BATAVIA – Batavia code compliance officer Rhonda Klecz noticed a gate was off its hinges as she inspected a foreclosed home on Washington Street in Batavia recently.
“I’ll have to bring back some nails to fix it,” Klecz said.
Inspecting foreclosed homes is just one of her duties as the city’s code compliance officer. She also works part time as North Aurora’s code enforcement officer.
At the home on Washington Street, she was checking out the condition of the structure.
“Nobody has been living in this house for about nine months,” Klecz said. “This property needs some help.”
As she was checking the garage door to make sure it was secure, she noticed a tree in the backyard had lost its leaves. She made a note of how to resolve that.
“It’s going to have to be cut down,” Klecz said. “I don’t want kids back here playing on it, or it falling on somebody’s property and hurting somebody.”
As she was inspecting the house, Cathy Blaeser, of Green Thumbs Brown Boots Landscape, was giving the shaggy looking grass next to the house a much-needed trim. Klecz contracted with the company to make sure all the landscaping surrounding foreclosed homes in Batavia and North Aurora was maintained.
The city is aware of 46 homes currently in foreclosure in Batavia, and 38 in North Aurora. Klecz also checks the doors on the house to make sure all are secure.
Klecz will need a court order to actually enter the house.
“I have to give the judge a list of reasons why I want to go in the house, such as if I think there is something hazardous in there,” she said.
After Klecz finished inspecting the house, she checked out an area underneath a building along the Fox River, which kids have been known to use as a hangout. Although she sees beer cans tossed into the crawl space, she suspects they might be from those who fish along the Fox River.
In her job, she said, every day is different.
“I’ve been bit by dogs before and stung by bees in the course of inspecting properties,” Klecz said. “I’ve had to call the police to help me defuse a situation with a homeowner.”
Klecz said she has had to develop a thick skin as she goes about her duties. Residents might not be happy to see her.
“You’re not really anybody’s friend,” she said. “You have to explain things to people and let them know why you are there. You offer up solutions. If they need more time, I’m always willing to work with people.”
She sees her job as more than just enforcing codes. Instead, she said “it’s about helping people in the community.”
“You have to be creative and find ways to help people who might not have the funds or capability of coming into compliance,” she said.
Educating the public also is a big part of what she does. Some might not be aware of the rules.
“Most of the time people aren’t aware they are violating the codes,” Klecz said. “We’re always trying to work with people. We’re always trying to gain voluntary compliance.”