Palos Hills unanimously approves Greenest Region initiative

  • Written by By Michael Gilbert

The Palos Hills City Council did, in fact, convene on St. Patrick’s Day, but it was the meeting on April 7 that carried a green theme.

City officials voted unanimously to pass a resolution endorsing the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus’ Greenest Region Compact 2, an initiative by the organization to offer the Chicago region’s 273 municipalities a number of cost-effective sustainability measures. The goal of the two-page document is to enhance health and safety through the reduction of energy consumption and fossil fuels, air pollution and hazardous wastes. The Greenest Region Compact 2 also stresses the importance of water conservation.

Palos Hills was one of the first municipalities to adopt the original Metropolitan Mayors Caucus’ Greenest Region Compact back in 2007, and Mayor Gerald Bennett said the updated document includes more green measures that have been successfully implemented by the Caucus and its member communities.

“We should be very proud,” Bennett told the council. “There are many things listed (in the Greenest Region Compact 2) that we have done over the years.”

One green step Palos Hills has already taken is retrofitting the light fixtures in all city-owned buildings with LED lights. The bulbs are not only energy efficient but also save the city money compared to using standard incandescent bulbs, Bennett said.

He also noted Palos Hills has long been designated as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. Maintaining “maximum tree coverage” is one of the goals of the Greenest Region Compact as trees combat climate change, provide oxygen, conserve energy and save water.

A recent green initiative Palos Hills undertook was retrofitting the street lights of all city-owned side streets with LED bulbs, Bennett said. Grant money from ComEd paid for the project, he noted.

Palos Hills is also working with the Southwest Conference of Mayors and a third party to convert eight street lights not owned by the city along Southwest Highway with new LED bulbs and a “smart box,” a device fitted with a wireless network that can monitor security and track traffic volume. Electronic street signs could also be added to the light poles to display paid advertisements and important city information.

“It’s a project we’ve been working on for a while and we’re excited about it,” Bennett said of the smart boxes. “It would basically make the city wireless.”

The project would be completed at no cost to the city, he said. The third party company would pay for the project and retain a portion of the money made from the advertisements on the electronic street signs.

The free rain barrel program – another green undertaking – is off to a strong start with 22 residents requesting the 55-gallon barrels since the middle of March, Alderman Mark Brachman told the council.

The program, which is in conjunction with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, allows each residence to obtain a free rain barrel in an effort to reduce basement backups, sewer overflow and flooding. Those interested in a rain barrel must first fill out an application at City Hall, 10335 S. Roberts Road, and then the MWRD will deliver the barrel at a later date.

In other news, Bennett said representatives of the Baha Auto Group Inc. have begun the improvements to the 31,000-square foot building at 110th Street and Southwest Highway with the hopes of opening the new dealership “as soon as possible” – though an official opening date has not been set.

Musa Muza, the general manager of Baha Auto Group, previously told the council that although the building, which formerly housed Hames Buick, has not had a tenant in more than a decade remains in good shape. The parking lot, however, needs work and the site needs landscaping, he said.

The dealership is to sell “high end” used cars with a minimum price of around $10,000, Muza told the council.

Oak Lawn Board reverses decision on towing company

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

The contract reprieve that Jack’s Towing Co. received from the Oak Lawn Village Board last month did not last long at all.

For more than 15 years, Jack’s, which operates from a village-owned site at 4500 Southwest Highway, has been the company used by the police department and the village whenever vehicles need to be removed from local roads.

Village Manager Larry Deetjen pointed out at the March 22 meeting that the unusually long 15-year contract awarded to Jack’s Towing in 2000 had run out last October. But his request for board approval to give the next contract to TechniCraft in Justice and Walsh’s Towing, based in Chicago Ridge, was rejected by the board, who voted 3-3, with Mayor Sandra Bury breaking the tie.

At that time, Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) joined Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Bob Streit (3rd) in voting against the change, with Bury siding with them to break the tie. But on Tuesday, he asked that the board reconsider Deetjen’s request, and this time, with his vote to approve the new agreement, it passed, much to the disappointment of Jack’s owner and drivers in the audience. Jack’s only towing contract was with the village, so it is expected to go out of business.

Desmond said he asked for the issue to be put back on the agenda because questions remained after the last meeting. Furthermore, he noted that since that last meeting, Jack’s Towing had changed ownership, when Mike Queenan had sold it to his brother, Ron.

He also suggested that the board shouldn’t even have been asked to vote on the matter, since the taxpayer “neither pays nor gets paid for” the towing company used mainly by the police department. Trustees Bud Stalker (5th) and Michael Carberry (6th) agreed with him on that point, saying the decision probably should be left to the village administrator and the police department.

Although by all accounts Jack’s Towing had no complaints against it, Desmond questions why the company was given such a long contract in the first place.

“Fifteen years ago, the village board voted to allow a private company use of village property to operate a towing and village storage facility. They paid no rent or utilities over this 15-year period, which likely saved them more than $1 million, which could have gone to the taxpayers.”

Deetjen said the site where Jack’s is located is the gateway to the village, and the board had agreed that the land should be put up for sale.

He said the owner of Jack’s had been warned that the land could be sold.

“It is within eyesight of a half-billion dollars of investment in this village,” said Deetjen, referring to Advocate Christ Medical Center at 4440 W. 95th St., and suggesting that the Jack’s Towing site has increased in value.

Both Olejniczak and Streit questioned whether the village really lost $1 million in the deal made 15 years ago.

“Has the site been sold yet?,” asked Olejniczak, asserting that it is not as valuable as Deetjen maintains. In any case, he said that Jack’s Towing is being unfairly penalized now for that agreement.

After the meeting, Ed Forsythe, a longtime driver for Jack’s, said that reconsidering the previous decision was a shock and unfair to the company and its employees.

“It’s very unethical,” he said. “I gave up a job offer with another company because I thought the decision was made. Now I am unemployed again.”

Three new principals appointed for District 218

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

The three District 218 high schools all have new principals as of July 1, but the three newcomers are well-known in the district, where they are currently associate principals.

At its March 21 meeting, the District 218 school board approved without comment the new roles for Greg Walder, Mike Jacobson and Erik Briseno recommended by Superintendent Ty Harting.

Briseno, 38, who is completing his first year as associate principal at Shepard High School in Palos Heights, will be the next principal at Eisenhower in Blue Island, replacing the retiring Gary Rauch.

Prior to becoming associate principal, Briseno was curriculum director for art, English-language learners and foreign language for District 218, and assistant principal for at-risk students at the Blue Island school.

Walder, 45, who is currently the associate principal at Eisenhower, is moving on to become the principal of Shepard. He is succeeding Josh Barron, who will switch to the district's central office for his new role as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

During his tenure that began more than 20 years ago as a math teacher and coach at Eisenhower, Walder has already worked at all three high schools. Over the years he has been the dean of students at both Shepard and Richards High School in Oak Lawn, and assistant principal of athletics at Eisenhower. At one time, he also was assistant principal of attendance and discipline at Richards.

Jacobson, a Shepard alumnus himself, will be Richards’ new principal, moving up from associate principal. The current principal, John Hallberg, will become District 218's assistant business manager and director of federal and state grants.

Jacobson began his career teaching English for seven years at Shepard before becoming dean of students there. Prior to moving to Richards, he was curriculum director for the district's English department.

Friends stop by local restaurant to pay respects to local veteran

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

Friends and family of Worth resident Elmer Korhorn, 91, recalled his great sense of humor as they shared stories about him during an informal memorial service for him on Friday morning at McDonald’s, at 11050 Southwest Highway in Palos Hills, where he could be found socializing most mornings.

He died on March 28 after a brief battle with lung cancer. Palos Heights resident Kathy Lovitt set up the memorial table in his honor.

Elmer was one of four World War II veterans among the dozens of veterans and other regular McDonald’s visitors whom Lovitt befriended and celebrated with in recent years. She often brought cakes and bought breakfast for all of them, and Friday’s celebration of Elmer’s life was no different.

“The greatest generation is right here, and we should listen to them,“ said Steve Targosz, an airline pilot who flew back from Hawaii that morning and came straight to the restaurant.

“Everyone here is special but with Elmer, it was a deeper connection. He loved me and I loved him,” said Lovitt, who said Elmer and his friends joked around like 16-year-old boys when she came over to greet him with a kiss.

“He was driving up to six weeks ago, but I think he figured if he couldn’t come to McDonald’s anymore, he didn’t want to be around,” said his daughter, Merilee Andreasen, of Worth.

One afternoon...two games...and 42, yes 42 strikeouts

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 1 Nicole 4 14

Photo courtesy of St. Xavier University

Nicole Nonnemacher threw 19 innings on Saturday and struck out 42 batters in a pair of extra-inning games at St. Ambrose University.


For some college kids, a text from dad can generate an eye roll.

On Saturday, after close to five hours of work on the mound pitching 19 innings and facing 70 St. Ambrose batters in a double header, St. Xavier University senior Nicole Nonnemacher received a text from her father, Jeff, and her reaction to it was nearly eye-popping.

He was the first to give her the good news.

When the smoke cleared and all the stats were added up and put into the computer, Nicole had struck out 42 batters against SXU’s Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference foes on the sunny but windy and chilly afternoon in Davenport, Iowa.

“I was very surprised,” she said during a phone interview while travelling back to Chicago Saturday night. “He saw it online and texted it to me. He was surprised, too.’’

Nonnemacher not only broke her own school record for strikeouts in a game with 22 in the 3-1, nine-inning opening win, she struck out 20 more in 10 innings of work in a 2-0, 12-inning nightcap victory. Junior Callie Brown pitched the 11th and 12th to earn the victory for the Cougars, who are ranked fourth in the nation.

Meanwhile, Nonnemacher became the first pitcher in NAIA history to strike out 20 or more in back-to-back games.

What made this history even more important was that it came against a strong team that entered the doubleheader with a 20-6 record and won nine of its previous 10 games and was hitting more than .300 during the season.

 “It’s was fun,” she said. “It was definitely stressful, but it was fun. It was nerve-wracking because one swing of the bat could change the game. These games keep us awake and on our toes. You have to be ready every play. It definitely takes a toll on you and your heart. We were all kind of feeling it at the end.”

Former Stagg player Jessica Arebalo singled in two runs in the top of the ninth inning for what turned out to be the winning runs in the first game and Kasey Kananga and Arebalo drove home runs in the top of the 12th for what turned out to be the winning runs in the nightcap.

So what was going right for Nonnemacher?

“They were biting on some pitches and that’s always a good day when that’s happening,’’ she said.

She faced some batters eight and nine times on the afternoon and struck out cleanup hitter Morgan Krieger eight times in nine at-bats. Krieger is no easy out. She came into the game leading the Fighting Bees with six homers and 19 RBI and she owned a .365 average and had struck out just 10 times in per previous 75 at-bats.

“I had to mix up what I was throwing to keep them on their toes,” Nonnemacher said.

The Bloomington native won her 86th game for the Cougars in the opener which breaks the school record previously set by her sister, Megan, from 2011-2014.