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Local reps: State budget work can't stop

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The state budget stalemate now extends into June, but state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) said that if the Legislature has to work all summer to come to an agreement, then everyone should get back to Springfield and get the job done.

“Our work in Springfield is far from over and I am prepared to work over the summer with Gov. Rauner to pass a fair and responsible budget,” Burke said. “Illinois has gone 700 days without a budget, pushing our higher education system to the breaking point, jeopardizing life-preserving programs for our seniors, and leaving many of our schools without the funds they need to open their doors in the fall. The time for political games is over, it is time to set partisanship aside and work towards repairing our state.”

House Democrats had submitted a bill to provide more than $800 million in special funds to social service agencies and public universities. However, Rauner said on Facebook that he will oppose any ‘stopgap” measure without a permanent property tax freeze.

“We cannot accept a [House Speaker Michael] Madigan stopgap without a permanent property tax freeze to protect the hard-working taxpayers of Illinois,” said Rauner in the video.

The governor has said he opposed anymore stopgap budget proposals. He has blamed Democrats and Madigan for keeping “universities, community colleges and social service agencies on the verge of collapse with no permanent funding to keep their lines of credit intact.”

According to published reports, Rauner said that Madigan’s proposals are meant to force a tax hike. He said he would only support higher taxes if certain reforms, like term limits for lawmakers, an overhaul of state workers’ compensation, changes to collective bargaining, and a property tax freeze were approved.

However, it was Rauner who rejected a compromise bill that passed the Senate that included workers’ comprehensive reforms, tax caps and term limits he had been seeking. Madigan, when he saw the gubernatorial veto was imminent, chose not to call the Senate bill. He then passed a series of stopgap spending bills that Rauner had indicated he opposed.

Burke, who represents Evergreen Park and portions of Oak Lawn, said that she and other Democrats are willing to compromise with the governor.

“There are parts of the governor’s agenda I can support – and I have,” Burke said. “I voted over a dozen times to freeze property taxes, and I supported a plan this spring that would lower property taxes for every single homeowner in Illinois.”

Burke mentioned legislation that would save taxpayers money, including making it easier to consolidate local units of government and allowing the state to put the Thompson Center up for sale. However, Democrats opposed a recent proposal to sell the Thompson Center.

The state rep also said she supports economic reforms to cut taxes for small businesses, while cracking down on corporations who ship jobs overseas by outlawing future tax dollars for these companies.

“There are also parts of his agenda I know go too far and would hurt middle-class families simply to pad corporate profits,” Burke said. “The only way we’re going to work through these differences and ultimately pass the balanced budget is through compromise and negotiation.”

State Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th), whose district includes portions of Worth and Worth Township, was also disappointed that a budget could not be reached at the end of May.

“The state of Illinois has now struggled 700 days without a full budget,” Hurley said. “Even through the World Wars and the Great Depression, lawmakers in Illinois were able to put aside their partisan differences and do what is best for the state.”

Hurley agrees with Burke that more work needs to be done. Hurley said she supports meaningful property tax relief, worker’s compensation reform and changes to the procurement process.

“I urge legislators and the governor to now find common ground on the budget,” Hurley added. “This summer we will be in continuous session, and I am willing to stay in Springfield as long as it takes to reach an agreement on a complete, balanced responsible budget. The stakes are high; our children are supposed to return to school in the fall, and without a budget our schools won’t have the resources they need to open. The time is now.”

Passing a budget by the end of the month will be more difficult because some Republican votes will be necessary to reach the three-fifths benchmark that will now be required.

“I’m prepared to make the compromises necessary to pass a budget that focuses on our strengths, which includes our higher education system,” Burke said. “I will continue fighting for the full funding of our education system, expanded financial assistance to ensure our best and brightest choose to attend school here in Illinois, and help all residents receive the education they need to compete in a 21st century economy.”

Palos Hills approves of checking company’s proposed move to city

  • Written by By Michael Gilbert

City officials gave their “blessing” last week to a checking company seeking a property tax incentive from Cook County in order to relocate into Palos Hills.

Members of city council voted 8-0 June 1 to approve a resolution that will be sent to the Cook County Board of Commissioners stating Palos Hills’ support of a request from Carousel Checks Inc. president Andrew Crim for a Class 6B property tax incentive for his business, which he plans to move from Bridgeview to the building currently occupied by Weller Truck Parts, 11152 Southwest Highway. Aldermen Ricky Moore (4th Ward) and Mary Ann Schultz (5th Ward) were absent.

Crim, a former Palos Hills resident, addressed the council during the committee-of-the-whole meeting held beforehand and explained his business’ relocation to Palos Hills is contingent on Cook County approving the tax incentive, which would lower his property taxes by 10 percent for a period of 10 years.

Founded in 2004, the company currently has 86 employees and with the potential move to Palos Hills would add another 15-20 employees, Crim said. Carousel Checks sells personal and business checks to the public and wholesale to more than 200 companies and 800 financial institutions.

“We pretty much sell any type of document a consumer would need as well as a financial institution,” Crim said.

Carousel Checks recorded sales “just shy of $14 million last year” and Crim expected revenue to grow by 15 percent this year to around $16 million.

“We sell into all 50 states,” Crim said, noting Illinois is his second largest market behind California. “Our Illinois sales this year will be around $500,000 to $550,000.”

Occupying around 33,000 square feet in Bridgeview, Crim said the move to Palos Hills would allow his company to expand and grow. He has an agreement to purchase the building from Weller Truck Parts, and then plans to spend roughly $1.6 million on improvements. Adding a shipping dock in the rear of the property and building offices and installing new windows in the front of the building are a few of the renovation plans, he said.

“As we are growing we are bringing in more financial institutions and we want to be a showplace,” Crim said. “With the plans we have we certainly think it is going to be beautiful.

 “We’ve got a lot of substantial plans and we are looking to move into this new facility and continue our growth.”

A meeting before the Plan Commission to discuss Carousel Checks potential move to Palos Hills and renovation plans for the building will be held on July 10. 

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett made it clear last week he was in favor of Carousel Checks relocation to the city.

“I have multiple conversations with Andy and we’ve already tried to help him and guide him through the process,” Bennett said. “We are talking about an almost $1.6 million investment [to the building], which is substantial for the neighborhood.

“I think this is a great opportunity for us to lure a business from somewhere else and actually have a hometown guy come back to his home town.”

In other news, the council voted 8-0 to enter into a lease agreement with the Florida-based Parallel Infrastructure Towers giving them the authority to erect an approximately 100-foot tall monopole on city-owned property at Krasowski Park, 104th Place and Tod Drive.

As part of the agreement, PI Towers will allow the Palos Hills Police Department to place an antenna on the tower to enhance the communication devices used by officers, Bennett said.

PI Towers will give the city an initial payment of $5,000 for the right to erect the tower and then pay $24,000 annually to lease the land, Palos Hills City Attorney George Pappas said. If PI Towers wants to renew the agreement after five years there would be a 10 percent increase in the annual fee. The lease starts once PI Towers begins construction at the site, Pappas noted.

A provision in the contract would require PI Towers to pay for the removal of the monopole should it ever need to come down, Pappas said.

PI Towers could begin construction at the site as soon as August, Palos Hills Building Commissioner Nicholas Oeffling said.

Winning is in their blood: St. Laurence heads to state

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

St. Laurence's Tim Molloy got cut up during a celebration after his team beat Brother Rice, 2-1, Saturday in the sectional title game.

St. Laurence junior infielder Tim Molloy sported a gash not too far from his left temple.

His nose was bleeding and his hands were covered in blood.

Was he bloodied from a collision at home plate or on the base path? Was he hit by a pitch? Was he involved in a brawl?

None of the above.

After Saturday’s St. Laurence 2-1 victory over Brother Rice to win the Vikings’ own Class 4A Sectional in front of an estimated crowd of 1,100, the blood came from his pals – albeit accidentally – during the postgame celebration.

“It happened in the dogpile,” he said minutes after smiling with his team for photos even though he looked like he had just come from a Halloween party. “It was worth it.’’

Welcome to the 2017 Class 4A area baseball postseason, where there has been plenty of blood, sweat and tears recently.

After the smoke cleared on Monday night, St. Laurence was still alive after upending Neuqua Valley, 5-1 at the Crestwood Supersectional in front of 1,755 fans at Standard Bank Stadium. But Sandburg suffered an 11-3 loss to Edwardsville at the University of Illinois Supersectional in Champaign.

St. Laurence (35-5) faces Edwardsville (33-7) in the state semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.

Sophomore Matt McCormick’s two-run triple in the sixth highlighted a four-run sixth inning and the Vikings are headed to the state finals for the first time since 1993, when coach Pete Lotus was a player.

“I can’t describe what this feels like,” said McCormick, who had two of the Vikings’ six hits. “I didn’t get much sleep (Sunday night and Monday morning) but this is great.’’

Pitcher Angel Sandoval faced a team that entered the game with a 35-1-1 mark and gave up one run on four hits and threw just 60 pitches in seven innings.

“I’ve never done that before,” he said. “I just found out a few minutes after the game that I only threw 60 pitches and couldn’t believe it.’’

Sandburg (23-8) owned a 3-2 lead after four innings but Edwardsville (33-7) scored seven straight the rest of the way to earn a berth into the final four.

In the process, Sandburg made some history before reaching the final eight as the Eagles knocked off three-time defending champion Providence, 12-10, on May 31 in the Homewood-Flossmoor. It stopped a state-record 23-game postseason winning streak for the Celtics.

Sandburg reached the super by beating Lincoln-Way Central, 7-3. Brian Hughes, who was hitting ninth, drove in three runs and Andrew Tenison homered for the Eagles, who won their eighth sectional title but first since 2009. There was no letdown after the emotional Providence win as Tenison belted a pair of two-run homers in that game and reliever Erik Herold got out of a huge seventh-inning jam by inducing a game-ending double play.

“I was nervous to be in that situation,” Herold said. “I was happy we could pull off the win.’’

“That was a huge win,” Tenison said. “This is a big rivalry even though we don’t get to play each other much. They have some players we think should be playing at Sandburg. But that’s a great team and it was great to play them.’’

The Vikings reached the super after beating Chicago Catholic League Blue rival Brother Rice on Saturday.

Brother Rice opened the season as the No. 1 team in the state according to Prep Baseball Report. As the weeks went by and things started to shake out, St. Laurence spent a little time at the top spot and when the seedings came out, grabbed the No. 1 seed at its own sectional. Since the seedings came out, St. Laurence won two of the three meetings between the two clubs.

On Saturday, the game that counted most in the rivalry, McCormick drove home Bryan Lyle in the bottom of the seventh to cause the huge celebration between first and second base. McCormick also drove in the Vikings other run in the bottom of the fifth, minutes after Brother Rice’s Jack Guzek drove home Timmy Mahay in the top of the inning to break the scoreless deadlock.

“I thought a curveball was coming (from Guzek),” said McCormick of his game-winning hit. “He hung it a little. It hit it hard (to left-center) and the wind was blowing out. I knew it was down. It was the biggest hit of my career – definitely.’’

It marked the fourth time in school history the Vikings won a sectional title and second year in a row. Prior to this two-year run, the Vikings won in 1987 and 1993. 

It's a wrap: 10th running og SW Half Marathon deemed 'great success'

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Organizers of the Annual Southwest Half Marathon and 10K race are already looking forward to the 11th, following the virtually problem-free 10th, held on May 7.

“I think it was a great success. One of the better races that we have had,” said co-founder Jeff Prestinario, during a “wrap-up” meeting held May 19 for the organizers, all volunteers, could share their thoughts on how the event went.

The half-marathon and more recently added 10K race have now become an annual tradition, bringing thousands of people to Palos Heights and Palos Park on the first Sunday in May, and closing down Route 83 between Harlem Avenue and Archer Avenue for eight hours.

Everyone agreed that having blue skies and perfect spring weather helped draw the crowds, and keep the racers there to enjoy the live music and festival atmosphere long after their races were over.

“We sold all our beer. That is a good thing,” said Bridget Provost, of Lake Katherine.

“The weather was perfect and we didn’t have any major issues with runners (getting hurt),” said Prestinario, who was a Palos Heights alderman when he founded the race with Mel Diab, owner of Running for Kicks shoe store.

“I can’t believe that this has been 12 years in the making. Twelve years planning and 10 years running,” said Diab. “I always say it, but it is true. We could never put in on without all the help from volunteers, and the sponsors.”

For the past two years, Palos Health and CNB Bank & Trust have been the major sponsors. And everyone involved said they expect to continue the arrangement in 2018.

Prestinario said that on race days, he doesn’t even mind having to get up at 4 a.m. “When you are at the race, and you see everyone celebrating, it is an exhilarating experience. It is tough to get that adrenaline going as you get older, but this does it,” he said.

“I like to add something new each year, to keep it fresh,” said Prestinario. This year, the free Kids’ Dash for children from 2 to 11 was held. More than 100 children participated in several races, from the 50-yard dash to a half-mile, depending on their age group. And everyone got a medal.

It was designed to draw more families to the race, and it seemed to have worked. In fact, one of the few problems voiced at the meeting was about how families crowded onto the track to cheer on their children while the last of the half-marathon runners were still coming to the finish line.

Lori Mazeika-Myre, of Palos Health, as well as several others at the meeting, said the crowds on the track posed problems for volunteers wanting to present the runners with medals as they finished their race.

She suggested that only the runners be allowed on the track, with family members restricted to the grassy area beside it. Listening to another suggestion, Prestinario and Diab said they may also consider running the children’s races in the opposite direction on the track, so they would not interfere with runners in the major races.

In any case, the Kids’ Dash is here to stay.

Lori Chesna, executive director of Southwest Special Recreation Association, said the Walk, Run or Roll race for people with disabilities was successful again, too. She said six charity runners of the half-marathon or 10K raised more than $1,700 for SWSRA.

Bob Grossart, in charge of organizing the volunteers, said he had plenty to work with.

“More signed up last year, but we had less no-shows this year, so we actually had more people here,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to say how much exactly it helps the community (monetarily). But it does help the community in many, many ways,” said Prestinario.

He said that so many race participants went out to eat after their races that due to the crowds, his group couldn’t find seats in three local restaurants, Harvest Room, Royalberry and Lumes.

He said the owners of Harvest Room thanked him for bringing in all the racers who came for breakfast.

“It is always said that people often overlook this area, but it really is the gem of the southwest suburbs,” said Prestinario.

Chicago Ridge, Worth filling in the gaps

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

mayors luncheon photo 6-1

 

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar and Worth Mayor Mary Werner chat after they both gave "State of the Village" speeches at a luncheon sponsored by the Chicago Ridge-Worth Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday at Jenny's Steakhouse, 11041 S. Menard Ave., Chicago Ridge.

          The need for small communities to wisely develop the limited space available to them was a focal point of the “State of the Village” speeches that Worth Mayor Mary Werner and Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar at a Chicago Ridge-Worth Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday.

Werner referred to “urban infill,” which is defined as “filling in the gaps” by finding beneficial development of vacant property in otherwise developed communities. As an example, Werner said 11 new townhomes are being built on two lots in her village, These include six on Crandall Avenue, just south of 111th Street and east of the Village Hall, and five on a lot at 110th and Harlem. “We need to get families into the community, and increase foot traffic to our businesses,” she said.

Werner said increasing foot traffic to local businesses was one reason she supported bringing the Windy City medical marijuana dispensary to 11425 S. Harlem Ave. “There was a huge need there, and this was a very unique opportunity. People who had no reason to come to Worth before will seek it out, because there are only a limited number of these places. “Hopefully, once they are here, they will stop in for a meal at one of our restaurants, or go shopping here,” she said.

“We’re very excited about the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District selling the Lucas-Berg Nature Preserve,” she said, referring to the 62-acre property at 7500 W. 111th Street. “It has been appraised so they are serious about selling it,” she said.

For many years, local residents had raised concerns that the land would be used a dumping ground for dredging materials taken from the Cal-Sag Channel, and Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) backed their efforts to prevent that happening. Since then, MWRD officials have said that the agency will not be using the property.

“This could be the largest commercial development in Worth since the 1960s,” said Werner, who suggested after the meeting that the site would be ideal for a nice restaurant. “It looks out on a pond, so it would provide great views for the diners,” she said.

“It could also hopefully spur more development along 111th Street,” said the mayor.

She said that in an effort to bring more diverse economic development to Worth, the village applied and completed the lengthy process of being designated an enterprise zone. Worth also formally joined the Cal-Sag Enterprise Zone, which includes 16 area communities. Werner said the enterprise zone, created to stimulate new development and expansion of existing businesses within it, is marketed statewide and even nationally and internationally.

Tokar said Chicago Ridge is dealing with many of the same issues as Worth, with limited space available for development. He said the vacant Yellow Freight property, a former trucking terminal at 103rd and Harlem Avenue, is the biggest site available for redevelopment in Chicago Ridge. At 75 acres, taking up much of the 105-acre TIF zone it is located within, it is even bigger than the Lucas-Berg property.

With an aim toward marketing it for entertainment, business and other types of development, the Chicago Ridge Village Board rezoned the formerly 75-acre property as regional mixed use about six months ago. However, the change was made around the same time as the property was sold to another trucking conglomerate, which Tokar said is posing problems for the village.

He said later that the new owner recently filed a lawsuit against Chicago Ridge, seeking to disconnect the property from the village and perhaps have it annex to neighboring Worth or Palos Hills.

“We’re probably going to have to work something out with them. I don’t see them being able to disconnect from the village. That usually is done with undeveloped land, but this is fully developed. And we provide them with sewer and water.”

Both mayors noted various new businesses that have come to their communities over the past year. Werner mentioned Salt Cave on 111th Street and a new Circle K opening tomorrow (Friday) at 10631 Southwest Highway. Tokar said 34 new business licenses were awarded in Chicago Ridge in the past year, including Miller’s Ale House, which has become very successful. But they both said competing against online shopping is making it difficult for brick-and-mortar retail businesses to compete. He said while the Sears in Chicago Ridge Mall is not closing, one in Oak Brook has turned its first floor over to Land’s End, and another is being used to race drones.

“Go to the small stores and restaurants in your areas. Frequent these places or they will be all gone in 20 years,” said Tokar.