Chicago Ridge debates awarding video gaming license to proposed wine shop

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

A long-vacant storefront on Ridgeland Avenue in Chicago Ridge will soon be home to a wine shop, after the Chicago Ridge Village Board hashed out the pros and cons of awarding the liquor and video gaming licenses requested for the business.

By a vote of 3-2, the trustees at the Tuesday meeting agreed to approve the licenses, clearing the way for the business, to be called Wine Time, to open at 10729 S. Ridgeland Ave. But after hearing the plans laid out by business operator Malin Cremeens during the committee meeting, Mayor Chuck Tokar and the trustees engaged in a spirited discussion of the issues involved. Until a separate vote was taken at the end of the night, it was not at all clear how the voting would go. Trustee Frances Coglianese was absent.

The site of the new business is the former Hollywood Video store. Cremeens said the space will now be completely redesigned over the next few months before the business is ready to open. She said the business will feature wines made in the Midwest, and beer and wine will be sold by the glass.

“If people like a wine they try, we want them to be able to buy a bottle of it to take home,” she said, explaining why she was also seeking a license to sell packaged liquors. But it was her request for a video gaming license that would allow five video gaming machines to go into the business that a few trustees raised the most questions about.

The same issues have scuttled plans to open video gaming parlors in the same spot over the past year, with some trustees raising concerns about the site being a block away from Our Lady of the Ridge School and Church, at 10801 S. Ridgeland.

“How long are we going to look at a vacant store that is a blight (on the community)?,” Tokar. “We need the economic development. If she doesn’t get permission to open here, she will just go to a neighboring community and they will get the revenue.”

Two other vacant businesses, a former music store and pizzeria, are located beside the site Wine Time will be fixing up, and the mayor said this might spur further development.

“If economic development happens there, it increases the chances of other businesses moving in beside it. We might have a good strip mall there again,” he said.

“My position remains the same,” said Trustee Bruce Quintos, asserting his opposition due to a lack of parking and the close proximity to the church and school.

Trustee Sally Durkin agreed, casting the second vote against the licenses, saying she had turned down other businesses for the same site for the same reasons.

However, Tokar pointed out that there is sufficient street parking available on Ridgeland in front of the store. The two anchors on the block, Jack & Pat’s grocery store at 10717 S. Ridgeland and Glenn Marker American Legion Post 1160, at 10739 S. Ridgeland, have their own parking lots.

Cremeens said she would agree not to open until 1 p.m. on Sundays, to avoid conflict with church services.

Trustee Jack Lind noted that video gaming is already available in the American Legion hall, which is actually closer to Our Lady of the Ridge.

“This is a good business,” said Lind. “When Hollywood Video was there, they carried X-rated videos,” he pointed out.

Lind and trustees William McFarland and Amanda Cardin voted to approve the licenses. Cardin acknowledged that she has always been a vocal opponent of increasing video gaming licenses in the village.

But Cardin brought it to the attention of the board that technically any existing business with a liquor license can receive a gaming license from the Illinois Gaming Commission.

“I’d rather she come to us first, but it really is out of our hands,” she said.

After Attorney Michael Stillman, who was filling in for Burt Odelson, agreed with her assessment, the board agreed to look into the larger issue at a later date.


Oak Lawn Board ends long-term commitment to Jack's Towing

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

The owner of a towing company that lost its long-term contract with the village of Oak Lawn last week, after getting a reprieve last month, was succinct in his reply when asked on Monday to comment on the situation.

“I ain’t going to comment on any of this stupidness. Have a good day,” said Ron Queenan, owner of Jack’s Towing, before abruptly hanging up.

Jack’s, which was owned by Queenan’s brother, Michael, until a few weeks ago, has been towing cars off Oak Lawn streets for close to 18 years. Its most recent contract, for 15 years, ended last October. Because the business had no outside contracts other than now it is expected to close.

Village Manager Larry Deetjen asked at the March 22 village board meeting for approval to award the next contract jointly to TechniCraft in Justice and Walsh Towing in Chicago Ridge. He pointed out that Jack’s was operating out of a village-owned site, and had not paid rent or utilities for the length of the 15-year contract. Since the contract ended, it has leased the property on the northeastern edge of the village on a month-to-month basis.

But trustees Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Bob Streit (3rd) objected to taking the contract away from a local company that had no complaints against it. When Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) joined them, saying more information was needed, Mayor Sandra Bury broke the tie, casting her own no vote.

At that time, she said she voted no because there were questions left unanswered.

Jack’s employees went away happy that night, but when Desmond raised the issue again at the April 12 meeting, only Olejniczak and Streit voting against it, the company effectively lost its only contract, and likely the entire business.

However, Desmond and others said the decision should have been left to Deetjen and the Police Department, since the contract does not cost village taxpayers anything. It simply gives the company the right to tow vehicles whenever necessary in the village, and collect the fees.

Desmond also contended that allowing Jack’s to operate on village property without paying rent or utilities for so long could have cost the village as much as $1 million in revenue. But Olejniczak said the land was not worth much before Jack’s moved in and improved it.

Deetjen has said the decision not to offer Jack’s a new contract was just a business decision, and was not a reflection on company performance. He said the board had approved his plan to eventually sell the land that Jack’s is located on, and the company had been warned that a change may be coming.

Ed Forsythe, a longtime driver of Jack’s Towing, said the second vote on the contract had come as a surprise, and would mean the four or five people working for the company, all village residents, would be out of jobs.

Bury said Tuesday that she had nothing to add to the discussion after the second vote was made.

The exact timeframe for when the new companies will be signing a new contract and taking over towing duties was not available earlier this week.

Forsythe, who said after the second vote was taken that it was now just a matter of “waiting for the call” that the job was over. He suggested that having a company based in Justice in charge of towing cars in Oak Lawn could actually cost the village time and money because it will take longer for trucks to come and remove cars, causing police officers to remain on the scene longer than usual.

Worth Board approves a no parking zone along Depot Street

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

The Worth Board of Trustees adopted an ordinance to amend the village’s municipal code to establish a no parking zone on Depot Street between 107th Street and Southwest Highway during the board meeting on Tuesday night.

The no parking signs will be posted on the street within the next couple of weeks.  

The action is a result of residential complaints about tenants of a condominium/apartment complex on Depot Street who are parking on the street instead of the parking lot of the complex. Residents of Depot Street approached the board last month complaining about the vehicles parked on both sides of Depot, which they said presents a safety hazard to the neighborhood and an inconvenience to the single-family residences on the street.

Worth Mayor Mary Werner first suggested reaching out to the owners of the condo complex to advise them of the complaints. Trustee Pete Kats stated that he felt the village should take action on the situation as soon as possible. However, Village Attorney Greg Jones advised that the ordinance would have to be amended.

Werner reported that the condo owners had not responded to the village’s efforts to notify them of the situation. As a result, the ordinance was presented for approval at the Tuesday meeting.

“The condo residents have been warned not to park on the street, so they should not be surprised when the signs go up,” said Werner.

Also approved was an agreement between the village and ComEd, regarding the replacement of all street lights in the village with Smart-Ready LED Street Lighting. Werner said the agreement will result in huge savings for the village on its electricity costs.

On another matter regarding street lights, the board voted to authorize Werner to approve an agreement with ComEd to install a street light at 10907 S. Nashville. Werner said that Nashville dead-ends at that location and the area is very dark. She said that near-by residents had requested a light be installed there last September, but the project had been delayed due to the red-tape involved in the process.

On other matters, Werner stated that the Saturday Clean-up Day at the Lucas-Berg Site was a huge success.

“We had the nicest weather we have had in the last 10years and at least a dozen of the participants were residents who had never been there before,” she said.

Trustee Tedd Muersch Jr. also reported that the Water’s Edge Golf Club is doing very well.

“We had more than 400 golfers this past week-end, and the Mother’s Day Brunch scheduled for Sunday, May 8, is completely sold out. We are putting names on a waiting list,” he said.

He added that the course is looking really good due to the recent clearing of trees and removal of brush.

“I am really encouraged by the progress we are making to keep the course looking good and the improvements going on in the club house and golf shop,” he said.

Muersch credited new General Manager Dean Gabey with the growing success of the Golf Club. “He is doing a really great job.”

He added that Gabey, who is a former golf instructor, will be offering free golf lessons on Wednesday evenings, beginning in May.

Worth residents will soon have two new dining establishments to enjoy and a retail store to help them look their best while dining out. The village board approved business licenses for two restaurants and one beauty supply store at the Tuesday meeting.

Upon the recommendation of the village’s Economic Development Committee, approval was given to Sal’s Famous Cheese Steak Inc., 11306 S. Harlem Ave., and The Crossing, 111 Bar and Grill Inc., d/b/a The Crossing Bar and Grill, at 6959 W. 111th St.

Also approved was Charmed Brows, Inc., at 11407 S. Harlem. According to the business owner, Ruwaida Mohammad, the store will open initially as a beauty supply store but will eventually offer customer services such as brow threading.

Evergreen Park mayor praises work of village clerk

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton had nothing but words of praise for Village Clerk Catherine Aparo at the Monday village board meeting.

Proclaiming the week of May 1-7 as “Municipal Clerks Week” Sexton said, “For the 16 years I have served as mayor, I have had the honor of sitting next to the best Municipal Clerk in Illinois, if not the nation.”

Sexton’s comments were not just idle words as Aparo was named a Master Municipal Clerk in the International Clerk’s Association two years ago. She is a member of the Southwest Municipal Clerk’s Association and is one of only 43 clerks in Illinois to achieve the Master Clerk designation.

Later, Aparo said the achievement is a long process.

“It took me almost 12 years to complete all the requirements. There were a couple of times I thought about giving up, but I kept going, and I am glad I did,” she said.

She explained that the requirements include many hours of seminars, classes and meetings. “It is done in steps; first you are a registered clerk, then certified and finally you reach the highest level, which is the rank of Master Clerk. It is a title you hold for life.”

“The clerks do all the work in municipalities, but get none of the credit,” added Sexton. “I am very happy to announce this proclamation.”

A second proclamation announced that Friday, April 29 as “Arbor Day in the Village of Evergreen Park.”

In conjunction with the proclaimed Arbor Day, the village’s Public Works Department, under the direction of Gavin Yeaman, hosted its fifth annual Arbor Day contest, which was open to all K-8 students from schools within the boundaries of the village. One hundred entries were received. The top three winners in each category were honored at the board meeting.

This year’s theme was “Trees are important to our health and happiness.” Students were asked to produce an essay or poster reflecting the theme.

In the Poster category, Meydlin Rodriguez, a fifth-grader at Southeast School, captured first place. Louise Brady, a second-grader at Northwest School, placed second. Sarah Schroll, a sixth-grader at Most Holy Redeemer School, came in third place.

First place in the Essay category went to Sarah Beyer, a fifth-grader at Southeast School. Marion Isaac, a seventh grade student at Central Middle School, placed second. Samantha Ricks, a fourth grade student at Southeast, placed third.

“In addition to their other prizes, the first place winners have also earned a tree for their school,” said Yeaman. “We will be planting a tree at Southeast School on Arbor Day, Friday, April 29.

In other action, the board approved an ordinance to the village’s municipal code, which will prevent individual poles being erected in the public right-of-ways for the purpose of personal wireless telecommunications services and facilities.

Also approved was a resolution approving a grant application for the 2016 Cook County Community Development Block Grant Program, in the amount of $390,000. If received, the funds would be used for sewer linings.

The board also approved an application from Brendan Rosner to participate in the Evergreen Park Police Department’s College Student Internship Program. Rosner is a student at Loras University in Dubuque, Iowa.

Upgrade of Parkview Apartments in Hickory Hills continues on right path

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

The Hickory Hills City Council provided a positive update on the condition of the Parkview Apartments during a brief meeting last Thursday night.

Mayor Mike Howley was absent from the council session because he was attending the confirmation of his son. Ald. Scott Zimmerman served as the mayor pro-tem.

Ald. Michael McHugh said that new pipes are being installed in the buildings at the complex, 7800 W. 89th Place. The buildings, which now houses seniors since the city bought the property over 20 years ago, has undergone a number of repairs to modernize the facility.

The Parkview Apartments had sustained some damages over the years. Water damage from leaking pipes deemed it necessary that repairs were needed after this winter. McHugh said that problem is being addressed. New wiring was needed in some of the apartments, said McHugh.

“It has been pretty much overdue (for repairs),” said McHugh. “We are going to do it the right way. I think this is going to be a good investment.”

Upgrades at the Parkview Apartments have occurred over the years, including a new roof for one complex and a balcony for another.

“It really looks nice now,” said Dee Catizone, the city clerk. “The buildings are right next to the Community Center where the seniors don’t have to go far to take part in activities.”

Mike Spolar, the city engineer, discussed the weekly refuse and recycling for the city with Waste Management. The current recycle offset rate was $22.40 with the senior rate at $21.40. That was slightly above the rates for the contract year of June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015, in which the unit rate was $21.75 and $20.75 for seniors.

The new rate, which was approved by the board, will be at $23.07 and $22.07 for seniors from June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2017, said Spolar.

Waste Management will provide residents with 96- or 64-gallon refuse carts. Weekly collection of refuse will be placed in carts, bags or 32-gallon containers. Residents have the option of renting or purchasing additional refuse carts from Waste Management.

A check for the amount of $7,500 will be given to Hickory Hills annually in support of community programs each contract year.

The city also approved two business licenses during the meeting. G & K Baking Butercrumb Bakery will open a wholesale bakery at 7731 W. 98th St. in the city’s industrial section. The warehouse will supply bakery for other businesses. The business is owned by Kathleen Meyer and Gina Errico.

Chill and Grill, 9348 S. Roberts Road, will also be open for business. Owners Nada Abed and Ghandi Dini will be serving ice cream and fast food.