Ordinance officer in Elgin replies to complaints

By Trish Yerges, Observer Correspondent September 24, 2012 03:24 pm


By Trish Yerges
Observer Correspondent

 ELGIN — Earlier this month the city council suspended Elgin ordinance officer Mike Little pending further discussions with him about complaints some residents had over the manner in which he carried out his duties.

 Little started his duties on July 1. Using a map of the city, he divided it into quadrants in order to work the territory systematically.    At times his coverage of the territory is interrupted as he responds to citizen calls that direct him to precise addresses where there may be ordinance compliance problems.

 Since the city ordinances have not been routinely enforced in Elgin for a long time, Little said he expects some resistance. On the other hand, many residents want to see the city get cleaned up, and they call him to report on their neighbors’ properties.

 “Ninety percent of the people who call me are the neighbors who want places cleaned up,” said Little.

 After two months on the job, Little appears to be making a dent in the overall appearance of Elgin’s residential neighborhoods.  Little said he’s received many complimentary comments from citizens saying that the city is looking much better.

 Still, at the last city council meeting three residents appeared to voice complaints against Little. 

 “There’s going to be complaints,” said Little. “However, the majority of people
comply with minimal upset on their part.  

Most people get a little mad at first, but then calm down and just take care of it.  At most, the matter takes a couple of hours or a weekend to take care of, and most residents have complied within the time limit I set for them.”

 One resident, Roseann McLean, said that Little made her feel threatened and intimidated when he called at her home about her vehicles parked in the city right-of-way.

 “I don’t mean to try to intimidate anybody,” said Little.  “I’m a tall and big man, that’s true, and I sometimes talk louder than I need to because I wear hearing aids, and I can’t hear myself.” 

 Another resident, Toni Olson, said that Little’s enforcement was not applied consistently to everyone.

 “I’m only allowed 40 hours a month to do this,” said Little. “That’s two hours a day, and there’s a lot of stuff to take care of just in trailers, tall grass and weeds.   I can’t get to everything at once.  I don’t have the time to get to every property.”

When Little was first hired, he had an initial meeting with councilors Dick Miller and Allan Duffy, members of the city’s safety committee.

 “They wanted certain things looked at regarding ordinance compliance,” said Little.  “I started with tall grass, weeds, garbage, junk in the yards and dog issues.  They told me not to worry about dog licensing at this time, except on an individual basis (as it came up).  One time I picked up a lost dog, and I spent a lot of time trying to find its owner, and I eventually did, but I didn’t bill the city for that work.”

 A third resident stated to the council that Little had walked around her yard to inspect it. 

 “I just stepped off the resident’s driveway, and the resident was with me, and we talked about weeds along the fence between the field and their home.  I didn’t walk around the house,” Little said.

 At the council meeting, Miller stated that the safety committee wanted to meet with Little to discuss the complaints that have been coming in to them, but that Little cancelled their meeting.

 Little said that the safety committee is his supervisory board and he has been expecting meeting appointments but they did not transpire.

 “At the end of July on 15th and Baltimore, I had a discussion with Mr. Duffy,” said Little.  “He told me he wanted the rigs on the right-of-way moved.  I inquired about meeting with him but he said he was busy that day, but would work out something.”

 After the August 11 council meeting, Little said he again approached Duffy to arrange for a meeting.

 “I approached Duffy,” said Little, “and said I need a meeting with you on some stuff I’m working on. When would be a good time?”

He replied to me, ‘There’s never a good time to meet with you.  Pick a time Monday.’”

 Little said “I picked 9 a.m. on Monday at the city hall but Duffy said ‘No, come to my house.’   I cancelled that meeting because of some things that were said to me and because city business should be conducted at city hall.”

 Since that time, Little has not been contacted again for a meeting.

 “I’ve never once got a call from Dick or Allan about setting up a meeting,” said Little.  “They know I’m free until 2:30 p.m. every afternoon.”

 Little said that council president Brent Linville did call him recently and set up a meeting “to hash out the problems.”  More discussions will be held at the next council meeting.

 “I’m trying to help this town clean up.   It’s been let go for 54 years,” said Little.  “For the people who have complied and taken care of their properties and animals, I would like to thank them very much.  I hope you continue to do this.”

 For more information about Elgin city ordinances, call City Hall at 541-437-2253.  Copies of ordinances may be purchased at the city office.