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OL Park District stalls citizens’ full court press for hoop removal

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  An Oak Lawn trustee’s proposal to remove basketball hoops from all village parks was not well-received Monday by park district commissioners.

  “I didn’t get a good vibe from the board,” Trustee Carol Quinlan said after Monday’s park board meeting. “I’m not very optimistic.”
  Quinlan was one of approximately 30 residents who live near Little Wolf Park to attend the meeting. She asked commissioners to consider removing the hoops following an Aug. 14 fight at the park that led to two arrests.
  The fight took place at about 9:20 p.m. near a foot bridge that connects Little Wolfe Park with walking trails that stretch to the rear of Richards High School.
  Stephen Hyde, 18, of Oak Lawn, and Hexadore Randall, 19, of Chicago, were arrested and charged with battery after they were picked out of a lineup by teenagers injured in the melee, police said.
  The duo said the fight was racially motivated and broke out after a group of white teens used racial slurs, according to police. They said they were walking the trails adjacent to the park when they encountered the white teens, who shouted racial slurs before hitting them, police said.
  The white teens offered a different version of events. Two teens told police they were punched in the face while another said he was jumped, according to reports.
  Quinlan said problems have been ongoing throughout the summer and residents are concerned about the potential for more fights or mayhem.
  “It was not an isolated case,” Quinlan said. “I am not exaggerating at all.”
  She added that the park no longer attracts families or younger children. Instead, older teens and adults from outside Oak Lawn play basketball at the park, 109th Street and Laramie Avenue.
  “Mothers are not coming with their children. I think that we’re bringing in an element that’s from outside Oak Lawn,” said Quinlan, who lives near the park.
  She said she receives complaints routinely from residents who do not feel comfortable at the park. Those who use the basketball courts park on both sides of Laramie Avenue, shout profanities and litter in the park, Quinlan said.
  Police Chief Mike Murray met with Park Director Maddie Kelly recently to discuss park security, he said at Monday’s meeting. Murray and Kelly discussed increased lighting at Little Wolfe Park and the possibility of clearing dense brush and foliage that has grown along the paths.
  Murray added that there have been more than 300 police patrols at park since the Aug. 14 incident. No other confrontations have occurred at the park in the past month, Murray said.
  Park commissioners said they would consider Quinlan’s proposal at a future meeting when a full board was on hand. Commissioner Mary Margaret Wallace did not attend Monday’s meeting.
  Park Commissioner Donna McAuley said “safety is a concern for all of us,” but was hesitant to remove recreational opportunities from the parks. She added that recreational equipment is added to parks after the district receives feedback from residents.
  Kelly also was tentative about taking down the basketball hoops.
  “We hate to take out any recreational amenity in any park,” she said.
  Commissioner Gary Callahan said inappropriate conduct in the parks is not solely associated with basketball. He said the district’s skateboard park, near 89th Street and Ridgeland Avenue, has drawn inappropriate behavior from some teens who use the facility.
  Quinlan asked commissioners to consider removing the nets for a six-month trial period. If they are removed permanently, the courts could be replaced by sand volleyball courts, she said.
  Some residents who attended the meeting were unhappy with the park board’s failure to make a decision on the issue.
  Dennis Zator said park commissioners are ignoring a safety issue.
  “They’re doing it their way,” he said.
  Jim Durkin, who also lives near the park, said removing the basketball hoops was a “simple fix.”

ComEd attempting to restore ‘good faith’ to OL residents

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  ComEd will take steps to remedy the causes of power outages that have plagued the village, according to a reliability report issued to the village.

  Trustee Alex Olejniczak said the report is a step in the right direction but never would have been published if village officials had not pressured ComEd to act.
  “(ComEd’s) first line of defense is to tell you they did nothing wrong,” said Olejniczak, whose 2nd District has experienced many of the recent outages.

  Olejniczak and other village officials have been in regular contact with ComEd in past months, especially after a March power outage and surge in the northeast section of the village.
  The outage and subsequent surge caused approximately $25,000 worth of damage to appliances and electrical equipment in a neighborhood roughly bounded by 49th and 52nd avenues between 87th and 93rd streets, Olejniczak said.
  A down power line near 91st Street and Cicero Avenue and raccoon that got into a transformer located behind Freshline Foods, 5355 W. 95th St., were the cause of the outage, ComEd officials said.
  Three months later, thousands of residents were without power for two days after a storm swept through the village.
  ComEd denied the 59 claims submitted following the March surge, Olejniczak said, but recently agreed to pay $500 to those who submitted claims.
  “All we have asked is that they do what’s right for the residents,” Olejniczak said.

  Liz Keating, ComEd communications manager, said the utility sent the $500 to residents as a “good faith gesture.” The company does not pay for surge damage when wildlife is the cause, Keating said.
  Some residents have accepted the money, while others plan to reject the payment and instead file a claim with the Illinois Commerce Commission, Olejniczak said.
  Village Manager Larry Deetjen said pressure on ComEd led to the reliability report and the agreement to take steps to remedy the problem.
  “There is no question we would not have been where we are,” Deetjen said at Tuesday’s village board meeting.
  Olejniczak said much of the reliability reports contains “the same information I was talking about for years.”
  For example, ComEd will begin a vegetation management plan in the 9300 block of 50th and Sproat avenues, the report said. The area was hard hit during the June outage.
  “Now they’ve got an actionable plan,” Olejniczak said.
  The plan calls for work to be done through the end of year, he said.
  Keating said ComEd also has agreed to assess its entire system in Oak Lawn and asked village officials to identify troublesome areas.
  She disagreed with Olejniczak’s claim that village’s reliability is among the worst on ComEd’s grid.
  “The reliability is actually better that the reliability in some of the southwest suburbs,” she said.

Oak Lawn bosses at odds over new senior center site

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 

  A letter written to Oak Lawn senior citizens by Trustee Bob Streit has led several of his political opponents to question his motives.

  The letter, which was mailed to seniors last week,Color-2-COL-Senior-Center-1A bath house in Memorial Park is being proposed as the site of a new senior center in Oak Lawn. Photo by Bob Rakow criticized the village’s plans to outsource to the park district the operation of the senior center and its services.
  The letter also invited seniors to Streit’s October fundraiser at Palermo’s Restaurant. Tickets are $50, and $25 for seniors. Volunteer members of the village’s Senior Citizen’s Commission will be honored at the event, the letter said.
  The letter said only that the village planned to outsource senior services; it did not mention that the park district would takeover the programming. Plans call for the shuttered bath house at Memorial Park, 102nd Street and Major Avenue, to be renovated into a senior center.
  Memorial Park is undergoing a major renovation that will include new walking paths, the installation of a splash pad and the return of the rocket slide, a landmark at the park for many years.
  Mayor Sandra Bury and her allies on the village board believe the park district would do a better job than the village providing programming for seniors. They chastised Streit for writing a letter designed to enrich his political coffers.
  “For him to twist it all for a $25 ticket to a fundraiser, that’s pretty twisted,” Trustee Terry Vorderer said.
  Vorderer attended the seniors’ monthly luncheon last week with Bury and Park District President Sue Murphy in part to quash the rumors that spread as a result of Streit’s letter, he said.
  “I think we walked out of there and dispelled a lot of concern,” Vorderer said.
  “There was a lot of confusion,” said Bury, who distributed a letter at the luncheon that outlined the village’s plans for a new senior center.
  The mayor said she began working soon after taking office to improve the current senior center and look for a free-standing building for a permanent facility.
  The senior center currently is housed at the former McGugan Junior High School, 5220 W. 105th St. Previously, the center was located on 95th Street, but the former village board voted 4-3 to sell the building for $1.8 million to balance the budget and make way for a bank to be built on the property.
  Trustee Tim Desmond said Streit’s letter was a form of “fear mongering” designed to create apprehension among seniors.
  “It’s ridiculous that everything has to be political,” Desmond said.
  Vorderer said seniors would benefit from having the park district take over programming.
  “We’re putting it in the hand of the experts,” said Vorderer, a former park district commissioner.
  Streit said Bury’s letter was politically motivated.
  “It was a rebuttal to a political fundraising letter that I sent out using my personal campaign funds,” Streit said. “The letter that the mayor sent out was inappropriately and illegally sent at taxpayer’s expense.”
  Bury’s letter included the paragraph: “I urge you to consider cautiously the motives of those who chose to use misinformation as a tool for political mischief while at the same time asking for money to enrich their own coffers. Seniors should not have to pay a dime for information vital to their interests.”
  Streit said seniors deserve better than a renovated park district building for their center. He added that he is working with a group of seniors to develop an alternative plan, similar to the one proposed by the previous village administration.

  That plan called for the village to partner with Advocate Medical Center to build a wellness center on vacant property near the center of the village that would house the senior center as well as a fitness center, lap pool and meeting rooms.
  “That was a good plan,” said Streit. “It was fitting for the seniors.”

  Instead, the hospital agreed in August to pay the village $3.2 million in service fees, including $2 million in building permit fees and $1.2 million in service fees over the next three years.
  Bury said Streit never approached her to discuss plans for a senior center or enhanced programming.
  Trustee Carol Quinlan, however, recently asked to be part of a committee to guide the future of the senior center and “was completely ignored, again” by Bury, she said.
  “The mayor’s speech at the last (village board) meeting about her plans to turn over the seniors to the park district was the first I had heard about this. Of course there was nothing in our packet explaining her reasoning or how she plans to go about this,” Quinlan said.
  Quinlan added that the plan to turn senior services over to the park district is not well researched.
  “We have a large population of seniors here in Oak Lawn and it just seems like (Bury) wants to push them aside just because she feels she doesn’t know how best to serve their needs,” Quinlan said “Are all of the village services going to be outsourced now? It’s beginning to feel like that is the plan of our new mayor and board majority. Maybe they need to spend a little more time learning about how things operate in the village before they start making so many drastic changes.”

 

Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Area ‘Super Scofflaws’ being called out by Illinois Tollway

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeff Vorva's 

COLOR - Jeff  The Gov is showing no love to a group of alleged outlaws known as the Super Scofflaws.
  Governor Pat Quinn is kicking tailpipes and naming names when it comes those folks who owe $1,000 or more in unpaid tolls. Some companies from our area are listed in the first printed flogging, courtesy of the Illinois Tollway website, which was unveiled last week.
  Overall, Landa Transport Inc. of Frankfort is ranked No. 1 as the state claims it owes $214,859.10. According to a listing on the honorable truckdriving.com website and confirmed by another site, as of November, Landa had just two trucks and two drivers and, presumably, no IPass gizmos for the dashboard.
  There seem to be underdogs on every list and this one is no exception. Steve’s Underdog Trucking of Hinckley is second at $192,742.20. Another group of jokers that made the top 10 is the Joker Limited Group of LaGrange, who is accused of $78,423.40 worth of tollway thievery.
  As an aside, I love how the whistleblowers add every penny onto these figures and don’t feel the need to round the figures off.
  Anyway, the Reporter and Regional News coverage area is not represented in the top 10 so we should all puff our chests out in pride.
  But — uh, oh, — checking in at No. 11 is Excel Waterproofing, a group that has been around in 1977, according to a profile on Manta.com. UShip.com says it has six trucks and seven drivers. They owe $77,287.15.
  It takes a little scrolling to get to the next area scofflaw.
  The wholesome-sounding Senior Health and Welfare Consultants of Palos Hills is into the state for $9,848.80 checks in at No. 76. AMS Building Alteration of Oak Lawn is at No. 85 with $8,211.65. Oak Lawn’s Pro Car Care is listed at 99th with $5,742.30.
  Coast To Coast Casino Promotions of Oak Lawn is at 121st with $3,681.90, followed closely behind at 122nd by All Points Home Health Care of Palos Hills.
  OK, Regional News readers, I haven’t forgotten you.
  Orland Park’s All Season Landscape LLC is listed at 132nd with $2,178.90.
  Then there is Jaz Trucking of Hickory Hills at 144th with $1,715.00 and last on the area list is Orland Park’s United American Transport Inc. at 155th with $1,034.00.
  There probably are more important things for Quinn and Co. to spend their time on, but when you start adding up these missed tolls, we’re talking $3.7 million. And those of us who begrudgingly but honestly pay for our tolls should be a little ticked.
  “Tolls are a significant source of revenue for maintaining and improving our region’s transportation system, and our Board understands that every dollar counts,” said Tollway Board Chair Paula Wolff in a news release. “I want to thank members of the General Assembly and the Governor for their support of this initiative, which reinforces the Tollway’s zero-tolerance policy against toll scofflaws.”
  Illinois Tollway officials say they have contacted each of these violators at least nine times and offered them multiple opportunities to enter into a settlement agreement, including the option to use a payment plan to settle their debts.
  “The tollway is committed to using every option available to us to try to collect millions of dollars in unpaid tolls and fines from delinquent drivers,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur. “Anything less would be unfair to the 98 percent of Tollway customers who pay their tolls on time.”
  “If seeing your company’s name on this list becomes an incentive for you to pick up the phone and call us to settle your debt, then we’ve achieved our goal.”
  The list will be updated quarterly and let’s see if we can get our area companies off of it come winter.
Marist turns 50, by George
  There will be a big crowd expected at the Marist football field next week — one that could actually rival Friday night’s crowd when the Redhawks battle rival Brother Rice.
  The school will celebrate its 50th anniversary at 9 a.m. Monday with a mass on the football field and the special guest will be Francis Cardinal George.
  He won’t be throwing passes to receivers Nic Weischar or Flynn Nagel but he will be on hand to discuss Marist’s value to the South Side and south suburban communities.

 

The big 1-0-0

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 

Chicago Ridge makes plans for milestone3-col-page-3-chic-ridgeChicago Ridge will celebrate 100 years with a host of events in 2014. Photo by Jeff Vorva
 Chicago Ridge will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2014 and village officials are planning a variety of festivities to commemorate the event.

  Mayor Chuck Tokar at Tuesday’s village board meeting named 14 people to a committee to organize the celebration, which will begin in January.
  Committee members include Trustee Sally Durkin, Village Clerk George Schleyer, Chicago Ridge Park District Director Kevin King and Commissioner Rob Pratl and School District 127.5 board member Cindy Koschetz.
  Ed Maurer Jr., who helped write a book to commemorate the village’s centennial, and Rita McQuaid, a member of the village’s zoning board of appeals, also will serve on the committee.
  Tokar said he plans to name an additional six people to the committee, which will be divided into subcommittees that will plan various aspects of the centennial celebration.
  The village was incorporated on Oct. 14, 1914.
  Preliminary plans call for a centennial ball dinner dance, a parade co-sponsored with Worth, a weekend festival, a fire hydrant painting contest, the release of the history book and a community cookbook. The celebration also will feature an 8th grade essay contest and a historical bus tour that will include locations in Worth.
  The village also will open a time capsule buried 25 years ago at the old village hall and bury a new one, Tokar said.
  “There’s just all sorts of things we could do,” Tokar said.
  Tokar said he envisions a community festival that reflects games and recreation popular a century ago, such as an old-time photo booth; watermelon, hot dog and pie-eating contests; horseshoe pitching and children’s games played in early 1900s.
  The village also plans to design an anniversary banner to display on light poles and will hang bunting on village buildings, the train station and the gazebo.

Parking woes
  In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the board voiced concerns about a lack of parking for proposed restaurant and bar at 102nd Street and Ridgeland Avenue.
  The Crossing Bar and Grill plans to open at 10236 S. Ridgeland Ave., previously Bearhawks Sports Bar and Grill. The bar is located in a strip mall adjacent to Gen Hoe Chinese Restaurant and parking is limited.
  Trustee John Lind said he was most concerned about customers parking in the residential neighborhood adjacent to the bar.
  “If you’re successful, that’s a problem for us. We’re going to have a room full of people in here if you’re successful,” Lind told bar owners. “It’s really, really going to be a big issue. I’m really conflicted.”
  Trustees delayed granting a business license for the establishment until the owners find out if they can use a commuter parking lot adjacent to the strip mall that is used by Penny Lane School during the day.
  Durkin said she opposed parking on the other side of Ridgeland Avenue because she did not want patrons crossing a busy street after leaving the bar.

Scrapping Pro Metal
license bid
  Trustees also opposed a business license for Pro Metal Recycling, 9999 Virginia Ave.
  Tokar said pictures of the company’s facility in Bedford Park show scrap metal stored throughout the outside yard.
  “I’m really surprised someone from Bedford Park has not talked you about that,” Tokar said.
  Durkin added that she was concerned about the additional traffic the scrap yard would attract to an already-busy industrial park.
  Additionally, the proposed location for the scrap yard is adjacent to property owned by Mike Roche Jr., who village officials have worked with for several months to eliminate code violations and clean the property.
  In a related matter, Lind said the village must take steps to improve landscaping at the fire house, 10063 S. Virginia Ave.
  “It’s horrible,” Lind said. “I think the building is a beautiful building.”

  He said landscaping is not the fire department’s responsibility and added that it reflects poorly on the village, especially when it is cracking down on other business owners to maintain their property.