By Bob Balgemann


Discussion has continued over an independent contractor who handles plumbing inspections for the city, while properties he owns allegedly were in violation of city codes.

Bottom line was a 6-3 recommendation from the committee of the whole, at the Monday, Dec. 12 meeting, to renew the agreement for another year.

Final consideration is expected to come Monday, Dec. 19 when the committee sits as the city council.

Opposition to renewing the contract came from aldermen Clint Morris, Mark Sanderson, and Clayton Stevens. Aldermen Daniel Arevalo, Ron Brooks, George Crawford, Wendy Frank, Tom Ratcliffe, and Dan Snow voted yes. Alderman John Sanders was absent.

Morris led the discussion, saying there were issues with articles seven and nine of the contract and the inspector not bringing his properties up to a certain standard.

“That went on for quite a while,” he said. “So, why are we renewing this contract?”

City building department director Lisa Morelock offered a lengthy response to that question as to why she was recommending approval of the contract as written.

She started by saying the inspector’s properties currently were in compliance with city codes.

Given the concerns that were raised at the Oct. 10 committee of the whole meeting, she said she did look for someone else to handle plumbing inspections.

After not finding anyone, she went to the state of Illinois, which would have to take on plumbing inspections should the city stop providing them. The state has one such inspector, she said, and that person only would be in Belvidere Tuesday afternoons of each week.

In her view, she didn’t think one issue necessarily involved the other. She drew an analogy between the local situation and the city hiring a company to do road work, and one of its employees getting a speeding ticket or a DUI. As long as the employee’s problem didn’t affect the work being done, the city couldn’t do anything about it, she explained.

“My job is to ensure that service is being provided,” she said. “I didn’t believe the city would benefit from a state inspector. We have someone who is local; he can run out with a 10-minute notice. I feel this is the best direction at this time.”

City Attorney Mike Drella explained that the inspector was an independent contractor. There’s no wording in the contract about discipline, because that would make him a city employee.

“We have the ultimate remedy – to cancel the contract,” he said.

Alderman Morris countered, “Obviously, he [the inspector] reflects on the city.”

When this first came up two months ago, he said it was pointed out that this inspector was enforcing city codes, yet he was breaking building codes. Residents who became aware of that were wondering what the city was up to, he added.

Morris stressed that it was the responsibility of city council “to have individuals in there who represent the city well.”

In recommending approval of the contract, Director Morelock said earlier, “I think we’re spoiled. Inspections are done in a timely manner.”




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