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Chicago Ridge mayor vetoes ordinance over his right to make appointments

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar waited until the end of a rather quiet village board meeting on Tuesday to announce that he was vetoing an ordinance passed at the June 7 meeting that would limit his power to make appointments.

“I am using my veto because this ordinance is illegal and unconstitutional,” said Tokar, overturning the 5-1 vote cast by the board at the last meeting. The controversial ordinance (see related story on front page) requires that the mayor’s appointments be approved by a majority of the six trustees. These include offices such as village attorney, police and fire chief, and department heads.

“I want to know if we have the authority to overturn this veto,” Trustee Bruce Quintos said.

“Well, that would be a question for your legislative counsel,” said Tokar.

Quintos said he would consult the board’s legislative counsel, Kevin Camden before holding a vote to overturn the veto at the next Village Board meeting on July 12. That office was created this year to advise trustees, after Tokar kept Burt Odelson as village attorney after four trustees voted against his appointment in January.

“You took away our powers of advice and consent, and we’re just taking them back,” Quintos told the mayor.

‘I take issue with that. I don’t think anything was taken away from anyone,” said Trustee Jack Lind, the only trustee to vote against the new ordinance. “No one could give a reason for not retaining the attorney. It was fully legal,” he said.

“If they do overturn the veto, a lawsuit against them will be filed. And the village will have to pay for both attorneys,” said Odelson afterward. He said he is “caught in the middle” of a political battle between the mayor and trustees.

Odelson said he agrees with attorney John B. Murphey, who advised Tokar in May that a lawsuit would be successful because the Illinois Constitution requires a referendum to be held before ordinances limiting mayoral powers are enacted in home-rule communities such as Chicago Ridge. The new ordinance limits to 60 days the length of time any mayoral appointee may remain without the approval of the village board. Currently, temporary appointments are open-ended.

“Between Murphey and myself, we have represented more than 50 municipalities, while the trustees’ legislative counsel has never represented any,” he noted.

Trustee Fran Coglianese said the advice and consent issue is worth a court fight. “Our attorney is much less expensive than theirs,” she said.

Earlier in the otherwise friendly meeting, the board voted unanimously to honor the late police Officer Steven Smith by renaming Birmingham Street where he lived, between Oak and Oxford Avenue, “Steven Smith Drive.”

Smith, a Richards High School graduate and Marine veteran of the Iraq War, was 27 when he was killed by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 294 last September.

Quintos said a dedication ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday morning, July 6.

“Our hearts go out to you. He will never be forgotten in this town,” Tokar told his mother, Lisa.

“I can’t thank you enough,” she told the mayor and board. “You have done so much to keep his memory alive. I consider you family, like those guys up there,” she said, pointing to the police officers lined up at the back of the room.

Garden Club's memorial marker project takes root

  • Written by Joe Boyle

blue star memorial photo 6-9

Photo by Joe Boyle

Judy Barker (left) and Lorraine Bujan, president of the Oak Lawn Garden Club, take part in the ceremony recognizing the club’s efforts in having the Blue Star Memorial Highway Memorial maker moved to its present location at 95th Street and Cook Avenue in Oak Lawn.

 

Julie Barker’s love of gardening made her a natural to join the Oak Lawn Garden Club.

But after becoming a member, it was her passion for another project that made her committed to accomplishing a goal that was close to her heart.

Barker, Lorraine Bujan, current president of the Oak Lawn Garden Club, and other members were on hand for a Memorial Day ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker at 95th Street and Cook Avenue. The plaque honors the memory of all veterans and especially those who died in the line of duty.

The marker is of the greatest importance to Barker, who has been an official member of the Oak Lawn Garden Club for 10 years. She recalled a woman from Evergreen Park who said the condition of another Blue Star Memorial Highway maker has worsened. Barker told her that the Oak Lawn location had been nearly forgotten.

“That’s when I got involved,” said Barker.

The Oak Lawn Garden Club was created in 1956. The club’s origin dates back to World War II when the National Garden Club came up with the idea of erecting a marker in memory of the nation’s war veterans. In May of 1963, the club dedicated the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker at 95th Street, north of the railroad tracks in the village, near the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 5220.

Barker said that the club wanted a more prominent spot for the marker. The club, through the help of Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Village Clerk Jane Quinlan, assisted in the marker moving to 95th and Raymond in front of the parking lot adjacent to the old Oak Lawn Senior Center and Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce office.

“We had to restore it, and they got it moving,” said Barker.

When the Oak Lawn Bank and Trust purchased the land, officials suggested moving the plaque inside the building. Barker was vehemently against the idea.

“I did not want it on private property,” said Barker. “It had to be on an interstate highway like it is now.”

Barker said she became more of a historian regarding the Blue Star Highway Memorial. However, keeping up with the club’s history and the marker proved to be a daunting task.

“It was growing and I had no room to put everything,” said Barker. “June Cutis, who was our president then, helped out. We worked to gather the information and she got it on a computer. We were anxious to get it done.”

The first dedication was in 2009 at the 95th Street and Raymond site. Along with the Oak Lawn Garden Club, local dignitaries were on hand for the ceremony, along with Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd).

After the bank purchased the property, the Oak Lawn Garden Cub, with the assistance of the village, made the move to 95th and Cook, which has been the site of the Nativity scene during the holiday season.

“I’m really happy where the marker is now,” said Bujan, an Oak Lawn resident since 1974 who has been an Oak Lawn Garden Club member for six years. “We have people who stop to look at the spot now. They did not do that at the old location.

Pat Bugos, another Oak Lawn Garden Club member, also likes the new location for the marker.

“I think a lot of people from Oak Lawn have been in the military,” said Bugos. “We have members in their 70s, 80s and 90s. I think it’s important to pass this on so people remember. I think it is important.”

As for Barker, 84, she will continue to work to have a ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway to coincide annually with the Memorial Day observation.

“These men and women put their lives on hold for us,” said Barker, whose late husband served in Korea. She also has two children. “Many of them did not come back. Many of these veterans return with mental problems. It’s the least we can do for them.”

Oak Lawn’s Garden Club Blue Star Highway Memorial maker project takes root

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Julie Barker’s love of gardening made her a natural to join the Oak Lawn Garden Club.

But after becoming a member, it was her passion for another project that made her committed to accomplishing a goal that was close to her heart.

Barker, Lorraine Bujan, current president of the Oak Lawn Garden Club, and other members were on hand for a Memorial Day ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker at 95th Street and Cook Avenue. The plaque honors the memory of all veterans and especially those who died in the line of duty.

The marker is of the greatest importance to Barker, who has been an official member of the Oak Lawn Garden Club for 10 years. She recalled a woman from Evergreen Park who said the condition of another Blue Star Memorial Highway maker has worsened. Barker told her that the Oak Lawn location had been nearly forgotten.

“That’s when I got involved,” said Barker.

The Oak Lawn Garden Club was created in 1956. The club’s origin dates back to World War II when the National Garden Club came up with the idea of erecting a marker in memory of the nation’s war veterans. In May of 1963, the club dedicated the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker at 95th Street, north of the railroad tracks in the village, near the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 5220.

Barker said that the club wanted a more prominent spot for the marker. The club, through the help of Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Village Clerk Jane Quinlan, assisted in the marker moving to 95th and Raymond in front of the parking lot adjacent to the old Oak Lawn Senior Center and Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce office.

“We had to restore it, and they got it moving,” said Barker.

When the Oak Lawn Bank and Trust purchased the land, officials suggested moving the plaque inside the building. Barker was vehemently against the idea.

“I did not want it on private property,” said Barker. “It had to be on an interstate highway like it is now.”

Barker said she became more of a historian regarding the Blue Star Highway Memorial. However, keeping up with the club’s history and the marker proved to be a daunting task.

“It was growing and I had no room to put everything,” said Barker. “June Cutis, who was our president then, helped out. We worked to gather the information and she got it on a computer. We were anxious to get it done.”

The first dedication was in 2009 at the 95th Street and Raymond site. Along with the Oak Lawn Garden Club, local dignitaries were on hand for the ceremony, along with Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd).

After the bank purchased the property, the Oak Lawn Garden Cub, with the assistance of the village, made the move to 95th and Cook, which has been the site of the Nativity scene during the holiday season.

“I’m really happy where the marker is now,” said Bujan, an Oak Lawn resident since 1974 who has been an Oak Lawn Garden Club member for six years. “We have people who stop to look at the spot now. They did not do that at the old location.

Pat Bugos, another Oak Lawn Garden Club member, also likes the new location for the marker.

“I think a lot of people from Oak Lawn have been in the military,” said Bugos. “We have members in their 70s, 80s and 90s. I think it’s important to pass this on so people remember. I think it is important.”

As for Barker, 84, she will continue to work to have a ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway to coincide annually with the Memorial Day observation.

“These men and women put their lives on hold for us,” said Barker, whose late husband served in Korea. She also has two children. “Many of them did not come back. Many of these veterans return with mental problems. It’s the least we can do for them.”

Worth reaches agreement over distribution of rain barrels

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Thanks to approval of an ordinance amending the municipal code at the Worth Village Board meeting on Tuesday, regulations are now in place regarding the free rain barrels distributed by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

While the MWRD program allows four barrels to a household, only two barrels will be permitted in Worth. However, there will be no restrictions on the placement of the barrels other than being located to receive water from a downspout.

The approval came after much discussion in earlier meetings where the trustees had voiced numerous concerns about the number of barrels allowed as well as the placement of the them. Trustee Pete Kats had said he did not want to see the barrels haphazardly placed in front yards creating an unsightly view.

“We need some kind of control in place before problems arise,” Kats said.

In an ironic twist after the ordinance was approved, Mayor Mary Werner said she had received a letter from the MWRD this week stating that as of Dec. 31, 2016, the MWRD will no longer be offering the free rain barrels to residents. Additionally, residents applying for barrels now can expect up to a 10-week delay in delivery.

“In other words, if you are ordering barrels now, it could be as late as September or October before they are delivered,” she said. She added that MWRD reported that 126,000 free barrels have been distributed since the program began three years ago.

Also approved was an ordinance agreeing that prevailing wage rates will be paid to laborers, mechanics and other workers performing public works in the village. The ordinance is approved annually.

In other matters, the board heard a presentation from Todd Kupsak, president of Administrative Consulting Specialists, LLC regarding the feasibility of retaining his consulting services to seek grants for the village. He has been consulting with the village police and fire departments for the past two years.

Kupsak offered the village the opportunity to move forward with him as an addition to his contract with the police and fire, or to wait until the state opens up.

“There is federal and county grant money available now, but the situation with the state is not good. Once it opens up, there will be a windfall of grant money, but that just is not the case now,” Kupsak said. “If you can wait, I would advise you to wait. I am not trying to take money from my clients needlessly. That is not the way to keep clients.”

 

Werner said the matter will be discussed as the board is currently holding budget meetings to establish the 2017 budget.

In closing comments, Werner issued a warning to residents concerning fireworks. “Fireworks are illegal in Worth and we will be ticketing offenders,” she said.

Evergreen Park mayor hints that more development is planned for 95th Street

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins


The silhouette of the Village of Evergreen Park is changing along West 95th Street with the recent demolition and clearance of property located at 2942-46 W. 95th Street.

During the Monday night board meeting, Mayor James Sexton hinted that there will soon be good news for village residents regarding the now-vacant land.

His teaser comment came when the trustees approved a final payout to Environmental Cleaning Corporation in the amount of $32,936. Sexton had made a similar comment at the June 6 board meeting, but said he was not yet at liberty to reveal any information as the matter was under discussion and not yet finalized.

In other business, the board also approved the purchase of a new squad car in the amount of $27,076. Sexton explained that $24,000 of that amount will be paid by insurance, as the vehicle had been destroyed in a fire in April. He said it was a bizarre incident in which a transformer blew out in the alley behind the police station and a live wire landed on the squad car that was parked in the police lot, igniting a blaze that totally destroyed the car.

A fence and garage of a resident was also damaged. Sexton said it was fortunate that no one was injured in the incident. “It could have been much worse,” he said.

The board also approved a request from Police Chief Michael Saunders to hire a new police officer from the May 2 Probationary Patrol Officer Eligibility List to fill a vacancy on the force due to a resignation.

Other approvals included a final payout of $99,352 for sanitary sewer linings in a Community Development Block Grant project and granting a request from K & G Fashion Superstore to conduct two sidewalk sales; June 30 through July 4 and Sept. 1 through Sept. 5.

The Aug.1 village board meeting will be cancelled due to Sexton participating in an annual charity event.

The village’s Zoning Board of Appeals announced a public hearing will be held at the Village Hall at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 12 on the request for variations to permit a subdivision of a 75-foot zoning lot into two 37.5-foot zoning lots on the property located 9315 S. Troy Ave.

The property is owned by Grade A Investment, LLC, an Illinois Limited Liability Company. Any interested person may attend the meeting.