isn’t?), which is why the ordinance is written for citizens to drive the process with complaints—not public employees!

In the alternative, let’s cross-train all four inspectors to be state-licensed building inspectors? Let’s cross-train all city staff, police, fire and street crews as well? After all, you don’t need to be a structural engineer/certified architect to know when a gutter dangling in the wind is a safety hazard!

Contributing Writer Marianne L. Garvens is a Freeport resident.

From the Feb. 28-March 6, 2007, issue

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