March 2014

Gifford Park Association General Membership Meeting
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Location: Historical Society Museum

Gifford Park Association General Membership Meeting
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Historical Society Museum


Dates to Remember

•Millers’ Open House: Sun., March 30, 1-6 p.m. at 165 South Gifford St.

•Housewalk Committee Meeting: Mon., March 31, 7 p.m.. Historical Society Museum

•General Membership Potluck: Fri., April 25, 6:30 – 9 p.m., Lords Park Pavilion

Pet Health and Safety event: April 26 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm at the Hemmens Cultural Arts Center

In AttendanceDeborah Allan, Dorie Alpha, Chris & Karen Bach, John Boline, Bill Briska, Chris & Karen Bach, Barbara Evans, Tom Hokenson, Tom & Moe Lee, Dan & Pat Miller, Karen Ordoqui, Mark & Glenna Preradovic, Warren & ChrisTejes, Doug Tomsha, Roy & Linda Voss, ROPE Officer Robert Engelke and Officer Bill Wolf.

Dan Miller introduced VIP Karen Ordoqui as the new neighbor that purchased the NSP/City rehab at 457 E. Chicago.  She is excited about her house, Elgin and has already joined GPA.


Elgin’s 311 phone system

Dan began his introduction of Colby Basham, the director of the 311 system by telling a story of his first interaction with Colby.  When the city had the Channing YMCA torn down the contractor removed or ruined three of our fancy street lights.  Because the lights were GPA’s brainchild, they are very close to our hearts.  Dan added that he, Tony Sanchez and Julie Schmitt lobbied strongly for two years to get the lights back without any success.  Lots of excuses were given every time with the last one being that the city was going to wait until the Channing Y site was developed with homes to put in all the street lights at once. That was not going to happen in the near future so that was not acceptable.

Dan attended an ECN event where Vince Cuchetto and newly hired Colby Basham gave a presentation on city services.  Dan approached Colby afterwards to introduce himself and in that conversation he mentioned our street light problem.  Colby invited Dan to city hall to discuss the problem.  Within days he said that his guys had found the stumps and we would get our lights back.  It was not even within Colby’s realm of responsibility but he looked into it and got it done.  We will be forever thankful.

Colby introduced himself by saying that he and his wife were Elginites.  He grew up in the home at 16 N. Channing.  He later moved and went to Larkin H.S.  His wife went to Elgin High.  He worked for major corporations, often traveling all over the world until his job was cut back in the recession of 2008.  He is very happy to be working for Elgin as it is a chance to give back to Elgin.  He says he is excited about being part of transforming how we deliver services to the citizens of Elgin.

311 does not have just operators manning the phones, they are trained to answer the questions and the goal is to do so on the first call 75% of the time. 311was officially launched in January.  In 2013   the public works dept. was piloted with many more departments added in January.

Originally city government was built around emergency services — police and fire.  Cities have evolved from there.  With our past technology systems, departments could not communicate or share information with each other effectively.  311 is driving the city onto one technology platform using CRM software – (Customer Relationship Management).

In the 1990’s Baltimore found itself overtaxing its 911 call system with non-emergency calls.  They evolved a call system whose goal was to simplify access to city services.  Chattanooga started using a 311 call system for performance based management that is data driven.  People were held accountable for performance thru the data collected in their 311 system.

Elgin is using the lessons learned from other cities to transform the service delivery to our citizens.  Colby showed a slide taken from another city where a huge billboard educates the citizens by saying: Burning Building 911
Burning Question 311

Elgin had 80 phone numbers in its directory.  Now people can simply dial 311. A case is recorded for every incoming phone call. The operator will either answer the question or send that case number to the appropriate department for response.  When a call is made the operator can see everything about the person calling on his or her screen, like how many times they have made complaints, the permits they have taken out, their water billing….

In 2009 when Sean Stegall became City Manager of Elgin, one of his initial goals was to establish a 311 system in Elgin.  To achieve that goal he enlisted the help of project manager Dan Ault who issued an RFP for software and after a lengthy review process, Sales Force CRM which for three years in a row has won an award for the most innovative company in the world, was chosen. Our 311 system was piloted in 2013 and went live in 2014.  They receive approximately 400 calls per day.  The goal for 2015 is community integration. A citizen will be able to search for a solution to issues and report things thru a portal on the city’s web site.

311 is increasing our accountability and transparency. 311 is all about connecting the right people at the right time to the right information.  311 improves access to city hall. Its rapid response will transform service delivery expectations.  The web based platform will grow with our needs and the community’s needs.  The city does not own software and the system is available from any computer system that has internet connection.  The information stored in Salesforce is extremely secure, probably more secure than anything hosted on the city’s servers.  Large company’s like General Electric, Coca-Cola and government agencies like Health and Human Services trust the security of the Salesforce solution.

The world has changed with everyone being connected today and customer service expectations have changed with it.  We need to change how citizens interact with the city. The city believes that our citizens expect the same degree of service and convenience that they receive when doing business with their bank or any online service.  If a citizen complains about a sewer problem it is given a case number.  He or she will be able to lookup the progress of the complaint on the web portal.  The sewer department can place updates available for anyone to see, increasing transparency.

The top requests to the 311 system so far have been garbage and recycling collection, snow and ice issues, forestry/tree planting, and utility bills. Colby mentioned that the city is coming to the end of a ten year contract with Waste Management for garbage collection and our cans are coming to the end of their useful life so lots of people call requesting service to existing containers or replacements.  There are approximately 6000 dying ash trees in the city’s right-of-way which are being cut down as part of an ongoing project.  The cutting down of these trees and replanting new ones have generated many calls to 311 over the past couple of months.

The types of service request are information 70%, routine 20% and Complex 10%.

The future of 311 will hold a citizen web portal where citizens will have access to case history and access to the knowledge base.  There will be internal and external mobile apps with complete integration with Social media.  There will be an app in the future where a citizen will be able to report a pot hole by taking a picture of it with the phone being geo located so the city is told exactly where the issue is located.  There will be apps where city contractors will be able to inform the community of daily progress on construction projects.  The Mayor is a big proponent of volunteerism and there will likely be an app to help people do exactly that as part of our new system.

Submitted by Dan Miller




     The 311 system transforms how the City delivers services and communicates.

     Currently, Elgin’s 311 system is in operation between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. By 2015, however, it will likely be a 12-hour system, available till 7 p.m. Be aware, however, that calling 311 from a cell phone will get Elgin’s 311 only if the call is made within Elgin’s city limits as other cities also have 311 systems.


     Colby noted that when there is uncertainty about which to call 311 or 911, call in to either and it will be transferred if necessary. If any doubt exists with the operator/dispatcher, a police officer will always be sent out to investigate. 

     That Elgin’s Snow Command will be under the 311 banner prompted some questions/concerns about snow removal this winter. Colby explained that Elgin has been without a head for its Public Works Department for some time and that various other department heads, in addition to handling their own responsibilities, have taken turns filling in the vacancy. Fortunately, a permanent head for Public Works has finally been hired and will begin Monday, March 24.


     Colby also noted that 140% of Elgin’s snow removal budget was spent just between January and mid-March of this year. Furthermore, the harshness of this winter has taken three to five years off the life of Elgin’s streets.




Approval of Minutes and Treasurer’s Report

The minutes of GPA’s February 20th meeting were unanimously approved, as was the treasurer’s report.

As of March 2014, GPA’s funds total $97,412.15, which is $1,732 more than they did in February! Of March’s total, $6662.90 is in checking, $9920.25 in a money market account and $80,828.94 in four CDs.


ROPE Officer Report

Officer Engleke noted that two properties on East Chicago Street are “on the EPD’s radar.” Otherwise, all is quiet in our neighborhood. Deborah Allan, who, like Officer Engleke, walks a dog early in the morning and late at night, thanked him for getting burned-out bulbs in street lights replaced.


Historic District Committee (Dan Miller)

The new Historic District signs are stunning. Kudos again to Tony Sanchez for his design and Pat Miller for her input. The poles on which the signs will be mounted are brown, round ones with finials on top. Interestingly, the hardware cost more than the signs. Due to Pat’s urging, the backs of the signs will be brown, not the usual silver.


After thanking Tom Hokenson again for all he did to get The Gazette out, Dan read a note sent from Councilman Terry Gavin, who thanked GPA for a “great” newsletter and for all we do fo the city. He assured us, it was read by all on the City Council. Though the 37% who read this issue is higher than the 21% readership average for nonprofit newsletters, Dan continues to be bemused that not all 355 who receive GPA’s newsletter read it. (He was reminded that some read it on Facebook.)

Web Site

After a brief discussion, Tom Lee, seconded by Dorie Alpha, moved that we allocate $600 for Tom Hokenson to create a WordPress website to replace GPA’s outdated one. As the motion passed unanimously, our website will soon be one that can even be accessed by phone.

Barclay Park Interpretive Sign

Trish LaFleur’s two designs for the Barclay Park interpretive sign were presented by Bill Briska and members were asked to give feedback on them after the meeting, which some did. The suggested changes were minor, however, as both designs were wonderful.

Historic Home Marketing Committee

Moe Lee passed around a copy of the tri-fold brochure designed to market the Elgin Historic District to real estate agents as well as leave at a variety of business for the general public. After presenting quotes she’d received for printing it and receiving other suggestions for printers, Moe moved that she be given a budget of $500 to have the brochure printed. Seconded by Dorie Alpha, the motion passed unanimously.

As for including an advertisement in the upcoming Chicago magazine’s real estate issue— Moe reported that with the 40% discounted price for non-profits, a sixth of a page one would cost over $5,000. There was no motion to allocate funds for this!


Housewalk Committee  (Bill Briska)

At the Monday, April 25th, committee meeting, the homes for the 2014 tour will be selected. 


Membership Committee(Dorie Alpha)

New GPA members are entitled to a copy of Mike Alft’s 1980 booklet The Elgin Historic District, a walking tour with information about the historic homes. Those who have not received one can pick theirs up at a general meeting.

E-vites to the Friday, April 25th general membership potluck, which will be held at Lords Park Pavilion from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. will soon go out. Still needed is a speaker for this event. Any who have suggestions for one should contact Dorie ASAP.


Other Business

Two times per year, the city of Elgin hosts a Pet Health and Safety event. This event offers Elgin residents low cost pet vaccination and booster shots, county registration ($40 total package, price subject to change) and an optional microchip ($35, price subject to change). They work with local vets who perform the services. The event is a great way to give Elgin residents a low-cost method of keeping their pet and Elgin residents safe. 

The next event is scheduled for April 26 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm at the Hemmens Cultural Arts Center. At the last event in November, they serviced over 120 pets and generally serve over 200 pets at the April event.

The City’s request that GPA be one of the sponsors of the upcoming Pet Health and Safety Event was discussed by Board members via email and brought to the membership for a final decision. While it was agreed that our mission statement did not include funding charities, because sponsoring this one would give us a table and the chance to meet potential new members and old house lovers, it was to GPA’s advantage. Some also recalled earlier days when feral cats abounded in our neighborhood. Thus Bill Briska moved that we allocate $100 for a sponsorship, contingent on members being willing to be at the table. Seconded by Moe Lee, the motion passed unanimously.



1. Pat Miller announced that she and Dan were much happier and light-hearted now that their four-year renovation of 165 S. Gifford Street is finally finished. To celebrate, they are inviting all to join them there at any time between 1 and 6 p.m. on Sun., March 31. 


2. Dan Miller urged all to peruse School District U-46’s “great-looking” annual report and added that this type of publicity is exactly what they need to do to promote our schools. 


The motion to adjourn was seconded and passed unanimously.


Submitted by Barbara Evans, Secretary