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Building inspector source of irritation for some

'Henson didn't do job' several critics claim

August 31, 2011 | 08:07 AM
WILLIAMS BAY — Village President John Marra has defended his decision to replace former Building Inspector David Henson, claiming he was hearing complaints from Williams Bay residents and business people.

A few residents have stepped up now to defend Marra's decision to replace Henson.

Attempts to reach Henson for comment on this story were unsuccessful. When contacted after the Aug. 4 vote, Henson declined to comment.

"I feel bad for John taking all the heat," said Dean Baumbach, owner of Baumbach Flooring, Williams Bay.

Baumbach said he had a number of run-ins with Henson.

He said he wrote letters to the trustees complaining about Henson's behavior.

Some trustees have said they don't know why Henson was replaced.

"You can't tell me that these people did not know," Baumbach said. Baumbach said the one person he may not have complained to directly about Henson was Marra.

"I don't recall telling John I didn't like the building inspector," he said.

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The major complaint about Henson is that he lacked diplomacy, said Baumbach.

"His PR was bad," Baumbach said.

One issue between the two dealt with rental properties Baumbach owns. The properties are grandfathered and maintained under older building codes, as most older buildings are, he said.

But Henson wanted Baumbach to comply with more recent codes, particularly those involving fire alarms.

He said Henson threatened annual inspections of his rental properties if he didn't comply with the more recent codes, Baumbach said.

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The previous codes required one smoke detector/alarm in each hallway. The new codes require a detector/alarm in each unit, according to Baumbach. Baumbach also said he did put a detector/alarm in each of his rental units as Henson requested.

Another dispute cut closer to home. Baumbach said a neighbor was razing a house, and Henson did not enforce a rule requiring a berm between the properties to catch runoff from the site of the razed house. A summer storm passed through and mud from the neighbor's property flowed into his yard and into his swimming pool, Baumbach said.

Alvin Olsen, owner of Olsen Concrete, Lake Geneva, and son, Gunnar Olsen, owner of a landscaping company in Williams Bay, have little good to say about Henson.

Gunnar Olsen called the former building inspector a liar.

"He'd tell us one thing and then go back on what he told us," Gunnar Olsen said. "He gave instructions that didn't make sense."

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He said he finally had to tape his conversations with Henson to make sure things were kept straight.

"He was not competent to be a building inspector," said Alvin Olsen. "Contractors didn't want to go to Williams Bay because of him."

"I think John Marra is doing an excellent job," Gunnar Olsen said.

George Clettenberg of Williams Bay said he was very disappointed in Henson.

"I've had nothing but negative interactions with him," said Clettenberg, a former Walworth County bailiff.

Clettenberg said that if he had known of the resistance to replacing Henson, he would have been at the Village Board meetings to support Marra.

Clettenberg said he made numerous complaints about trash and garbage thrown into a retention basin behind his home. He also complained about neighbors on either side who seldom cut their grass. One of the neighbors was renting rooms in a residential area.

He said the only time he saw Henson doing anything was in the weeks after Marra's election, when Henson started pulling tree limbs and garbage from the retention basin.

Clettenberg said he could get no responses to his complaints to the building inspectors. He said he wrote letters to several aldermen but received no responses from them, either.

For his part, Marra said he's made his decision and wants to move on for the good of the village.

In a written statement, Marra said:

"It is well past time that this routine procedural matter be laid to rest for our Village and (as) for me as President, I will continue to concentrate and devote my future labors to pursing the further betterment, development and progress of our Village."

Village Administrator Bob Carlson said letters of complaint addressed to trustees go to the trustees. Carlson said he was unaware of any official written complaints filed against Henson through the village's formal complaint process.

Henson was let go by the village on Aug. 4 and replaced by Jerry Anderson, a contractor, licensed inspector and Elkhorn alderman. Anderson's approval was on a tight 4-3 count, with the trustees splitting 3-3 and Marra essentially casting the deciding vote, although he did not vote last.

Trustees voting against Anderson's appointment, or at least to delay a vote, were John Grove, George Vlach and Marsha Engquist. Those voting with Marra were Don Parker, William Duncan and Gordon Roth.

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