Friday, January 18, 2008
Bob Koning wraps up 46 years of service
After 46 years of service to Carlisle, Bob Koning says his retirement as building commissioner and electrical inspector January 1 was bittersweet. Although he looks forward to doing more boating, hiking and skiing with his wife Mary Lou, "I love the job and hate giving it up." Koning served the town for 27 years as building commissioner and 46 years as electrical inspector. In 2002, he retired from his position as fire chief, a job he had held for 25 years. At the Selectmen's meeting in December, Chair Tim Hult expressed "our gratitude for Bob's many, many years of service to the community. He will be missed at Town Hall."
Koning says he has enjoyed "dealing with all the people of the town — I don't know how many thousands," and appreciated working with the town boards and committees. "We're like a floodgate" for the town's business. "It's interesting." The building commissioner works two days a week, and this limited schedule allowed Koning to maintain his connection with Town Hall after his retirement as fire chief. Now he and his wife want to take longer vacations and enjoy their active years. "Others can do the job I did. It's time."
Koning was responsible for plumbing, gas and electrical inspections, as well as enforcement of Carlisle's zoning bylaws. Over the years, he says, zoning enforcement has taken up a larger portion of his time. "Now we have neighbors complaining about neighbors. We never had that ten years ago." The annual town report for 2006 notes "48 zoning issues and complaints were investigated." Koning says each complaint "takes many, many hours" to resolve.
Also adding to the job is the influx of 40B proposals. Koning says each requirement added by a committee "ends up in our lap to enforce." The result is hundreds of hours of work on each development. While this is somewhat offset by the overall slow-down in new building, "It's still busy. People are still adding decks, kitchens and bathrooms." Work for the Board of Health and Planning Board continues. "It's a constant thing," says Koning.
Koning offers a strong endorsement of the people who worked for him. "They're superb. They carried a lot of the ball. They really know what they're doing. I'll miss them all." For the time being, John Minty will be acting building commissioner with Vinny Chant as electrical inspector. Both have served previously as Koning's assistants.
Asked for his advice to the new inspector, Koning says, "You have to understand you're working for the public. Take care of them. Treat them all equally." He adds, "Get answers back as quickly as possible." He dismisses the image of the traditional imperious building inspector, noting, "This is a friendly town," and part of the job is flexibility and "helping [applicants] through the other boards."
The job involves controversy "just about every day," but Koning says 95% of the time issues can be resolved. "We worked our hardest to talk to everybody, and usually we'd get through." His goal was "never go to court unless you absolutely have to. Nobody wins." He advises, "Weigh it all out and hope you don't appear in court too many times."
The Konings have lived on Acton Street for many years, and two of their four children have families in Carlisle. Koning pronounces himself "lucky to live in such a great place," and says we all should thank the farmers who devised Carlisle's zoning plan, "Those were very smart people."
© 2008 The