Homewood Public Works business dominates board meeting

The Homewood Public Works Department was the star of the Tuesday, May 8, board of trustees meeting.

  Homewood Public Works 
  Director John Schaefer, 
  right, congratulates Eric 
  Fritz on his promotion to 
  utility department supervisor.
  Fritz was sworn in at the 
  May 8 village board meeting.

  (Photo by Quincy Crump/
  H-F Chronicle)
Eric Fritz was sworn in as the new Utility Department supervisor. Public Works Director John Schaefer reminded the board and audience about the Public Works Department open house on May 19. The board approved the department's request for new software. 

And, Mayor Richard Hofeld presented a resolution marking National Public Works Week. 

Fritz has been with the department since 2017. He had five years of public works experience prior to joining the department and holds a class C water operators license, according to Schaefer. Fritz also has experience in electrical, plumbing and building trades. His wife, children and other family members watched from the audience as he was sworn in.

The new software contract approved by the board will help crews monitor village assets, from street ligthts and manhole covers to HVAC units, and manage project work flow. The lowest bid was from Dude Solutions of Cary, North Carolina, for $28,500.

The hosted system is also expected to save on staff time because, unlike other comparable systems, it will not require local data management, Schaefer told the board in an informational memo.

The cloud-based system is an upgrade in flexibility and ease of use, he added.

The mayoral proclamation declared the week of May 14-20 to be National Public Works Week in Homewood, a time to recognize the importance of public infrastructure to the stability and well-being of the community. 

The proclamation stated, in part, that "such facililities and services could not be provided without the dedicated efforts of public works professionals, engineers, managers and employees who are responsible for ... facilities essential to serve our citizens."

Schaefer also reminded the board and audience the annual public works open house is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, at the public works garage, 17755 S. Ashland Ave.

"There will be activities for people to do, see our equipment and see just what public works is all about," he said.

The event typically includes opportunities for kids to get rides in lifts, drive rollers and operate diggers, all with assistance and supervision of public works staff. 

During the audience comment portion of the meeting, the board heard from a resident who said she was frustrated by a parking situation in her neighborhood and was dissatisfied with the response she received from village officials.

Constance Nigeda said she lives on a narrow dead-end street, and a neighbor parks a vehicle on the street, making it difficult for Nigeda and her husband to get their vehicle out of their driveway.

She indicated the neighbor had received an exemption from the village's ban on overnight on-street parking, but she thought the exemption was unjustified because in her view the neighbor has adequate driveway capacity. Insufficient driveway space is one factor residents can cite when seeking to obtain an exemption.

Village Attorney Chris Cummings said he would review the case and consult with other officials to determine whether there was anything the village could do to remedy the situation. 

In other business, trustees approved:
  • A variance to allow a 12-month extension on the construction of a residential garage at 2051 175th St.
  • A resolution authorizing $20,000 to be allocated from the Motor Fuel Tax fund for street milling and surface mix material.
  • A bid for street sweeping from Lakeshore Recycling Systems at a cost not to exceed $70,000.
  • The reappointment of Fred Sierzega to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
  • The sale of 28 surplus police radios that have been in storage for about seven years. The radios will be sold for $980 to All Season Distributions.
Hofeld also noted that of the $673,563 in bills paid by the village in a month's time, three payments constituted 70 percent of the total: $199,000 to E-Com, the emergency dispatch service; $205,000 for employees health insurance for May; and $70,000 to Thorn Creek Basin Sanitary District.
The next village board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, in village hall, 2020 Chestnut Road.

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