City Watch Open Thread 6/29/08

People have been leaving interesting comments this weekend. Sounds like a job for an open thread. If it’s about DeKalb, it’s fair game. To kick off:

When is someone going to actually call the city on their latest screw up? The big set of stairs leading from upper downtown to Palmer Court can’t be done as planned. Since they are using public funds, the stairs or walkway must meet ADA compliance. The problem is that it would have to be a ramp and their [sic] is no way to build it without it being a toboggan run. The only answer now seems to be an elevator. This will become an interesting feature downtown. Who is to blame for this? The engineering department? This is really unbelievable.

Also:

The $8,000 parking lot webcam is up

Bike rack, trees to disappear

Comment and links reflect big backlash to Biernacki’s Elgin plans

Facilities Planning Committee and city budget discussions are still going strong.

13 thoughts on “City Watch Open Thread 6/29/08”

  1. I can’t believe the city is spending thousands of dollars on a webcam and won’t spend a few hundred on a decent bike rack when that area is slated to become more of a “gathering space,” according to what Biernacki told the Chronicle. Does anyone know how many events they plan on hosting there to justify the need?

  2. I’d like to know why, when the administration of DeKalb District 428 makes a decision, but parents and students strongly object, the decision is not reversible. There is no avenue for diplomatic reconciliation. Apparently the school board doesn’t play the mediating role that one might expect. I’m thinking of the forced resignation of a fine music teacher, Amanda Nelson, and the community protest. Are parents left with no better option than to throw out the whole DeKalb School Board and the next referendum with it? Has District 428 never tried mediation?

  3. Some detective work has led me to an even more palm-to-face discovery about the webcam. The same people who are currently doing the PR on the lat 4 project also did a project last year in Itasca on some city streets:
    http://itascastreets.bwcsi.com/

    Same website template (no design work involved), same web server, same blog setup, and it even looks like THE SAME WEBCAM. So realistically, they reused all their materials from their Itasca project and there are no expenses to account for this $8,000.

    So now the question is, why did we give Baxter & Woodman an $8,000 tax giveaway?

  4. I would not pay a lot of attention to what a construction worker says about the building plans for lot 4. Are they taking out a bike rack during construction? Probably? Are they planning to put a new one up during construction? Probably not. Will there be one there when the project is completed? Probably?

    I also have a few questions about the ADA comments and the stairs on the walkway. Does the ADA require that every set of stairs also have a ramp or that a ramp has to be nearby. Does evey door in a building have to be handicap accesable or do there just have to be handicap accesable doors?

    I think some of us need to remain consistant in our arguements. I have been told that the second floor units in town cannot be converted to “office space” because of the lack of elavators and the ADA requirements. Because of this the building owners are converting these upper floors to apartments with TIF money. If TIF money is used why do they not have to make the buildings ADA compliant with elevators?

    Just thinking out loud and asking a few questions.

    Pevo

  5. Mr Berg.

    Help direct me with these thoughts.

    The City has 2 union contracts to renew in the very near future. One comment I heard from a member of the FAC was that the city needed to conduct a wage survey of other towns and see if they are paying comparable wages and benefits. They will then use these so called
    “benchmarks” to negotiate salaries and benefits.

    One thought I have is to compare our city to other cities or one company to another comopany is a formula for disaster. Why not just compare yourself to yourself.

    As a point, lets just use the police department as an example. I would like to know how many people have left the DeKalb Police Department over the last 5 years or even 10 years and the reason they have left. In FY 08 3 left: 2 retired and one moved from the area. This 2:1 ratio of retirement to resignation would tend to show me that the pay and benefits are pretty good in DeKalb. I wonder what this ratio would be over say a 5 or 10 year period. The same could be held true for those hired to replace the prior employees. How many come from other police departments. This may indicate that if others are leaving other PD’s to come to DeKalb we may have some pretty good salaries and benefits. .

    My point, before we spend more money on another study the real answer may be right in front of us. If we have more people staying until retirement instead of leaving for other agencies maybe we have aduquate salaries and benefits without any increase needed.

    Pevo

  6. Actually, the Web site is not accessible to the physically challenged either. There is no text description of the pictures for the visually impaired, for starters.

    Ivan–I know some folks involved with RAMP in one way or another and I will ask.

    That is not a good sign when the physically challenged are an afterthought.

  7. Sometimes, pay isn’t enough if the boss is an arrogant jerk–any police officer who joined the “real police” in the city to get away from the king just to the west doesn’t count.

  8. My understanding Ed is that accessibility means in short that a disabled individual can get to where you and I can with their own ability whether being in a wheel chair or using a cane or crutches. I would have to believe that if public dollars are being used to convert upstairs space into offices that yes, they would have to provide a lift or some method for all to get to that office.

    Current code for the remodeling of office space I’m sure makes for the installation of ADA compliant bathrooms, why not a way to access the 2nd floor? That is an interesting question though and I wonder just how far the city has thought about this issue. If the downtown stairs is any indication and true, not too much. As for the downtown set of stairs, my understanding of the ADA in this situation is that these actual stairs have to have a component built within them or immediately next to them for the purpose of being accessible (ADA compliant).

    I would like to see the engineering departments numbers on height, length, and width of the space in question to see what could be designer per ADA suggestions. I can’t believe how narrow that building was in the first place, I’d like to know what the city paid for it in the first place. How did any business even survive in that building? What businesses have occupied in the past?

  9. Ed, the NIU Division of Public Administration, the Illinois City/County Management Association, and I believe the Illinois Municipal League have been collecting this sort of data for years. A study of this sort might well be used to justify raises. If the study does not conform to the ideas of the city’s administration, it will wind up on the shelf. Your points about attrition are well taken. In one city where I once worked, we had a severe problem of attrition. We would pay to train a patrol officer, and they would stay there only long enough to satisfy their contractual obligations. We were probably the lowest paying place in the area. This was costing us lots of money, and made it difficult to keep our small force at full strength. My police chief called around to his fellow chiefs in the area and found out what they were paying. It is a matter of public record. We then paid the best we could, and started looking at retention policies to help keep people. We had several building lots, and I wanted to sell them to people on our force for a dollar, just so they had a stake in the place and would stick around. It would also put the land back on our tax rolls. The important thing is not what other municipalities are paying, it is what this one can really afford. By playing around with what constitutes a “comparable” municipality, it is easy to skew the findings to whatever the administration wants. I expect that the administration here in DeKalb will continue to postpone the day of reckoning as long as possible by pulling rabbits out of the hat, as they did this year, until they run out of rabbits.

  10. The 411 on ADA:

    Someone very knowledgeable about ADA compliance but not an employee with RAMP suggested the following resources (I have not had a chance to look to see what is there yet):

    ADA Technical Manual: http://www.ada.gov/taman3.html

    Department of Justice: Guide to Disabilities Laws, Architectural Barriers Act: http://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm

    This person thinks it might be OK to put stairs in where that thin building was as long as there is a way to go around the 1/2 block. That should be possible through entering the parking lot using Palmer Court on a sidewalk or to put in a chair lift.

    I also heard a story about malfunctioning city-installed equipment. I heard this story third-hand. The rumor I heard was that the talking crosswalk at the corner of Annie Glidden and Lucinda that city installed for visually impaired students broke about a year ago. A talking crosswalk (I do not know the real name of it) has a countdown for when the Walk sign is going to change to Don’t Walk, to keep the visually impaired out of peril. A according to the story I heard, some complaints about getting it fixed went to the city and someone contacted the city manager, who said it would be too expensive to fix it.

    Wait a minute, if all of this is true, then there is no money to fix city-owned equipment that could save a life but there is money to buy all of the other things for pet projects? That equipment was not that old, why was it not under warranty of some kind from the manufacturer? The person I talked to seemed to think this is a lawsuit waiting to happen because it is worse to have broken equipment than no equipment at all.

  11. The Internet Marauders Search Team doesn’t take a holiday. A blast from the past:

    The controversial hiring of Biernacki and does the guy still have a 12-month severance package?

    http://www.daily-chronicle.com/articles/2004/02/01/news/news02.txt

    http://www.daily-chronicle.com/articles/2004/01/18/news/news01.txt

    There’s a six-month severance package after July 1, 2006:

    http://www.daily-chronicle.com/articles/2004/01/09/news/news01.txt

    Some funny yet sad comments on Ear-To-Ear:

    http://www.daily-chronicle.com/articles/2004/01/21/opinions/opinions01.txt

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