MWRD station closed as search for stray dog continues in Worth

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


The search for an elusive stray dog has resulted in the temporary closure of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s aeration station known as Harry “Bus” Yourell Waterfall Park at 117th and Harlem in Worth.

The popular park, which has been cordoned off for a month, is adjacent to the Calumet-Sag Channel and Water’s Edge golf course. The walking paths and wide lawns around the central waterfall pool are a big attraction for people, as well as geese, ducks and seagulls attracted to the flowing waters. People often feed them there, despite warnings not to do so.

After a 16-year-old boy reported being bitten by what he described as a coyote there in late April, the village of Worth sent out notices in June water bills informing residents of the incident. The boy said he and a friend left a walking trail, and climbed down the banks of the canal to get closer to a beaver. When they climbed back up, they said a coyote was standing in front of them, and bit the teen, causing a minor wound.

Several area residents questioned why the park was suddenly closed earlier this month. But according to a notice published on the village website at, it will be closed until further notice while a suspect dog is tracked down. The note states that village officials working with Cook County Animal Control have determined that while coyotes are longtime residents of the area, the problem animal was likely a mixed-breed dog, such as a German shepherd-husky mix that resembles a coyote.

The note states that together with the eyewitness account and an examination of biological material in the area, Dr. Donna Alexander, administrator of the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control, and Stanley D. Gehrt, an expert on urban coyotes, “are confident there is a mixed-breed dog (probably German shepherd-husky or malamute) that has been stalking the area.

“It would be easy to mistake the dog for a coyote. Especially when someone is probably in panic mode, trying to fend off an attack. The park will remain closed until further notice while Cook County tries to trap the dog,” according to the village statement.

Becky Schlikerman, a county spokesperson, said Tuesday that, “The traps have been set and nothing has been captured by the traps. No sightings have been reported to Cook County Animal and Rabies Control.”

“It is not unusual for the department to assist municipalities who request assistance with specialized animal control issues,” said Schlikerman, emphasizing that Cook County Animal and Rabies Control is assisting the Village of Worth and is not the lead agency on this matter.

She also noted that “humane traps” are being used, and said that it will be up to the village and the MWRD to decide when to reopen the park.

According to the village statement, “(Alexander and Gehrt) are fully aware of the fact there are coyotes wandering around the Village of Worth and there are more than 2,000 coyotes living in Cook County. The coyotes have lived here for many, many years…. and decades of research indicate coyotes and humans can live together, side by side, and coyote attacks on people are isolated and very rare,” the statement continued. “It would be virtually impossible to trap and remove every coyote in Cook County. Dr. Alexander has indicated if a coyote is removed from a certain area another one will simply move in and take that space.”

Village officials said more information about living in close proximity to coyotes may be obtained at online at

Palos Hills mayor: 'Great time for the city'

  • Written by Joe Boyle


With a lack of progress in the continuing budget impasse in Springfield, Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett would prefer at this point to concentrate on projects that are taking place in his city.

Bennett said that development plans are occurring right now while other projects will begin in the near future.

First, he is always excited about the annual Palos Hills Friendship Fest, which will take place at the Moraine Valley Triangle, 107th Street and 88th Avenue, from Thursday, July 7 through Sunday, July 10.

“It’s a great time for the city,” said Bennett. “When I started this about 35 years ago, we felt it would bring the community together. It’s a great family event. We have a lot of people come out from not only Palos Hills but other communities. We have a lot of entertainment and great food. It really is a great event.”

Bennett is looking forward to the grand opening of the Bria of Palos Hills at 10400 S. Roberts Road on July 12. The new facility is part of the Strive Center for Rehabilitation. The center has modern amenities that please Bennett, who is excited about having the facility in Palos Hills.

“It is great to have something like this here for our residents who may need it,” said Bennett. “This is a $20 million project that has taken a couple of years of planning. We are very excited about this. It is a great addition to our town.”

The mayor also points out that the corner of 111th and Roberts Road will be revamped. Bennett said the corner could use a facelift, along with trying to fill some vacant storefronts.

“We are working on a beautification project for that corner,” said Bennett. “We would like to add some flower and a brick landscape to make it more appealing. I have been walking with country officials in the area to point out what we would like to do.”

Bennett said that he would like the corner to look like 143rd and LaGrange Road in Orland Park, which has also added flowers and brick landscaping to make the area more appealing.

And Bennett received a pleasant surprise with the Bettucci’s restaurant planning to reopen this month at 10331 S. Roberts Road. The restaurant closed without warning in March. Bennett is a fan of Bettucci’s, which also is located next door to City Hall. The business is in the process of interviewing and hiring employees.

Bennett has met with representatives of the Cal-Sag Trail about possibly building an annex trail in the city.

The mayor told members of the council and roughly a dozen residents in attendance at the committee-of-the-whole meeting May 19 that he was contacted by Cal-Sag officials in April and met with them last week to discuss a potential trail in Palos Hills.

“They’d like us to consider building an annex trail on our side,” Bennett said. “That is something we always wanted to do at some point in time.

“Right now we are just in the discussion stage, but obviously we’re pretty excited about possibly being able to include additional walking trails in our town.”

But with running a municipality after the economic freefall that began in 2008, challenges are always present, said the mayor.

“We are still trying to work on filling our vacant businesses on 111h and Roberts Road,” said Bennett. “The beautification project will help. It’s tough because we are pretty much a bedroom community.”

In terms of the budget deadlock in Springfield, Bennett has seen enough false starts throughout this year that he is not optimistic.

“We keep hearing things and it is just up and down,” said Bennett. “This week is really the breaking point. They are really under the gun to get something done. But what could happen is that schools won’t start on time. So, we are just waiting.”


Cheesecake lovers have chance to taste treats at Evergreen Park Library

  • Written by Kelly White

cheesecake tasting photo 6-30

Photo by Kelly White

Melaine Herbert (from left), of Chicago; Evelyn Sendziak and her husband, Robert Sendziak, also from of Chicago, taste some cheesecake samples last Thursday night at the Evergreen Park Library for Maureen Schulman's presentation on Eli's Cheesecake.



People can now make the well-known Eli’s Cheesecake in the comfort of their own kitchens.

Maureen Schulman, author of “The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook: Remarkable Recipes from a Chicago Legend, “made an appearance, along with her husband, Marc, at the Evergreen Park Public Library, 9400 S. Troy Ave., Evergreen Park, last Thursday night to share her secrets.

“I hope readers gain confidence from this cookbook,” Schulman said. “Cheesecake is traditionally considered an intimidating dessert to make at home. If you do everything outlined in these recipes, the cheesecake will turn out perfectly. And if, for example, the cake cracks, the reader is now armed with the scientific knowledge to address the problem. I think our approach empowers the home cook to not only make a great cheesecake, but to understand the principles behind successful baking. The book provides a jumping-off point to be creative.”

The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook captures the glory of this globally celebrated interpretation of one of America’s favorite desserts. The book focuses strictly on the Chicago-style cheesecake as described by Schulman.

“Eli’s Cheesecake is different than most cheesecakes in terms of taste and texture,” she said. “If you like it, you’re a fan for life because nothing else tastes quite like Eli’s. It’s like a souffléed custard on the inside, a little firmer and golden on the top and sides, and not too sweet.”

Local residents were able to reminisce about their favorite cheesecake recipes from the past and learn some new recipes from Schulman, including learning the secrets from baking the same cakes from home that made Eli’s Cheesecake a national institution.

Participants were also able to indulge in free cheesecake sampling, with the cakes prepared by Schulman.

“Cheesecake is absolutely one of our very favorite desserts,” Evelyn Sendziak, of Chicago, said.

Sendziak attended the event with her husband, Robert Sendziak, who is also a huge cheesecake fan.

“I love everything about cheesecake,” he said.

Eli’s Cheesecake began more than 35 years ago, rising to prominence first as a featured item at one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants — Eli’s The Place for Steak, a classic steakhouse and pillar of the city’s culinary community that was also a noted celebrity watering hole. From Eli Schulman’s first cheesecake creation at Eli’s The Place for Steak to President Obama’s 50th birthday cake, this book details the storied history of one of the nation's most famous desserts.

The cookbook was published to coincide with the 35th anniversary of Eli’s Cheesecakes, which originated in Chicago.

Inside the cookbook, published in December of 2015, are 40 cheesecake recipes, including Original Plain, Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon Rum Raisin, Belgian Chocolate, Espresso, and Banana, plus 10 signature steakhouse dishes like the acclaimed Liver Eli. Schulman is often credited with putting “Chicago-style” cheesecake, richer and creamier than its New York counterpart, on the map. The book also includes Eli’s Trade Secrets and step- by-step photos.

“Baking is a science, so we felt the best way to approach the recipes was to address the issues that affect the outcome of baking a perfect cheesecake,” Schulman said.

Eli’s Cheesecake will be making an appearance at the Taste of Chicago this summer on Saturday, July 9.

Chicago Ridge mayor vetoes ordinance over his right to make appointments

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar waited until the end of a rather quiet village board meeting on Tuesday to announce that he was vetoing an ordinance passed at the June 7 meeting that would limit his power to make appointments.

“I am using my veto because this ordinance is illegal and unconstitutional,” said Tokar, overturning the 5-1 vote cast by the board at the last meeting. The controversial ordinance (see related story on front page) requires that the mayor’s appointments be approved by a majority of the six trustees. These include offices such as village attorney, police and fire chief, and department heads.

“I want to know if we have the authority to overturn this veto,” Trustee Bruce Quintos said.

“Well, that would be a question for your legislative counsel,” said Tokar.

Quintos said he would consult the board’s legislative counsel, Kevin Camden before holding a vote to overturn the veto at the next Village Board meeting on July 12. That office was created this year to advise trustees, after Tokar kept Burt Odelson as village attorney after four trustees voted against his appointment in January.

“You took away our powers of advice and consent, and we’re just taking them back,” Quintos told the mayor.

‘I take issue with that. I don’t think anything was taken away from anyone,” said Trustee Jack Lind, the only trustee to vote against the new ordinance. “No one could give a reason for not retaining the attorney. It was fully legal,” he said.

“If they do overturn the veto, a lawsuit against them will be filed. And the village will have to pay for both attorneys,” said Odelson afterward. He said he is “caught in the middle” of a political battle between the mayor and trustees.

Odelson said he agrees with attorney John B. Murphey, who advised Tokar in May that a lawsuit would be successful because the Illinois Constitution requires a referendum to be held before ordinances limiting mayoral powers are enacted in home-rule communities such as Chicago Ridge. The new ordinance limits to 60 days the length of time any mayoral appointee may remain without the approval of the village board. Currently, temporary appointments are open-ended.

“Between Murphey and myself, we have represented more than 50 municipalities, while the trustees’ legislative counsel has never represented any,” he noted.

Trustee Fran Coglianese said the advice and consent issue is worth a court fight. “Our attorney is much less expensive than theirs,” she said.

Earlier in the otherwise friendly meeting, the board voted unanimously to honor the late police Officer Steven Smith by renaming Birmingham Street where he lived, between Oak and Oxford Avenue, “Steven Smith Drive.”

Smith, a Richards High School graduate and Marine veteran of the Iraq War, was 27 when he was killed by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 294 last September.

Quintos said a dedication ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday morning, July 6.

“Our hearts go out to you. He will never be forgotten in this town,” Tokar told his mother, Lisa.

“I can’t thank you enough,” she told the mayor and board. “You have done so much to keep his memory alive. I consider you family, like those guys up there,” she said, pointing to the police officers lined up at the back of the room.

Garden Club's memorial marker project takes root

  • Written by Joe Boyle

blue star memorial photo 6-9

Photo by Joe Boyle

Judy Barker (left) and Lorraine Bujan, president of the Oak Lawn Garden Club, take part in the ceremony recognizing the club’s efforts in having the Blue Star Memorial Highway Memorial maker moved to its present location at 95th Street and Cook Avenue in Oak Lawn.


Julie Barker’s love of gardening made her a natural to join the Oak Lawn Garden Club.

But after becoming a member, it was her passion for another project that made her committed to accomplishing a goal that was close to her heart.

Barker, Lorraine Bujan, current president of the Oak Lawn Garden Club, and other members were on hand for a Memorial Day ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker at 95th Street and Cook Avenue. The plaque honors the memory of all veterans and especially those who died in the line of duty.

The marker is of the greatest importance to Barker, who has been an official member of the Oak Lawn Garden Club for 10 years. She recalled a woman from Evergreen Park who said the condition of another Blue Star Memorial Highway maker has worsened. Barker told her that the Oak Lawn location had been nearly forgotten.

“That’s when I got involved,” said Barker.

The Oak Lawn Garden Club was created in 1956. The club’s origin dates back to World War II when the National Garden Club came up with the idea of erecting a marker in memory of the nation’s war veterans. In May of 1963, the club dedicated the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker at 95th Street, north of the railroad tracks in the village, near the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 5220.

Barker said that the club wanted a more prominent spot for the marker. The club, through the help of Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Village Clerk Jane Quinlan, assisted in the marker moving to 95th and Raymond in front of the parking lot adjacent to the old Oak Lawn Senior Center and Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce office.

“We had to restore it, and they got it moving,” said Barker.

When the Oak Lawn Bank and Trust purchased the land, officials suggested moving the plaque inside the building. Barker was vehemently against the idea.

“I did not want it on private property,” said Barker. “It had to be on an interstate highway like it is now.”

Barker said she became more of a historian regarding the Blue Star Highway Memorial. However, keeping up with the club’s history and the marker proved to be a daunting task.

“It was growing and I had no room to put everything,” said Barker. “June Cutis, who was our president then, helped out. We worked to gather the information and she got it on a computer. We were anxious to get it done.”

The first dedication was in 2009 at the 95th Street and Raymond site. Along with the Oak Lawn Garden Club, local dignitaries were on hand for the ceremony, along with Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd).

After the bank purchased the property, the Oak Lawn Garden Cub, with the assistance of the village, made the move to 95th and Cook, which has been the site of the Nativity scene during the holiday season.

“I’m really happy where the marker is now,” said Bujan, an Oak Lawn resident since 1974 who has been an Oak Lawn Garden Club member for six years. “We have people who stop to look at the spot now. They did not do that at the old location.

Pat Bugos, another Oak Lawn Garden Club member, also likes the new location for the marker.

“I think a lot of people from Oak Lawn have been in the military,” said Bugos. “We have members in their 70s, 80s and 90s. I think it’s important to pass this on so people remember. I think it is important.”

As for Barker, 84, she will continue to work to have a ceremony for the Blue Star Memorial Highway to coincide annually with the Memorial Day observation.

“These men and women put their lives on hold for us,” said Barker, whose late husband served in Korea. She also has two children. “Many of them did not come back. Many of these veterans return with mental problems. It’s the least we can do for them.”