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Palos Hills alderman: Police station parking lot could be ‘safe zone’ for exchanging goods

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

One Palos Hills alderman is hoping some good can come from a negative experience, and by doing so make the city safer for those meeting in person to complete online transactions.

During the committee-of-the-whole meeting July 20, Ald. Joe Marrotta (4th Ward) suggested the city consider designating the parking lot at the police station, 8555 W. 103rd St., as a “safe zone” for residents to exchange goods agreed upon through online sites such as Craigslist and eBay.

Marrotta said the impetus for the idea came after his close friend went to purchase Chicago Blackhawks tickets from a seller he had been conversing with online. The two agreed to meet at a gas station in a town near Palos Hills. Marrotta said his friend paid the man, but the seller fled the area without turning over the tickets.

The police department would not get involved with the transactions, but Marrotta noted the police station parking lot is under video surveillance and lit and night.  

“There are a lot of online sales going on and I think this is a safer way for our residents to complete those in-person transactions,” Marrotta said.  “The only cost [to the city] is the sign [designating the area as a safe zone]. I think it’s a good idea.”

Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan wasn’t ready to sign off on the safe zone just yet.

“I’m a little hesitant because there is always the threat of something happening,” Madigan said, referring to the fact arrestees are taken to the police station.

Marrotta said the police station is a public place so residents already have the option to complete transactions there, but he was still in favor of the official safe zone designation.

“I don’t see any downside to it,” he said.

After hearing Madigan’s comments, Marrotta said he would seek further input from the council, police chief and Mayor Gerald Bennett and then revisit the topic at a later date.

In other news, city attorney George Pappas told the council he expects to have an answer from the Cook County Board of Commissioners by the next meeting on Aug. 3 as to whether they approved Palos Hills’ request to acquire the property that houses the shuttered Palos Olympic Health & Racquetball Club, 11050 S. Roberts Road, through the county’s No Cash Bid program.

Palos officials voted unanimously earlier this year to direct Pappas to file the necessary documents with the county in an attempt to acquire the racquetball club property through the No Cash Bid program, which is an economic development tool designed to assist municipalities in acquiring tax delinquent property for reuse as private development and tax reactivation or for tax exempt municipal use. The property currently has around $300,000 in back taxes, according to Pappas. Palos Hills, however, would not be responsible for those taxes if it were to acquire the property through the county program.

City officials have said if they are able to obtain the property they would raze the old racquetball club building — at a likely cost of around $100,000 — and then leave the land as open space initially. The city would also consider offers from developers, Bennett has previously said.

Pappas was confident the county would grant the city the property through the No Cash Bid program.

“We’re going to get it,” he said when asked by The Reporter after the meeting.

Also at the meeting, Moraine Valley Community College professor Dr. Kristine Christensen and Palos Hills IT Coordinator Benjamin Kinney gave a brief tutorial of the city’s revamped website.

The site, www.paloshillsweb.org, officially launched this summer and took around three months to complete, Christensen said.

The site is “more user friendly,” Christensen said, and also more compatible with smartphones than the previous website.

One new feature to the site is users can easily import important events such as city council and committee meetings right into their smartphones, Christensen said.

Revamping the site came at little cost to the city, Ald. Ricky Moore (4th Ward) said. Christensen, who is a close friend of Moore’s, was given a stipend of $1,000 and Kinney is already employed by the city.

“A revamp like that would probably cost around $25,000 so we saved $24,000,” Moore said.

In addition to being pleased the city saved a considerable amount of money on the site, Moore was also very complimentary of the job Christensen and Kinney did.

“The new site is the bomb,” he said. “It looks great and it is much easier for staff and residents to use.”