A former book seller has turned a page in his life as the city of Ravenna's property maintenance official.
Paul Bauer of Kent said his job does not involve as much technical expertise as he had imagined. Instead, he said, it requires people skills, something he has acquired over many years in retail.
"My impression of the job is that it requires the persistence of a 3-year-old who has been denied ice cream," Bauer said, "but with more organizational skills and the ability to see over the steering wheel."
Earlier this year, the city decided to hire a property maintenance official to have more control over nuisance complaints.
Previously, those types of inspections were outsourced to PMHA, which still handles apartment inspections. However, Ravenna Mayor Joseph Bica said the city wanted more coverage of nuisance complaints and more control over them.
The city's building department still investigates building code violations and zoning complaints, which require a more detailed knowledge of state and local codes.
Bauer came to Kent in 1986 and opened Archer's, a used bookstore. He closed the store in 2001 to do some writing.
Recently, he said, he was "looking for something else" and found this part-time job, which he started in May.
Bauer is responsible for enforcing a variety of complaints including garbage, cars up on blocks and tall grass. Those, he said, are generally a nuisance to neighbors, but can become health and safety issues.
A particular pet peeve of his is standing water in old tires, cans and unattended pools. That, he said, can draw mosquitoes and affect not only neighbors but the whole neighborhood.
"I'm aware that what I do is intrusive," he said. "People pay a lot of money for that two dimensional property line."
But despite that, he hasn't encountered as much resistance as he had initially expected. City officials say it's because Bauer is willing to talk to property owners to try to work out a solution.
Bica said Bauer has "a different work style than most."
"He really wants to work with property owners and promote a more cooperative effort," Bica said. "He doesn't want to just give out tickets. He want to understand the whole issue and find a solution."
Bauer noted that sometimes, finding out the story behind a complaint can go a long way toward working out a solution. Many landlords are willing to resolve a complaint after a simple phone call, and other times, it's helpful to meet with people face to face.
"There are a lot of tools in the toolbox," he said.
Bauer said he didn't know much about Ravenna before taking the job, but has developed an affection for the city's downtown.
"I come to Ravenna with kind of a clean slate," he said. "But I can understand why the mayor and others are so passionate about the city."
When weather permits, Bauer, who lives near Kent's entrance to the Portage Hike and Bike Trail, likes to ride his bike to Ravenna, then drive his pickup truck around town. When possible, he gets out of the truck and walks around, and residents will approach him and ask about the status of a complaint.
"When people see you out of the truck, they sense you're approachable," he said.
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