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Hickory Hills loses one proposed business, gains another

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Action taken at the Hickory Hills Council meeting last Thursday resulted in a “win one, lose one” business situation in the city, with one business opting out and a new one opening up.

Sonny’s Slots & Café was scheduled to open at 8841 W. 87th St., and had submitted a request for a Class E Liquor License, which was approved unanimously at the Jan. 14 council meeting. However, Ald. Joe Stachnik (3rd Ward) was not present at the meeting.

At the Jan. 28 council meeting, an ordinance amendment was approved, increasing the number of liquor licenses from nine to 10, which included the license for Sonny’s Slots & Café. The motion passed with a vote of 7 to 1. Casting the “no” vote was Stachnik.

Later in the Jan. 28 meeting, Stachnik expressed a need for the council to consider that a requirement be included in future business requests requiring that a new business select a name that reflects a more residential atmosphere.

At the March 10 meeting, Mayor Mike Howley cited the reason the ordinance was amended to reduce the number of licenses was because Sonny’s Slots & Café was no longer planning to open the business.

“We don’t want an open liquor license on the records. If we have another business requesting one, we will simply amend the ordinance to add an additional license,” Howley said.

Ald. Brian Waight (2nd Ward), who chairs the Laws and Ordinances committee, stated that Sonny’s owner had not given a reason for withdrawing the planned business.

However, a new business, MNM Signs, will be opening at 8719 W. 95th St., in the Hill Creek Shopping Center. Owned by Martin Orozco, the shop will specialize in signs, decals and promotional items such as pens, mugs and hats.

In other action, the council approved a $200 donation to the Hickory Hills Baseball team and a $100 donation to the Eagles Wing Walk, Run and Roll 5K Walk for Autism, scheduled for Saturday, May 7 at the Elim Christian School.

Also approved was a final payment to Len Cox & Sons Excavating in the amount of $21,630 for their storm sewer improvements at the 83rd Court and 89th Street Intersection.

Village Engineer Mike Spolar said total costs for the project had come in at $349,000, which was less than what the original bid had been.

On other matters, Village Treasurer Daniel Schramm announced that three draft budget meetings have been scheduled for Wednesday, April 27, May 4 and May 11. The meetings will be held at the City Hall at 6:30 p.m.

The council adjourned and went into executive session to discuss police personnel and a police collective bargaining update. No action was announced following the meeting.

Aldermen Brian Fonte and Tom McAvoy were absent from the meeting.

Legislators rip Rauner as House OKs revised bill

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

Two local legislators whose districts include large portions of the southwest suburbs voted to override Gov. Rauner’s veto of a bill to provide funding for Monetary Award Programs, or MAP grants, for college students.

Rauner vetoed a bill on March 2 that would have allowed up to $271 million for community colleges and scholarships for low-income students. While the Senate voted to reject Rauner’s veto, the House came up two votes short. House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd) said he no longer has a supermajority and cannot count on automatically resisting the governor.

However, the House came back last Thursday with a bill that would fund state universities, community colleges and social service programs. The House bill was approved 70-43 and would not only help fund aid for college students, it would provide money for low-income seniors and children who have autism.

“This administration made promises to more than 125,000 students that they would receive the MAP grant,” said state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) regarding Senate Bill 2043. “What we did over a month ago was give the governor the opportunity to keep those promises. But the governor’s veto concerns me. There seems to be no intention to keep those promises and that will only deal irreparable damage to our integrity as a state.”

The House approved two amendments to the bill. One amendment would pay back $454 million that Rauner used from special funds to help pay for public grammar and high school students.

Some Republicans were angry that they were not aware of the revised measure. Rauner referred to the revised bill as just more “phony budgeting.”

Legislators will not arrive back in Springfield until next month, well after the Tuesday primary. The March 3 bill includes $397 million to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission for MAP. Processing the claims for MAP will take at least four weeks.

A spokesperson for Rauner said that the governor will most likely veto the revised bill.

Cunningham, whose district includes portions of Worth, Orland and Palos townships in the southwest suburbs, said the community colleges should not be lost in the shuffle.

“We also have to consider community colleges in this situation,” said Cunningham. “Many of them have approved or will be approving faculty layoffs. These are faculty members that have an impact in the classroom and yet this governor has once again said no to ensuring that the classrooms are properly staffed.”

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), who voted for the Senate override, said that the state has a responsibility to provide motivated students with genuine opportunities in which Illinois reaps the benefits.

“It is infuriatingly unnecessary that in order to improve their prospects and make the most of their talents, many of our state’s young people find they must leave Illinois – if they have the resources to do so,” said Collins, whose district takes in large portions of Oak Lawn. “Too many do not. They live with the disappointment of a dream deferred, and meanwhile, our economic vitality, our quest for equality and our struggle for stronger communities wither on the vine.”

Collins said that the House and Senate have repeatedly voted to release funds for MAP grants. She said that the governor has consistently opposed them despite the pleas of students.

“Already, more than a thousand MAP grant recipients have been forced to stop going to class,” said Collins. “They simply cannot afford to foot the bill while the state fails them.”

The co-sponsor of the revised bill is state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25th), the House majority leader. She said the bill would provide students with the funds they need to complete their education.

Rauner replied in a prepared statement after the House approved the amendments to their bill.

“Instead of considering any one of the real solutions that have bipartisan support to fund MAP grants and higher education, House Democrats passed a plan that isn’t paid for,” stated Rauner, who prefers a bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-5th) that he said would provide $160 million in emergency funds.

Dunkin has been at odds with local Democrats for siding with Rauner on several issues. Madigan and most Democrats support his opponent, Juliana Stratton, in the Tuesday primary. In an unusual move, President Obama publically supports Stratton in the primary.

Two teens die in car crash along Archer Avenue

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge resident Jonathan “Jon” Grabinski, 17, and his friend, Salvatore Melant, 18, of Chicago, were killed early Saturday morning when the SUV went off the road and struck a tree on Archer Avenue near 94th Street, in unincorporated Willow Springs.

According to information provided by the Cook County sheriff’s and medical examiner’s offices, the accident occurred just after 3:30 a.m., when their Ford Explorer lost control and crashed into a tree as they traveled east on Archer Avenue. Both were pronounced dead at the scene about 4:15 a.m.

In a written statement, District 218 Superintendent Ty Harting said, “We are shocked and saddened by this tragic accident and by the passing of Jonathan Grabinski. We will keep Jonathan and his family in our thoughts and prayers and we will offer any support we can to his family, his friends, and to the entire Richards High School community. Whenever we lose a student we lose a part of ourselves as well. Our hearts go out to the Grabinski family during this very difficult time.”

Melant, who went by “Sam,” lived in Chicago’s Scottsdale neighborhood, and was a 2015 graduate of St. Laurence High School in Burbank. He was taking college courses, according to reports. Both teens aspired to become police officers, friends said.

The exact cause of the accident was still under investigation, but officials said the road conditions were icy.

Although there was no school on Monday because of Casimir Pulaski Day, a crisis team was availableat Richards High School, 10601 S. Central Ave., in Oak Lawn.

Harting said that more than 40 people came to the school to speak to the counselors and social workers who were there.

Services for Grabinski were held yesterday, Wednesday, at Curley Funeral Home, 6116 W. 111th St., in Chicago Ridge.

Survivors include his parents, Roger and Karrie Grabinski; brothers, Joshua and Jeffrey; and grandfather, John Grabinski.

Friends and family have set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for expenses. On the website, friends said Grabinski’s nickname was “Smiley,” because his smile “lit up any room he walked into and his laughter was infectious.”

The site may be viewed at https://www.gofundme.com/4ecs9c.

Evergreen Park considers use of cameras for traffic violations

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

The Evergreen Park Board of Trustees approved an ordinance amendment Monday night regarding an automated traffic law enforcement system that could bring photo enforced intersections to the village.

According to Mayor James Sexton, the amendment will allow a designated firm to come in and do a detailed survey on which intersection would be most effective for the installation of cameras to detect traffic light violations through photo enforcement. The amendment did not specify a date for the start of the survey.

Also approved in a 5-1 vote was an ordinance for the purchase of property located at 9604 S. Kedzie Ave. Sexton said the building on the property will be razed, which will be an opportunity for the village to provide additional parking for Chi-Tung, a restaurant located directly north of the property.

Voting against the approval of the sale was Trustee Mark Marzullo. Prior to the vote, he asked the mayor if there were any plans to renovate the existing building on the property and to possibly rent it out. Sexton replied that was not in the plan.

The Board also approved an agreement between the village and the Combined Counties Police Association to extend the current collective bargaining agreement for one year, through April 30, 2017.

Fire Chief Ronald Kleinhouse presented the 2015 Annual Fire Report to the Board for its review. Kleinhouse reported that the number of calls was up from last year and that two died during that time. Joseph McHale died at home from a heart attack, and Daniel Capuano, a parti-time Evergreen Park firefighter, died in the line of duty in December as a member of the Chicago Fire Department. The full report is available on the Village website, www.evergreenpark-ill.com.

In other action, the board approved a request from Police Chief Michael Saunders to purchase eight police vehicles at a cost of $27,076 per vehicle, from the lowest bidder, Currie Motors in Frankfort.

In other business, a number of disbursements were approved, including: the purchase of a flatbed truck for $18,550; a 2016 Backhoe for $87,328, both budgeted items; and $99,000 to Insituform Technologies for Sanitary Sewer Linings, funded 100 percent by Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).

Also approved was $37,182 to Herrera Landscaping, Inc., for landscape maintenance of right-of-ways in the village; a final payment of $23,426 to H & R Johnson for construction of the barn in The Park, 2709 W. 91st St.; and $34,491 to Evergreen Electric for work at the barn.

Other matters included Sexton congratulating resident Anthony Yukich on his 99th birthday. Yukich was honored with coffee and cake served after the board meeting. Sexton said that Yukich was born in 1917, the same year his father was born, and that he respects him as his “political Godfather.” Yukich was a trustee for many years and still attends every board meeting. Yukich Field was named in his honor for the many years he has dedicated to the village.  

Sexton said Yukich will also be honored on his actual birthday, which is March 17, at the Senior Council Luncheon, scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Senior Center.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, Sexton called on Carl McFerren, the Contract Compliance Officer for De Bartolo and Lormax Stern, the developers of the new Evergreen Park Plaza at 95th and Western Avenue.

McFerren reported that the lineup of potential retailers in the new development improves daily and that the names of the stores will be announced in a few weeks, once the contracts are signed.

He added that he is working diligently to meet the terms of the developer’s agreement with the mayor and the board of trustees. He said there will be a minimum of 25 percent of hiring and contracting with local businesses. “It is my hope that we will exceed the 25 percent minimum. Hiring our local businesses and residents will only strengthen our economy,” he said.

In other public comments, the Rev. Joseph Pughsley, of the non-denominational Sacred Mountain International Christian Center, located at 10353 S. King Drive, Chicago, offered his services to the village. “I am here to let you know that our church is here to help the residents of this village in any way we can. We are here to serve,” he said.

Baha Auto Group eyes Palos Hills site

  • Written by By Michael Gilbert

A used car business with locations in Burbank and Chicago has plans to open its next dealership in Palos Hills.

Mayor Gerald Bennett invited Baha Auto Group Inc. general manager Musa Muza to the city’s committee-of-the-whole meeting on March 3 to discuss his plans to turn the long vacant building on 110th Street and Southwest Highway that formerly housed Hames Buick into his newest dealership.

Muza has operated the dealerships in Burbank, 8059 Harlem Ave., and Chicago, 4257 W. North Ave., for the past four years and said coming to Palos Hills is a logical choice.

“I live here and I like it here,” Muza said of Palos Hills. “We’re looking forward to expanding and bringing our experience to Palos Hills. We’re looking forward to bringing business to the city.”

Muza said he intends to close on the 31,000-square foot building within 60 days. Once the sale is complete, he plans to open the dealership “as soon as possible.” A summer opening is likely, he said.

The building – although devoid of a tenant for more than a decade – remains in good shape, Muza said. The property, however, does need some enhancements.

“As far as the inside (of the building), it was really built for a dealership so there isn’t much that we have to do from the inside,” he said. “The outside needs some landscaping and the parking lot needs some work. We will need to add more lights to the parking lot.”  

Ald.Joe Marrotta (4th Ward) had nothing but good things to say about the Baha Auto Group.

“I think your building on Harlem Avenue is very nice,” Marrotta told Muza. “My brother lives over in Bridgeview so I’ve driven by (the Burbank dealership) several times. It’s a real nice property

“I think this will absolutely be a nice addition for Palos Hills.”

Ald. Mike LeBarre (3rd Ward) echoed Marrotta’s sentiments. He complimented Muza for the work he did at the Burbank location after purchasing the property from the former owner.

“I’ve went by the place on Harlem Avenue and Musa has really brought it back to life,” LeBarre said. “You’ve really done a nice job there.”

Bennett said he is pleased a long shuttered building is to be revived.

“We’re obviously excited that you are taking a piece of property that has been sitting there for some time and putting it back in use,” he said. “This will add retail sales tax to the city and that’s what economic development is all about.”

Muza said his car prices start at $10,000 and the minimum sale is around $15,000. He hopes to sell 150 cars per month; a goal he believes is reachable since his sales are roughly 125 cars a month at his Burbank location.

The Palos Hills location would also have a full-service mechanic and body shop, he said. The dealership is to be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The service department’s hours would be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A special use already exists for the property since it was previously a car dealership so no variances are needed, Bennett said. The board is expected to vote on a memorandum of understanding at its next meeting which, if approved, would officially pave the way for the dealership to open in Palos Hills.

The MOU would define the ground rules for the property – making note of the special use on the property and certain restrictions pertaining to the service department, Bennett said.

In other news, city officials voted 8-1 to direct parks and recreation commissioner Kristen Violante to apply to the ComEd Green Region Program in hopes of securing grant money to help fund the installation of pavilion at Pleasure Lake, 10800 S. Roberts Road.

The 50/50 matching grant would be up to $10,000. Palos Hills would then be required to pay any costs in addition to $10,000. The exact cost of the pavilion is unknown, but city officials expect it will be more than $20,000.

Violante said the city will find out by June whether the application has been approved.