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Pedestrian dies after hit by Metra train

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

oak lawn train 2 photo 9-8

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Passengers begin to walk away from the Metra train they were riding on last Thursday night after they were delayed from departing after a man was hit and killed.

 

A Metra Southwest train coming from downtown last Thursday evening struck and killed a 22-year-old man in Oak Lawn, about a block from the village Metra station.

The man is believed to have been an Oak Lawn resident, but very little information has been made publicly available since then. Some local residents have said the man who was struck lived in Oak Lawn. His death may have been a suicide, but that has not been confirmed.

Oak Lawn Fire and Rescue Chief George Sheets reported at the time that fire department personnel responded at 6:20 p.m. to a train/pedestrian accident near the intersection of 95th and 51st Avenue. He said that “On arrival, fire department personnel found that an unidentified individual had been struck by the train. The train was stopped just north of 95th Street, within sight of the Oak Lawn station on the other side of 95th Street.

“It is unfortunate. The unidentified individual was pronounced dead at the scene,” said Sheets.

For more than an hour after the incident, Oak Lawn police blocked 95th Street between Cicero and 52nd Avenue while the investigation was underway. Train passengers planning to get off in Oak Lawn, mostly commuters coming home after work, were also kept on board for about 45 minutes.

Trains on the Southwest Line resumed service at about 7:45 p.m.

Oak Lawn residents Mike and Meg O’Connor were among the passengers who had to wait until given permission to disembark. “We didn’t feel any impact. We didn’t know why the train stopped until an announcement was made,” said Mike O’Connor.

He said that for the most part, passengers remained calm while the train was delayed. No one on the train reported being injured.

“The only evidence I saw of the collision was a gym shoe lying beside the tracks. I thought it might have been a young person who died,” said O’Connor.

“One woman became emotional when she overheard another person giving a running commentary about the situation to someone she was talking to on her phone,” O’Connor added. “She told her to stop, and reminded her that somebody just lost their life.”

As soon as passengers were allowed off the train in Oak Lawn, they streamed across 95th Street heading toward the station, many in stunned silence. The platform was crowded with people either waiting to get on the train, or using it as a vantage point to see what the commotion was.

This was the second fatal collision with a Metra train in less than a month. On Aug. 8, Arthur Hornsby, 59, was killed, when his SUV was struck by a train at the crossing on Central Avenue at 99th Street.

Two Chicago women, ages 18 and 20, were also killed at the Metra crossing at 87th Street and Pulaski Road in nearby Hometown on Dec. 28, 2015. In that case, four people in the car with them were injured.

Aldermen request kiosk for disposal of old medications

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Two Hickory Hills aldermen have sent a letter to the Walgreens drug store chain asking them to consider locating a kiosk for dropping off out-of-date medicines at the local store at 95th and Roberts Road.

Aldermen Tom McAvoy and Brian Fonte (3rd Ward) sent the letter out and made the formal request during the Aug. 11 city council meeting. McAvoy said it would be more convenient to have the company’s new Safe Medications Disposal Program site at the local Walgreen’s.

As of Friday, McAvoy was still waiting for an answer.

“We haven’t heard anything, but Walgreens is big,” McAvoy said. “These things sometimes move slowly.”

McAvoy and Fonte sent the letter to Walgreens’ management and made the formal request at last month’s city council meeting. A 3rd Ward resident and students from Stagg High School appeared before the council on May 26 and asked the board for assistance in getting a location where dated medicines can be disposed of.

Stagg students said they were concerned about the proper disposal of old prescription drugs. They were especially concerned about the elderly who would have to go long distances to find a place to drop off the dated medicines.

In a letter to Alex Gourlay, co-chief operating officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., McAvoy and Fonte informed him that the closest Walgreens store participating in this program to Hickory Hills is located at 14860 S. LaGrange Road, Orland Park. The two aldermen said that store is in the heart of the Orland Park regional shopping district. While this may be beneficial for Orland Park and Tinley Park residents, this is quite a distance from Hickory Hills. This is especially difficult for seniors, the aldermen wrote.

The 24-hour Walgreens at 7945 W. 95th St. in Hickory Hills is centrally located, the aldermen stated in the letter, and is only one mile from the Interstate 294 interchange at 95th Street. Debbie Trojanek, manager of the Walgreens in Hickory Hills, said that her facility could easily accommodate a kiosk at her location, according to the two aldermen.

McAvoy also serves as chairman of Business and Development for the city. Fonte is also the chairman of the Health and Environment Committee.

Walgreens began the safe medication disposal kiosk program on Aug. 8. The launch is part of Walgreens effort to install safe medication disposal kiosks at more than 500 of its drug stores around the country. Currently, there are 45 Walgreens drug stores that have the kiosks

Walgreens officials stated that the kiosks provide a safe and convenient way year-round to dispose of unwanted, unused or expired prescriptions, including controlled substances, and over-the-counter medications at no cost.

“By making safe medication disposal kiosks available in select Illinois stores and expanding to other states this year, Walgreens is taking an important first step to help reduce the misuse of medications throughout the country,” said Gourlay. “We are committed to doing our part in not only our home state, but other states as well, and being part of a comprehensive solution to reverse this epidemic.”

Walgreens did not comment on additional sites. However, McAvoy said that is his hope that a kiosk will be installed at the store in Hickory Hills in the next round of selections.

McAvoy said there is a box set up at the Hickory Hills Police Station that’s open for 24 hours. He said it is convenient but may not be as accessible as the local Walgreens store.

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District also has set up containers to dispose of dated medicines. However, McAvoy said they are not accessible.

“The closest is the Stickney plant, which is far from here,” said McAvoy. “It’s great and it’s a good program. There are not that many and they are just too far from here.”

McAvoy said he would call Walgreens officials again to see if he can get a response.

“I don’t know what the criteria is or not,” added McAvoy. “But I think there is a need for a kiosk here. “

Evergreen Park Board approves more parking for two restaurants

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Action by the Evergreen Park Village Board Monday night will provide additional parking space for two upscale restaurants in the village.

Two ordinances were approved at the meeting, one which will benefit an existing restaurant, Thithi’s, a Thai, Vietnamese and French cuisine dining establishment at 91st and Kedzie Avenue. The other restaurant receiving approval was Wu’s, a Japanese steak house, which is under construction at 95th Street and Sacramento Avenue.

The first ordinance approved a purchase and sale agreement for the village to buy property located at 9138 S. Kedzie Ave. at a cost of $70,000. The property consists of a vacant foreclosed residence and is adjacent to Thithi’s Restaurant.

“This property has been vacant for a long time and is in serious disrepair,” said Mayor James Sexton. “We plan to demolish it and turn the property into a parking lot which will be an asset to Thithi’s, which is located next door. We need to do whatever we can to encourage people to come to our fine dining establishments.”

A second ordinance approved is a non-inclusive parking easement dedication for a parking lot located at 2942-2946 W. 95th St. The action will provide additional parking for the Wu’s restaurant.

In other action, approval of a resolution to indemnify the State of Illinois for photo enforcement equipment attached to IDOT facilities was approved with a 4 to 2 vote. Opposing the vote were Trustees Mary Keane and Mark Mazullo.

“If we ever go with the cameras, they would be placed at 95th and Western Avenue and 87th and Kedzie Avenue,” said Sexton.

When questioned after the meeting, Sexton said, “This is just one of the steps we have to go through before anything happens. There will be a lot of steps.”

A request from Fire Chief Ron Kleinhaus to purchase a new ambulance, at a cost of $152,987, was approved. Sexton said the purchase was a planned budget item.

On other matters, Sexton proclaimed the week of Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week and approved a request from the Christmas Without Cancer Organization for a 5K run/walk on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Business certificates were approved for Oxford Insurance Group, Inc., 3146 W. 95th St; Metro Loans LLC, 3148 W. 95th St.; and Thrive Health and Wellness, Inc., a chiropractic office, at 3348 W. 95th St.

Also approved were three office suites for Little Company of Mary Hospital Affiliated Medical Group at 2850 W. 95th St. The suites will include Suite 406, for the General Surgery Group; Suite 204 for the Behavioral Health Group; and Suite 301 for the Dermatology Group.

Sexton also announced that there will be a grand opening for the new Carson’s Store, located near 98th Street and Western Avenue, on Wednesday Sept. 14. Additional information will be available prior to the event.

Town hall meeting will focus on rats

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

A booming rat population is causing consternation in Chicago Ridge.

Mayor Charles Tokar said at the Village Board meeting on Tuesday that the issue will be addressed at a town hall meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Village Hall, 10455 S. Ridgeland Ave.

Representatives of Guardian Pest Control will be there to talk about what the company is doing to control the rodent population, and Tokar is asking every restaurant in the village to send a representative to the meeting. He said poorly maintained restaurant dumpsters provide a ready food source for the rats.

The mayor also urged residents to clean up dog waste immediately, and stop leaving food outside for birds and other animals because it all attracts rats.

“I was out over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday night, looking at hot spots (for rodents). There is definitely a problem in certain areas of the village,” the mayor said.

The mayor said one such hotspot is the alley behind the Pepe’s restaurant at 6336 W. 111th St.

“The restaurant is clean inside, but there was a hole in the garbage dumpster that rats were going in and out of. It was like a smorgasbord,” he said.

“I even brought my BB gun with me, but it didn’t work,” he said with a grin.

Tokar said that the problem was so bad at the nearby Royal Palace banquet hall, 6254 W. 111th St., that he shut the business down until the problems can be rectified. In that case, he said there were rodent problems in the basement of the business as well as outside.

The mayor also cited the condition of wooden dumpster enclosures behind multi-unit residential buildings on Pleasant Boulevard for criticism.

“The enclosures are being used as a shield, so you don’t see what is being dumped back there,” he said, explaining that besides bags of garbage outside the dumpsters, he also said broken down furniture and other trash is being hidden in the enclosures. Together, he said, rats are being provided with food and shelter.

“It is a disgusting mess back there, and I am declaring it a public nuisance,” he said.

The mayor said he will be sending letters to the owners of the buildings, informing them that if the issues are not addressed within seven days, the village will bill them for doing the clean-up.

After Tokar said all the wooden dumpster enclosures should be replaced by chain-link fences, so they can be seen through, the board asked Village Attorney Burt Odelson to draw up an ordinance requiring that change before the next meeting on Sept. 20.

Trustee Bruce Quintos said that overflowing dumpsters on garbage pick-up day are a major problem.

“Either they need bigger dumpsters, or more frequent pick-ups,” he said.

Coincidentally, the board also approved the hiring of four part-time rental/residential association inspectors during the meeting, and Quintos said they will be able to address some of those types of problems.

The role of the RRAs, as they are called, will be to inspect annual inspections of rental properties and multi-unit dwellings to make sure that village codes are being followed.

“I’m looking forward to an enlightening town hall meeting,” said Tokar. “We can’t just say it is someone else’s problem. We all have to play our part,” he said.

Local high schools enthusiastic about digital technology boom

  • Written by Kelly White

lilly lorenz photo 9-8

Submitted photo

Stagg High School freshmen (from left) Lilly Lorenz, 14, of Worth; Jose Guzman 14, Palos Hills; and Reem Shanab, 14, Palos Hills, received their new Chromebooks as the school year began.

 

Feeling the wave of the future, many local high school districts are steering away from the traditional textbook and leaning towards a new approach of digital learning.

Community High School District 218, made up of Eisenhower, Richards and Shepard, joined in on the digital ride as all 2016 incoming freshmen students were given an iPad, courtesy of District 218, to carry with them throughout their four years of high school, using it in and out of the classroom.

“Teachers are integrating the iPad and its digital tools into their lessons and units of study,” said Tim Prost, director of District 218 Educational Technology. “The iPad provides access to digital resources that will become more common in our classrooms over time. The iPad has a powerful classroom management app that allows teachers to distribute, collect, and provide feedback on assignments. The classroom management app has useful communication features and allows teachers to provide access to digital materials for their students. Additionally, many teachers will be using the iPad to administer tests and other classroom assessments.”

The iPads were distributed to more than 1,700 freshmen at the District 218 schools in August. Next fall, all students in District 218 will receive the tablet computers to keep with them.

iPads, manufactured by Apple, were also distributed to Evergreen Park Community High School District 231 freshmen this school year. This is the second year in a row that Oak Lawn Community High School distributed iPads to students of all four grade levels.

The iPads reflected a positive educational environment and were used again this year, according to Joseph McCurdy, Assistant Principal for Operations at Oak Lawn High School.

The iPad was not the only tablet distributed to high school students. District 230, made up of Andrew, Sandburg and Stagg high schools, opted for the Microsoft Chromebook.

The Chromebooks were distributed the first few days of school this semester to all freshman and sophomore students, according to Carla Erdey, director of communications for District 230.

“It's now time to take the next step to transform the way we teach students in a digital world,” said Dr. James Gay, District 230 Superintendent. “District 230 has always prided itself on being cutting-edge in the way we prepare students for their future. Expansion of the Digital Learning Program is the next logical step. The Chromebooks are an outstanding tool to support learning.”

Like the iPad, Chromebooks provide access to a number of learning apps that make the classroom experience more interactive and collaborative. ​They assist in learning the curriculum of their classes, as well as teach them to be positive digital citizens.​ Chromebooks provide access to the vast information available online, as well.

Although the iPad and Chromebook will be beneficial in the learning process, it will not replace the common textbook – at least not yet, according to both District 218 and 230 officials.

“District 218 is currently in a transition period as we work to incorporate more digital content and resources in our courses,” Prost said. “Some classes will continue to utilize printed textbooks during this transition period. The iPad is an important tool that will support teaching and learning in our schools. However, a balanced approach is always best and students will continue to use a variety of resources for their assignments. Some homework assignments will utilize the iPad while others will utilize more traditional resources.”

District 218 has contracted with Apple, Inc., to provide student iPads and iPad cases for its one-to-one initiative. These iPads and their cases are being leased at a cost of $131 per student, per year. This cost is partially offset by a new technology fee of $25 that is assessed to those receiving devices. When the student leaves the district either through graduation or transfer, they must return the iPad, just as they would a textbook.

District 230 has leased the Chromebooks that are distributed to freshmen. Those will be turned in at the end of their freshmen year. They will receive a new Chromebook at the start of their sophomore year.​ Students pay a $75 annual technology fee. That fee goes toward the price of the Chrom​e​book. When they graduate, the Chromebook will be their property, unlike districts using the iPad.

The iPads and Chromebooks will be heavily monitored by classroom teachers and officials believe the positive educational benefits of the digital devices far outweigh any risk of distraction in the classroom.

“Good classroom management is always important whether the devices are present or not,” Erdey said. “There are ways built into the devices for the teacher to assure students remain on task.”

“The goal has always been for the technology to be the catalyst for a deeper understanding of course material and enhancement of student creativity,” said Mike Jacobson, principal at Richards.