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One morning, Building Department Chief Steve Glinke received a complaint of overflowing garbage dumpsters at an eight-flat on Adams. While not an unusual complaint, Glinke was frosted because the owner purchased the property only a few months ago. Solution: call to owner, "get the dumpsters dumped by noon or I'll have Flood Bros. do it and hand you the bill when I see you in court." Boom.
Glinke is our longtime Fire Chief and, since May 2010, heads the Department of Health & Safety, or what we call our building department. Glinke is considered a straight-shooting independent and strongly emphasizes the "service" portion of public service - all with a tasty side of color. Yeah, he's fun.
The department currently runs a lean machine with their annual budget reduced 30 percent from five years ago, most of the savings resulting from Glinke accepting a nominal annual $10K stipend for his new responsibilities.
It appears that once the village electeds received treatment for their zoning fetish, Glinke was able to focus the department on, of all things, health and safety. The department handles 1,400+ building permits annually, 100+ property sales/village inspections in 2012, and all sorts of nuisance neighbor calls.
Property maintenance issues, always a problem, are more difficult to negotiate in this difficult economy. Dilapidated garages, leaky gutters and roofs, droopy porches and vacant properties (10 percent according to CMAP) challenge the department and owners who have fallen on hard times. In hardship cases, and they are plentiful, a realistic repair timeline is negotiated with a paper trail and follow-up.
Glinke is proud of his team and the department's new efficiency. Tim Gillian, Rory Hoskins and staff all share a "get 'er done" attitude.
Glinke swears property owners are dealt with fairly and "favoritism will not happen under my watch." If this is true, we can be very proud of our building department indeed.
The sins of the past - decades of sloth, political tinkering and staggering negligence - still haunt Glinke's department, in which case the directive is "un-f*%k this."
Which brings us to the issue of index cards.
Glinke freely admits he can only guess at answers to most any question that involves more than one address. Why would that be, you might ask? Turns out the entirety of Forest Park property history (only) resides on ... wait for it ... index cards. A card catalog, if you will.
We. Have. No. Database.
I think we can all agree with Glinke's sentiment that "this is just unbelievable." Finding answers to general questions is "so inefficient, so ineffective" (not to mention often impossible) that he must include the caveat, "but I can't prove it."
Most folks heard of this astounding non-computerized situation at a recent village budget meeting where Glinke requested, and was granted, $3,500 to get the paper/pencil info codified. Every building department director since 2001 has made this same request but was denied due to "budget constraints." Allegedly, an additional $20-25K has been budgeted for software to manage the data.
Now we know why village officials drove each and every alley to count our coach houses three years ago.
Now we know where two years of FEMA flooding data worthlessly resides.
Now we know that our new Comprehensive Plan will be based on anecdote, again.
Really, Electeds? Might I suggest the village divert some of its Fest energie$ toward core responsibilities as I'm sure our entertainment benefactor would be honored to $ponsor something more lasting than a beer tent.
On a positive note, our library computerized its core business 25 years ago.