Union to battle Oak Lawn over 911 dispatcher decision

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The union that represents Oak Lawn’s emergency dispatchers has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the village following the board’s controversial decision to privatize the service.

  Ron Cicinelli, an attorney for the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, the union the represents the dispatchers, filed the grievance Monday with the Illinois Labor Relations Board. It states that the village has no right to terminate the dispatchers because they have an existing contract with the village.
  If the board rules in favor of the union, it would issue a complaint and go before the attorney general to get an injunction, Cicinelli said.
  The village could resume contract negotiations with the dispatchers or proceed with outsourcing plans. The latter option would require the village to honor the terms of the current contract, including salary, benefits and pension, Cicinelli said.
  The union’s contract does not expire until December 2014.
  “We told them at the (village) board meeting that we were going to do it,” Cicinelli said. “I was hoping (the village) would honor the existing contract. We have a contract. They have to honor it.”
  Cicinelli said the village has not meet with village officials since the Nov. 26 board meeting. He said he received on Monday the village’s layoff plan for the dispatchers.
  Village Manager Larry Deetjen would not comment Tuesday on the possibility of the talks resuming between the village and the union.
  The village on Nov. 27 placed emergency operator Lori Gromala on paid administrative leave pending a disciplinary action. Gromala is the subject investigation into behavior disrupting call center operations during her shift, according to a press release. Gromala also received a three-day suspension in 2012 for misconduct, according to the village.
  The village board voted 4-2 to privatize 911 call center dispatch services, a move that could save the village $1 million over two years, Deetjen said.
  Trustees Robert Streit and Carol Quinlan voted against the proposal.
  At that meeting, Cicinelli pleaded with the board to continue negotiations with the union to reach an accord.
  He added that he blames elected officials, not Deetjen, for the decision.
  “I put 100 percent of this on the mayor and her village board,” Cicinelli said. “Larry (Deetjen) is just an agent. All he can do is recommend.”
  Deetjen in August received authority from the village board to negotiate with two national dispatching firms to operate the emergency dispatch center, which handles fire, police and ambulance calls for Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Burbank and Bridgeview.
  The center also handles fire department calls for Bedford Park and a portion of the Central Stickney Fire Protection District.
  Deetjen said the potential move is not a reflection on the performance of the current dispatchers.
  Streit said at last week’s meeting that outsourcing emergency dispatching services was an ill-advised move. He said the village will spend more money defending a lawsuit that ultimately will be filed by the union than it will save via outsourcing.
  Norcomm Public Safety Communications will assume dispatching services for the village and the other communities it serves. Oak Lawn dispatchers will have the opportunity to apply for their old jobs.
  The Metropolitan Alliance of Police in late 2012 approved a contract with the village after a lengthy negotiation, Cicinelli said. The union was hopeful it could extend the contract through at least 2016, he said.
  One month after the current contract was ratified, the village asked the union to consider cost-saving measures, including deferring the 2.5 percent wage increase included in the contract, regular pay for overtime hours, hiring part-time dispatchers and changing the wage scale for new employees, Cicinelli said.

Doggone it

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Bulldos pic 12-5The Richards Bulldogs’ mascot, left photo, and junior wide receiver Ryan Willett, right photo, show their frustrations during Richards’ 34-14 loss to Batavia Saturday afternoon in the IHSA Class 6A state championship in DeKalb. Photos by Jeff Vorva.

Batavia’s Bulldogs take a chomp out of Richards’ state championship dreams


  A rabid fan base in the house?FRONT-COLOR-3-col-teamDisappointed Richards players accept the Class 6A second-place trophy after Saturday’s 34-14 setback to Batavia. For more details on the game and photos, see pages 3 and 9 and sports. Photo by Jeff Vorva.
  A great, sunny afternoon for football?
  A fired up football team?
  All the pregame ingredients were there for a Richards football team that was four quarters away from winning an Illinois High School Association Class 6A state football championship against a team it beat in the second week of the regular season.
  But it didn’t work out the way Richards wanted it to.
  Batavia’s Bulldogs scored early and often and knocked off the Richards Bulldogs 34-14 Saturday afternoon at Huskie Stadium on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
  Despite the thumping, the Bulldogs from the Oak Lawn school are setting their goals high for 2014.
  Quarterback Hasan Muhammad Rogers, wide receivers Spencer Tears and Ryan Willett, safety/running back Romanta Hill and a host of other underclassmen could be back, making anticipation high for another big run in 2014.
  “This team was special,” Rogers said. “We had hard workers, and we had some phenomenal seniors. Romel Hill was the heart and soul of the team and played with so much passion. He has a little brother [Ramonta] and if we can get that same stuff out of him and me being a senior, we should have enough of experience. We know what it takes to get here.’’
  Richards won back-to-back state titles in Class 4A in 1988 and 1989. The Bulldogs whipped Peoria, 40-6, in 1988 and nipped Morris, 12-6, in overtime in 2009. They finished second in Class 6A in 2001 and were beaten 41-0 by Providence Catholic in the championship game.
  Since then, the Bulldogs qualified for the playoffs 11 of the next 12 years but had not gotten past the third round until this season.
  Batavia won its first football state title. It’s only the second state title in the history of the school. It also won a basketball title in 1912.


WHATIZIT? 11-28-13

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

  Last week’s WHATIZIT was no Page-12-color-double-run-whax-11-28pie in the sky photo. It was more like custard in the sky from the top of the Andy’s Frozen Custard sign in Oak Lawn.
  Those with tasty answers were Evergreen Park’s Vince Vizza and Amanda Callas, Worth’s Theresa and George Rebersky (who offered nighttime photos of the custard and cone), Chicago Ridge’s Dan Higgins, and Trisha Griffin from parts unknown.
  Those who simply guessed an ice cream cone get half credit and get half of their names in the paper, so congratulations to Evergreen Park’s Henr Mysli, Oak Lawn’s Ja Fol, Worth’s Don Hirs and Cele Cam, and Chicago Ridge’s Da Osw.
  We did have one incorrect guess of the moon.
  This week’s photo should make you think of Thanksgiving.
  Send those guesses to by Monday night to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with Whatizit? in the subject line. Give us your name and home town as well. And have a happy Thanksgiving!

Ridge’s Discovery moves to bigger, better store

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Discovery Clothing Co. has Page-12-color-2-col-casualLauren Vorva, Brigid Rakow and Val Artis, daughters of Reporter employees who were invited to try on some clothes, model casual wear from the new Discovery store in Chicago Ridge. Photo by Jeff Vorva.expanded to a new, larger location in the Chicago Ridge Commons that showcases the store’s new boutique-chic design concept.

  The store’s official grand opening will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 7, and the celebration will include several promotions, including a free pair of jeans to the first 100 shoppers 16 and older, gift card giveaways, a raffle for a tablet, a disc jockey and a fashion photographer, who will upload pictures to the store’s Facebook page.
  Cupcakes will be served to the first 200 customers, compliments of Simply Sweet Creations, a new bakery in Oak Lawn owned by Hickory Hills resident Adriana Aranda.
  The new Chicago Ridge location, which replaces a store on 95th Street, gives Discovery the space to offer a wider selection of affordable clothing, shoes and accessories to women and girls. Everything in the store is under $25.
  Shoppers are greeted by a boutique setting complete with bold colors, chandeliers and an easy-to-navigate floor layout. A wide array of the latest fashions are on display, including all the hottest trends from career to casual, accessories and shoes, outerwear and intimate apparel and denim and dresses.
Page-12-color-3-col-tshirtsDiscovery employees Jacqueline Gomez, Efrain Rios and Malaak Smith join Lauren Vorva, Brigid Rakow and Val Artis in showing off some t-shirts at the Discovery store in Chicago Ridge. Photo by Jeff Vorva.  “Since we offer everything such as causal wear, including yoga pants and basics like tanks and tees, dressier items, career wear, jackets and boots to survive the winter, shape wear, lingerie and gifts, it’s easy when a guest comes in and asks ‘what’s new?’ because we literally have new and different merchandise rolling onto our shelves every single day,” said Lisa Arient, an assistant buyer.
  But don’t let the Discovery’s extensive selection overwhelm you. The store’s trained fashionistas are on hand to advise shoppers and assist in coordinating complete ensembles.
  The daughters of three Regional Publishing employees—Lauren Vorva, Brigid Rakow and Val Artis—recently visited the store and worked with the fashionistas to create both a casual and more elegant outfit. The results were more than what the girls expected, as the fashionistas carefully chose clothing that considered their style, personality and individual expression before adding shoes and accessories that completed the look.
  “Our sales associates are trained to assist our guests in finding the best fashion for each individual guest’s needs. We have a true passion for fashion, and we hire sales associates who share that and want to spread that same love to our guests,” said assistant buyer Kim Truschke.
  Discovery’s employees also are excited about the offerings at the Chicago Ridge store, including the shoe room.
  “Who doesn’t want a huge room filled with on-trend shoes, all for under $25? I’ve already bought four new pairs for myself,” said Arient. “With new merchandise put on the shelves every day, Discovery Clothing Co. has a never-ending stream of new, on-trend items.
  Discovery has seven stores in Chicago and an additional 16 locations throughout the suburbs, including Orland Park.

Palos Hills gets charge out of being charged less for electricity

  • Written by Kelly White

  City of Palos Hills officials say they not only provide their residents with one of the lowest property tax rates in the Cook County area but for the past year they have been saving their residents big bucks on their monthly electric bills as well.

  In March 2012, voters in the city of Palos Hills approved a referendum allowing the community to contract with an energy supplier to reduce electricity costs for its residents. Northern Illinois Electrical Collaborative representative, Larry Shover, negotiated electric prices between energy suppliers and received bids from that he then submitted to Mayor Jerry Bennett and the Palos Hills City Council, and upon agreement, the city of Palos Hills chose First Energy Solutions Corporation as their supplier of choice for their municipal aggregation program.
  Residents who participated in the City of Palos Hills Electric Aggregation Savings Program have enjoyed savings on their ComEd bills since the program’s inception in the summer of 2012. Residential and small commercial accounts received a fixed rate of 4.74 cents per kilowatt hour for a two-year term with FirstEnergy. The ComEd rate adjusts monthly for residents who have chosen not to opt into the contract with FirstEnergy, and as of November 2013, ComEd’s rate stood at 6.005 cents per kWh (a 21 percent reduction).
  “Even with the ComEd rates changing and lowering, we are still saving a significant amount of money,” Shover said at last Thursday’s City Council Meeting. “And, the good thing about FirstEnergy is the rates do not change. Our residents are locked into the 4.74 rate until the summer of 2014.”
  In the program’s first 13 months, participating Palos Hills households saved on average, $213 in electric supply costs; a cumulative city-wide savings of almost $1.3 million.
  “The Palos Hills City Council selected a 24-month term with FirstEnergy at what was a very opportune time in the electric market, and prices have since climbed,” Shover said.
  Almost 7,000 Palos Hills residents have chosen to opt in to the electrical aggregation program whereas 220 residents have decided to opt out and stay with ComEd.
  “New residents are not automatically enrolled in the program as they are similar electric aggregation programs in other surrounding towns,” Shover said. “But, all are welcome to join in at any time.”
  These residents must contact FirstEnergy, and give their ComEd account number, service address and specifically request the Palos Hills fixed rate of 4.74 cents. There is no fee to join or to leave the program. Those enrolled with other suppliers should first check with their current supplier to determine if they are subject to any early termination fee before joining FirstEnergy.
  Public Works Commissioner, Dave Weakley, said more than 700 new Palos Hills residents were contacted about joining FirstEnergy over the past couple of months. “The residents that did join the program have reported to be very happy with the savings,” he said.
  City Council members are contemplating the idea of adding a memo to resident’s monthly water bill informing them of the option to switch over to FirstEnergy if they haven’t already or if they are a new resident.
  The ComEd rate is expected to rise in June 2014 from the current 6.005 cents per kWh due to known increased capacity charges, which are included in the ComEd supply rate. Meanwhile, Palos Hills program’s rate will remain fixed at 4.74 through July 2014. Those increased capacity charges will not be passed through to Palos Hills aggregation program participants. At the end of the two-year term, the city may again seek competitive rates to renew the program.
  “We will have a much better picture around March or April for rates,” Shover stated.
  “We are very pleased with our rate and I’ve spoken to residents and they are also very happy with the savings acquired with FirstEnergy,” Bennett said.
  Residents continue to receive one monthly bill generated from ComEd and continue to receive delivery services from ComEd. Any outages are also reported to ComEd.