In an effort to more comprehensively and consistently monitor property maintenance issues in Riverside, the village board on April 17 is expected to approve hiring an independent code enforcement contractor.
At a meeting of the village board’s Committee of the Whole on April 3, trustees expressed support for hiring Lombard resident Karyn Byrne, a former code enforcement officer for the Village of Downers Grove, to institute a comprehensive program for private property maintenance enforcement.
Byrne will be paid $35 an hour for the work. Riverside Village Manager Kathleen Rush said that she expected Byrne to work four to six hours a week through October, resulting in a total cost to the village of approximately $5,000.
Rush said that in the past property maintenance inspections were carried out during summer months using a part-time staffer in the Building Department and a temporary summer employee. While that strategy has helped identify major property maintenance violations, the program was far from complete.
Furthermore, Rush said, it was a job no one wanted to do since it was “hard, especially if you lived in town to enforce the code.”
“It’s one of the more difficult, personal enforcement actions you can take on anybody,” Rush said. “Nobody likes to do it. No one likes being the heavy.”
That’s where Byrne comes in. After five years as a police officer in Downers Grove, Byrne was hired as a full-time code enforcement officer by that village, a job she held for 10 years. Since 2000, Byrne has operated her own company and has provided code enforcement services for a number of municipalities, including Western Springs and North Riverside.
“It’s been really beneficial to devote more time to [code enforcement],” said North Riverside Village Administrator Guy Belmonte. “We brought her aboard to ease the work load on the building commissioner and part-time staff.”
Belmonte added that Byrne has the time and ability to follow violations all the way through the court system, if needed.
“We hope we never get to the point where you have to go to court,” Belmonte said. “But she’ll go the whole nine yards.”
Rush began exploring the possibility of beefing up property maintenance inspections last fall after Trustee William Scanlon raised the issue during the board’s budgeting process.
“We haven’t allocated enough money in the past to do this,” Scanlon said. “But private residences, just like village property gets older and older, and it has to be kept up to date. This is a good start.”
Rush said that having someone dedicated to property maintenance issues is crucial, because once you start enforcing violations, the job begins to grow.
“It’s a constant issue,” Rush said. “And once you call Mrs. Smith about her high grass and peeling paint, she’s going to say, ‘What about Mrs. Jones across the street?’ It’s a domino effect. So you have to know how to beef up enforcement so you can enforce things consistently.”
Rush said that the village would hire Byrne to do a complete “windshield” sweep for property maintenance issues, completing one half of the village before moving on to the second half.
“She won’t be getting out of the car and looking in the backyard, but if she sees the front porch falling in, she’ll write it up.”