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Housing program remains unchanged by DeKalb City Council

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – A campaign to move a small crew of proposed property inspectors from DeKalb’s Crime Free Housing Program to the city’s Building and Code Enforcement Department was defeated at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Dave Baker, 6th Ward Alderman, originally brought the issue before council and argued actively for the change Monday. Since the motion involved an amendment to the city’s budget, six yes votes were needed for passage, but only three out of the council’s eight members voted in support of the move.

Now, the city will continue with its original plan to hire three part-time property inspectors under Crime Free Housing and Inspection Coordinator Carl Leoni.

Baker, along with 7th Ward Alderwoman Monica O’Leary and 1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson voted yes.

Mayor John Rey sided with the majority.

“We’re in the process of recruiting a permanent city manager; I don’t see making a substantial change in organizational structure before that new city manager is in place,” Rey said after the meeting. “It also gives us time to fully evaluate the performance of the housing bureau as we know it under one supervisor.”

The Crime Free Housing Program had been in the works for years before Leoni, a former DeKalb police officer, was hired in February to get the program off the ground.

It’s tasked with fighting crime in the city’s estimated 9,000 rental properties by working with landlords to promote peace among tenants. Some landlords have objected, however, to the program’s property inspections plan that hopes to help keep properties within city appearance codes by inspecting each one at least every three years.

Baker’s proposal had the support of DeKalb Area Rental Association President William Heinisch, who spoke before the council Monday.

“The crime-free housing bureau should focus on crime and be located in the police department, where their expertise is,” Heinisch said. “Inspections should be dropped from the crime-free housing title.”

Baker questioned whether part-time employees could be trusted with such duties and even supported a plan to bring in off-duty firefighters for the job.

Fifth Ward Alderman Ron Naylor objected strongly to Baker’s calls for change.

“I would just like to see this [inspection] program going,” Naylor said. “... Let’s get on with it.”

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