Urbina not reappointed building commissioner in Fox Lake
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PAUL VALADEfirstname.lastname@example.org, 2009 Fox Lake building inspector Frank Urbina, left.
Fox Lake building commissioner Frank Urbina, a key figure in shuttering the Mineola Hotel, was not reappointed to his job due to a "difference of opinion," the village's new mayor said.
However, Urbina said Thursday "I excelled at my job", and he called the move to let him go "political in nature."
"I'm not happy about it and I don't agree with it, but it's the decision of the mayor," he said.
Mayor Donnie Schmit said he didn't reappoint Urbina to the post he has held for the last three years because he saw "the village going in a different direction." He also said he is looking for better communication between the building department, other village departments, and business owners.
"I wanted someone who could nurture business more. We have this bad reputation that we are tough on business that we need to correct," Schmit said.
He tapped David Thomey to replace Urbina at the village's Tuesday night board meeting. Thomey is a three-year village employee who served as the building inspector and code enforcement officer.
"He has a real good knowledge of the town and the people living here," Schmit said. "Dave has good common sense and the business owners seem to like him. He should do well."
Urbina was appointed building commissioner March 1, 2010, replacing the now-retired former commissioner Bill Hart.
Urbina, who previously served as a building inspector, was involved in condemnations of about a half-dozen buildings. They included the Aquarium Bar on Forest Drive, Big Hollow Primary School on Route 134 and the Marina Motel on Route 12.
But it was the closure of the historic Mineola Hotel on Cora Avenue that grabbed the most attention.
Following a building inspection where deteriorating walls, mold and a worn roof were discovered, Urbina red tagged the mostly vacant building in April 2011 and shut down the tavern still operating inside.
Mineola owner Pete Jakstas hired a structural engineer who determined the 129-year-old building was still safe, and the business was reopened. However, Urbina, former Mayor Ed Bender and the village board filed a lawsuit that resulted in a negotiated settlement that closed the tavern for good in May, 2012.
Jakstas said Thursday he has worked with Schmit regarding the previous litigation and hopes to reopen the tavern.
Urbina said he stands behind the decision to close the Mineola because of the "serious code violations" found there.
"It was my job to do something about it; to make sure no one got hurt," he said. "I couldn't just ignore it. It was clearly a problem."
He added the village board voted unanimously to file the lawsuit against Jakstas and shut down the Mineola.
"I don't know if (the Mineola) had something to do with me not being reappointed or not," he said. "I tried to be honest and fair across the board. Some people didn't like it and some people used it against me."
Schmit said the lack of communication in closing businesses and shuttering buildings never sat well with him.
"We disagreed on many issues when I was the trustee in charge of the building department," he said. "He could have communicated with the business owners better."
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