• Written by Kelly White

Palos Hills mayor outraged with ComEd response to power outage

“Unacceptable’’ was one of the choice words used by Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett in describing ComEd’s reaction to thousands of power outages caused by two powerful storms that raged into the area on June 30.

“In all my years as mayor, I have never seen such a dysfunctional company as ComEd,” Bennett said at last Thursday’s board meeting following four days of dealing with headaches caused by the storm. “It’s unacceptable. And, I hate to apologize because I have absolutely no control over the situation, but I am sorry for what our residents have gone through.”
The majority of the city sat without power from June 30 until last Thursday morning. More than 50 percent, totaling 3,500 homes in the Palos Hills community, were without power after the storm, along with five of the city’s eight sanitary sewer stations, Bennett said.
Public works crews responded immediately and concentrated on re-establishing power to their pumping station and opening streets and blocked storm inlets. The crews were able to get two pumping stations back on line and use portable generators to provide emergency use to three pumping stations until power was re-established at 10 a.m. last Thursday.
“Certain areas of our city have not been recovered until about an hour ago,” Bennett said at the meeting.
Southwest Highway and the area surrounding 82nd and Eleanor avenues in Palos Hills – 185 homes -- were without power for at least four days.
“Southwest Highway is a major road even though ComEd may not be aware of it,” Bennett said. “And, that road sat for almost 48 hours. It does not only affect our residents, it has affected all citizens throughout the southwest area that use Southwest Highway on a regular basis. And, I want to find out why it has taken so long for them to restore power.”
ComEd officials said that the process of the repairs in that area took extra time.
There were eight poles down along Southwest Highway, running from 107th Street to 111th Street, according to Com Ed representative Elizabeth Keating.
“These poles take some time to repair,” she said, “Some of the poles needed to be de-energized before all of them could be taken out then put back up in a row again and restrung.”
The poles were double-circuit poles containing 12,000 voltages of energy running along the first string and 4,000 voltages running along the second string, she said.
“It was a safety concern why Southwest Highway remained closed during the replacement and restringing of these poles,” Keating said, “Our crews considered possibly keeping only one lane open during the repair, however, decided against it due to the heavy traffic and safety concerns.”
The delayed power outage in the area surrounding 82nd Avenue and Eleanor Avenue was more bad luck than anything else, Com Ed officials said. Keating said the area experienced a nested outage once the power was resumed to Palos Hills with a circuit down. ComEd crews went out and worked through the night last Thursday night to have the power up and running by the following Friday morning.
The storms left a reported 2.56 inches of rain within the city, with wind gusts ranging between 60 to 80 mph. Plaos Hills wasn’t along with its power miseries. In its wake, 400,000 homes in the Chicago area were left without power.
“[Public Works Commissioner] Dave Weakley has been working nonstop,” Bennett said, “Both our public works and police department immediately began clearing the streets from any tree branches and debris from the storm, along with helping residents.”
“Throughout the community, hundreds of trees were damaged or blown over and dozens of streets were blocked with trees or broken tree branches,” Alderman Frank Williams (5th Ward) said on behalf of the public works department.
On July 2, crews started the process of clearing the city roadways of debris with chipper crews moving through the entire community chipping storm damaged branches that residents had placed along the roadways.
At approximately 2 a.m., the ComEd substation located at 103rd Street and 78th Avenue failed, sending a large portion of the community into darkness again and causing the upper system water pumping station to fail. The power was re-established later that evening; however, the pressure fluctuations caused a water main break on 88th Avenue and 104th Street, rupturing an eight-inch water main. Public works crews were called to clean up and repair the water leak.
“The water main was so badly damaged that crews had to replace eight feet of water main to complete the entire repair,” Williams said.

Open heart

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Former OL resident has half a heart but he leads a full life

Page-1-3-col-Keaton-Scoles-2Former Oak Lawn resident Keaton Scoles, 4, just finished a preschool program and is living a full life despite having three open heart surgeries before he turned three. Photo courtesy of Diana Scoles.

To put it bluntly, the odds were good that Keaton Scoles would be dead by now.

There is no way to sugarcoat it. This former Oak Lawn resident was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and that’s something that Advocate Children’s Hospital officials say that until recently it “was tantamount to a death sentence.’’
He’s a kid with a half of a heart and he’s had three open heart surgeries before he turned three.
Some area friends and neighbors may remember in 2011 when Scoles was just one-year-old, his family hosted a yard sale to help raise money for his medical bills and people rallied around the family, raising $2,000 for the cause.
Not only is Scoles still alive, he “is full of life and brings us joy daily,” his mother, Diana, told Children’s Hospital officials.
The family moved from Oak Lawn to Plainfield and is now living in Arbor Vitae, Wis., where he completed a term of preschool, which Children’s Hospital officials call “probably nothing short of a small miracle.’’
Pediatric surgeons have perfected palliation of the disorder through a trilogy of surgeries. In his young life, Scoles already has undergone all three major heart operations – the first when he was only six days old – at Children’s Hospital.
Officials say the hospital treats 20 to 30 HLHS patients annually, making it a high-volume HLHS center nationally. Dr. Michel Ilbawi, chief of pediatric heart surgery at Children’s Hospital, has developed innovative treatment strategies for HLHS.
Diana says Keaton’s recovery has been smooth since completing his third surgery, called the Fontan procedure, more than a year-and-a-half ago. Although his corrective surgeries are completed, Keaton will continue to be seen about every six months at the Children’s Hospital HLHS clinic.
A multidisciplinary team will monitor Scoles for any growth or other developmental problems, central nervous system complications and issues related to such basic functions as hearing and eating, says Dr. Tarek Husayni, pediatric cardiologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital.
“Not only has our focus been on decreasing mortality from HLHS, but improving a patient’s overall quality of life,” Husayni said in a news release. “Twenty-five years ago, children did not survive this disorder. Now, patients are surviving. We established this [HLHS] clinic to address the specialized needs of this patient population.”
After trying for eight years to have a baby, being told she would never be able to carry term, and then experiencing the joy of reaching 20 weeks of pregnancy, Diana, then 42, was at first devastated and “depressed,” when an ultrasound showed her unborn child had a life-threatening heart defect.
Then she met with surgeon Ilbawi, and his team.
“Everyone sounded so positive and certain of our baby’s outcome, that we were put at ease,” she said in a news release.
The next months became what Diana calls “extremely overwhelming, especially after being told our baby would need heart surgery days after he was born. All of the normal thoughts of having a baby – what diapers to use, what bottles to buy, breastfeeding -- gone. Only one thing became a priority and that was living. I just wanted our baby to live.”
She said she would stand next to Keaton’s bed, “praying that his nurses were doing everything they could possibly do and being compassionate towards my son. And, they were. I was able to concentrate on remaining positive, believing in miracles, the power of prayer and angels of healing.”
Scoles will be return to a preschool program in the fall and then kindergarten next year.
He will be back in Oak Lawn in August for a visit to the clinic and he and his family plan to participate in the Advocate Children’s Hospital 27th Annual Pediatric Cardiology picnic in September.
“What is important to me in telling Keaton’s story is describing the emotions that we felt,” Diana said. “New moms and dads [in similar situations] need to know that what they are feeling is normal – and expected.”


Fatal 4th

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Four die — including two from area — in Bridgeview crash on 4th of July

  Bridgeview police continue to investigate the causePAGE-1-2-col-color-double-run-memoriaA candle, flowers and some of the debris from a fatal accident make up a memorial for victims in a Fourth of July crash that claimed four lives. Photo by Jeff Vorva. of a fatal Fourth of July collision that claimed the lives of four individuals, including a Worth and a Palos Hills resident.
  Police, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office and an accident reconstruction unit are still looking into what led to the crash, which occurred at 5:25 p.m. Friday in the 8200 block of South Harlem Avenue.
  Police refused further comment on Tuesday afternoon, saying they would provide more information to the media when it becomes available.
  Flowers, candles and red, wooden hearts with the names of the victims painted on them were placed at the scene on Saturday.
  A group of area residents brought flowers to the crash scene Saturday afternoon and the tribute remained there throughout the week.
  The collision claimed the lives Aiman Salem, 21, of Worth, Alaa Mustafa Alkhatib, 24, of Palos Hills, Maria Gonzalez, 52, and Hector Gonzalez, 48, both of Chicago, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office.
  A 13-year-old boy, the son of Maria and Hector Gonzalez, suffered broken bones and required stitches in his forehead, according to reports.
  The crash happened when a 2010 Camaro traveling north on Harlem Avenue, driven by Salem with Alkatib as a passenger, collided head on with a Dodge pickup truck, driven by Hector Gonzalez, which was traveling in the southbound lanes, police said.
  All four victims were pronounced dead on the scene, police said.
  Hector and Maria Gonzalez were on their way to a family Fourth of July barbecue when the Camaro crashed into their truck, according to reports.
  Witnesses said it appeared the Camaro was racing another car on the street before the crash, though police have not confirmed that possibility.
  “It didn’t have to happen,” witness Lorie Heklowski told NBC Chicago. “It’s sad that the white pickup and their family are suffering because somebody chose to, you know, race drag down the street.”
  Heklowski told NBC that witnesses found the teen alive in the pickup truck after the crash and cut him out of his seatbelt.
  “I was by [the witnesses], talking to [the boy], trying to tell him to stay calm, stay down because he kept trying to get up,” she said.
  Several Gonzalez family members brought candles and flowers to the crash scene. Four wooden hearts painted red and printed with the names of the deceased were set up next to a nearby road sign by Saturday morning.
  A group of area residents brought flowers to the crash scene Saturday afternoon.
  The wakes for Salem and Alkhatib took place Saturday night at Hann Funeral Home in Bridgeview. Funeral services were held Sunday at the Bridgeview mosque with interment at Parkholm Cemetery in La Grange Park.

Caught in the web(site)

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Worth officials delay a $24K decision to revamp their site

Worth officials on Tuesday put on hold the approval of an agreement with a company selected to redesign the village’s website.
Trustees agreed to delay for two weeks a vote on a $24,453 contract with CivicPlus, a company that specializes in website development for municipalities.
Locally, the company has developed websites for Evergreen Park and Chicago Ridge, the latter which went live earlier this year.
Trustee Mary Rhein’s concerns about not knowing enough about the company led trustees to delay the vote.
“To me, it seems a little hefty,” said Rhein, who pointed out that the contract was $453 dollars over the amount budgeted for a redesign.
She added that she’d like to see a brochure or other materials from the firm before casting a vote.
“Twenty four thousand dollars to me is a lot of money,” Rhein said. “I don’t know what else is out there.”
Mayor Mary Werner said the village did its due diligence on the company. She spoke with the mayors of village’s that have hired CivicPlus and met with Worth department heads to garner their input.
“They come very highly recommended,” said Werner, who met with CivicPlus officials along with Village Clerk Bonnie Price and Police Chief Martin Knolmayer.
Knolmayer said the newly designed site would be easier to modify and is more accessible.
Trustee Colleen McElroy agreed that site offered advantages to the village and its residents.
“It’s clean. It’s very easy. It’s user-friendly,” McElroy said.
Price noted that the company would be paid as the new site was designed.
“We’re not going to cut them a check for $24,000 tomorrow,” she said.
If the CivicPlus is chosen, a new website isn’t likely to go live for several months, officials said. Chicago Ridge required a year to launch its site, but the village needed time to develop web-based forms Worth has already accomplished.

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Taking some shots at (and of) soccer


Jeffs Col ImpressionsI don’t like soccer.
Now there is a swell sentiment given that so many people are going gaga for the sport because of the World Cup. I’m setting myself up for some wonderful hate mail, here. How dumb am I?
But I can’t just automatically start loving the sport after all of these years just because it’s the flavor of the month every four years. And to the soccer snobs who say “You just don’t get it,” I say that I get it. I just don’t want it.
I don’t like that a team can thoroughly dominate a match against another and settle for a nil-nil draw.
And I really hate that rule where they don’t stop the clock for something like an injury, yet the referee is the only guy in the stadium who knows how much extra time there is to play after the game is seemingly over. That’s even dumber than Major League Baseball having a designated hitter in one league and not the other.
Hey, soccer bosses, I have a nice little tip for you. There is this thing called a button you can push and it causes the clock on the scoreboard to – you aren’t going to believe this – STOP when you push it. Yeah! When a guy gets injured, the referee can signal to the timekeeper and he pushes the button and the clock stops.
Then, when everything is ready to go, the referee can signal to the timekeeper and he can push the button and the time winds down (or up) and the players, coaches and thousands of crazed soccer fans will all know how much time is in the game. BRILLIANT!
I could also make a joke about how some soccer tussles are called “friendlies” but that match last week when Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini was bitten by Uruguay’s Luis Sanchez was not one of them.
But I won’t.
I don’t like soccer but notice I didn’t say that I hated soccer.
There are two redeeming qualities to the sport.
First, there are the announcers. The guy who bellows “Goooooaaaaalllll!!!” is an international treasure even if it’s the only word that he says that most of us understand.
But I also get a kick out of the British announcers calling the action. They use unusual words and turn some interesting phrases. Where else can you hear someone say “That was a lovely ball,” when a dude makes a pass to another dude? OK, don’t answer that. But you bloody well know what I mean.
The second, and most important cool thing about soccer for me, is that I have been blessed with the opportunity to photograph the sport on a number of occasions.
Now that’s how to watch soccer – up close and personal.
Forget watching it on TV (or the telly, as the British announcers might say).
Forget about watching it from the stands.
Forget about hanging out with the other sardines at Grant Park.
On the sideline and capturing the action is the spot I want to be.
Once I went to an Illinois High School Association state semifinal boys game in Frankfort and within the first minute, I got a shot of a kid accidentally kicking another kid in the head.
For the most part, you can capture great emotional looks on players faces whether they are kicking a “lovely ball” to a teammate, crashing into an opponent or celebrating a goal.
Headers are fun to shoot. Goalies blocking a shot are cool shots, too.
Collisions are great and since these guys are not wearing padding or helmets like they do in football, it makes for some dramatic pictures.
So for those who enjoy soccer – have fun during the rest of the World Cup.
For me, the sport is only useful when it’s picture perfect.