Village mulls contractor license suspensions

The Lincolnwood Village Board of Trustees at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Jan. 16 discussed measures that would grant the village authority to suspend or revoke licenses for contractors who repeatedly violate village codes.

"There have been instances of contractors either performing work without a building permit or performing work without a village license," community development manager Doug Hammel said. "Some have moved forward in working without passing building inspections, and that requires work to be undone at the cost of the property owner."

Contractor penalties could include fines determined by staff at an administrative hearing, followed by a period of license suspension or revocation determined before the village board or at a public hearing if violations continue to occur. Nearby communities, such as Evanston, sets the period of license suspension for up to 90 days.

"We would anticipate that there is some initial history of violations that would have to be demonstrated before (suspension) becomes a larger issue," Hammel said. "A lot of those could be handled through the administrative adjudication to demonstrate liability and impose a fine before we would even get to enough of a history…(Fines) would be part of the process leading to potential suspension or revocation."

Targeted offenses would likely relate to code violations rather than quality-of-work violations that can be too subjective to legally define, and any such ordinance would mainly pertain to contractors attached to building permits rather than general property maintenance contracting.

"I talked about an example where a contractor closed up work before an interim inspection is done," Hammel said. "That’s a procedural violation, not necessarily a quality-of-work violation, so it’s a bit more objective to take action in that instance."

Studies have shown very few instances where contractors reach enough offenses to qualify for suspension, and a contractor ordinance would likely serve more as a deterrent to sub-par work.

Trustees showed support for the measure, which will likely be drafted into a formal ordinance in the future.

"I think there should be some protection built into these permits that we’re charging residents for," Trustee Georjean Hlepas-Nickell said. "We know for a fact in some instances that some (subcontractors and general contractors) do skip steps, so this gives some recourse."

At the regular board meeting, trustees approved a resolution approving the relocation of Commonwealth Edison aerial electric lines underground to make way for the future construction of a pedestrian and bicycle overpass at West Touhy Avenue between North Kilpatrick and North Kilbourn avenues.

As part of the resolution, the village will pay Commonwealth Edison $69,872 up-front out of the total $139,745 cost to install the wires through a contractor, and the village will be partially reimbursed by future grant funds. Construction of the $4.4 million bridge was first discussed following a federal grant that was awarded in October 2011, which would cover 80 percent of the project cost, and the overpass work could begin after utility work is completed.

Trustees also approved a recommendation by the Traffic Commission adopting an ordinance for the placement of stop signs at the intersections of Lowell and Jarvis avenues as well as Jarvis and Kedvale avenues. Previously the residential-area intersections lacked stop signs, but recent traffic studies indicated the area to be busy enough to warrant two-way stop control.

Village manager Tim Wiberg said that because parts of the intersections border the Village of Skokie, final installation of the signs would wait until early February, after that village board is expected to formally approve the additional signage.

Also, trustees approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for grant funding for the creation of a right turn lane on northbound Cicero Avenue to West Touhy Avenue and the widening of the Edens Expressway exit ramp.

Also at the meeting, amendments were added to Lincolnwood’s anti sexual-harassment policy, clarifying that accused persons would receive due process. The changes clarified that accused persons would receive an opportunity to respond to harassment allegations when practical.

The Lincolnwood Village Board of Trustees at its meeting on Jan. 2 approved an ordinance amending the village code to strengthen a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment in its government workplaces with provisions that village counsel will develop a procedure of due process for the accused.

"There’s been too many examples of people being kicked out of universities or losing their jobs, and later it’s determined that perhaps some allegations are unfounded," Trustee Ronald Cope said at the meeting. "My feeling is that we should add to our resolution or provision some hearing process, something where the person accused of the wrongdoing gets a chance to hear the evidence and respond. Otherwise I think it’s a very unfair type of process."

The village changes are in response to a recent statewide act made effective on Nov. 16, 2017, directing all units of government within 60 days to adopt policies and procedures prohibiting sexual harassment within government workplaces.

Although Lincolnwood had already established policies prohibiting sexual harassment, new changes clarify that parties related to incidents of harassment will never conduct investigations, that retaliation against accusers is prohibited, and properly direct village employees to outside parties with whom they can file external complaints if needed.

"Tonight’s action will achieve the village’s desire to continue to foster an environment in which harassment is prohibited, and meeting guidelines of the State of Illinois," Mayor Barry Bass said at the Jan. 2 meeting.