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Oak Lawn Board ends long-term commitment to Jack's Towing

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

The owner of a towing company that lost its long-term contract with the village of Oak Lawn last week, after getting a reprieve last month, was succinct in his reply when asked on Monday to comment on the situation.

“I ain’t going to comment on any of this stupidness. Have a good day,” said Ron Queenan, owner of Jack’s Towing, before abruptly hanging up.

Jack’s, which was owned by Queenan’s brother, Michael, until a few weeks ago, has been towing cars off Oak Lawn streets for close to 18 years. Its most recent contract, for 15 years, ended last October. Because the business had no outside contracts other than now it is expected to close.

Village Manager Larry Deetjen asked at the March 22 village board meeting for approval to award the next contract jointly to TechniCraft in Justice and Walsh Towing in Chicago Ridge. He pointed out that Jack’s was operating out of a village-owned site, and had not paid rent or utilities for the length of the 15-year contract. Since the contract ended, it has leased the property on the northeastern edge of the village on a month-to-month basis.

But trustees Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Bob Streit (3rd) objected to taking the contract away from a local company that had no complaints against it. When Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) joined them, saying more information was needed, Mayor Sandra Bury broke the tie, casting her own no vote.

At that time, she said she voted no because there were questions left unanswered.

Jack’s employees went away happy that night, but when Desmond raised the issue again at the April 12 meeting, only Olejniczak and Streit voting against it, the company effectively lost its only contract, and likely the entire business.

However, Desmond and others said the decision should have been left to Deetjen and the Police Department, since the contract does not cost village taxpayers anything. It simply gives the company the right to tow vehicles whenever necessary in the village, and collect the fees.

Desmond also contended that allowing Jack’s to operate on village property without paying rent or utilities for so long could have cost the village as much as $1 million in revenue. But Olejniczak said the land was not worth much before Jack’s moved in and improved it.

Deetjen has said the decision not to offer Jack’s a new contract was just a business decision, and was not a reflection on company performance. He said the board had approved his plan to eventually sell the land that Jack’s is located on, and the company had been warned that a change may be coming.

Ed Forsythe, a longtime driver of Jack’s Towing, said the second vote on the contract had come as a surprise, and would mean the four or five people working for the company, all village residents, would be out of jobs.

Bury said Tuesday that she had nothing to add to the discussion after the second vote was made.

The exact timeframe for when the new companies will be signing a new contract and taking over towing duties was not available earlier this week.

Forsythe, who said after the second vote was taken that it was now just a matter of “waiting for the call” that the job was over. He suggested that having a company based in Justice in charge of towing cars in Oak Lawn could actually cost the village time and money because it will take longer for trucks to come and remove cars, causing police officers to remain on the scene longer than usual.

Worth Board approves a no parking zone along Depot Street

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

The Worth Board of Trustees adopted an ordinance to amend the village’s municipal code to establish a no parking zone on Depot Street between 107th Street and Southwest Highway during the board meeting on Tuesday night.

The no parking signs will be posted on the street within the next couple of weeks.  

The action is a result of residential complaints about tenants of a condominium/apartment complex on Depot Street who are parking on the street instead of the parking lot of the complex. Residents of Depot Street approached the board last month complaining about the vehicles parked on both sides of Depot, which they said presents a safety hazard to the neighborhood and an inconvenience to the single-family residences on the street.

Worth Mayor Mary Werner first suggested reaching out to the owners of the condo complex to advise them of the complaints. Trustee Pete Kats stated that he felt the village should take action on the situation as soon as possible. However, Village Attorney Greg Jones advised that the ordinance would have to be amended.

Werner reported that the condo owners had not responded to the village’s efforts to notify them of the situation. As a result, the ordinance was presented for approval at the Tuesday meeting.

“The condo residents have been warned not to park on the street, so they should not be surprised when the signs go up,” said Werner.

Also approved was an agreement between the village and ComEd, regarding the replacement of all street lights in the village with Smart-Ready LED Street Lighting. Werner said the agreement will result in huge savings for the village on its electricity costs.

On another matter regarding street lights, the board voted to authorize Werner to approve an agreement with ComEd to install a street light at 10907 S. Nashville. Werner said that Nashville dead-ends at that location and the area is very dark. She said that near-by residents had requested a light be installed there last September, but the project had been delayed due to the red-tape involved in the process.

On other matters, Werner stated that the Saturday Clean-up Day at the Lucas-Berg Site was a huge success.

“We had the nicest weather we have had in the last 10years and at least a dozen of the participants were residents who had never been there before,” she said.

Trustee Tedd Muersch Jr. also reported that the Water’s Edge Golf Club is doing very well.

“We had more than 400 golfers this past week-end, and the Mother’s Day Brunch scheduled for Sunday, May 8, is completely sold out. We are putting names on a waiting list,” he said.

He added that the course is looking really good due to the recent clearing of trees and removal of brush.

“I am really encouraged by the progress we are making to keep the course looking good and the improvements going on in the club house and golf shop,” he said.

Muersch credited new General Manager Dean Gabey with the growing success of the Golf Club. “He is doing a really great job.”

He added that Gabey, who is a former golf instructor, will be offering free golf lessons on Wednesday evenings, beginning in May.

Worth residents will soon have two new dining establishments to enjoy and a retail store to help them look their best while dining out. The village board approved business licenses for two restaurants and one beauty supply store at the Tuesday meeting.

Upon the recommendation of the village’s Economic Development Committee, approval was given to Sal’s Famous Cheese Steak Inc., 11306 S. Harlem Ave., and The Crossing, 111 Bar and Grill Inc., d/b/a The Crossing Bar and Grill, at 6959 W. 111th St.

Also approved was Charmed Brows, Inc., at 11407 S. Harlem. According to the business owner, Ruwaida Mohammad, the store will open initially as a beauty supply store but will eventually offer customer services such as brow threading.

Evergreen Park mayor praises work of village clerk

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton had nothing but words of praise for Village Clerk Catherine Aparo at the Monday village board meeting.

Proclaiming the week of May 1-7 as “Municipal Clerks Week” Sexton said, “For the 16 years I have served as mayor, I have had the honor of sitting next to the best Municipal Clerk in Illinois, if not the nation.”

Sexton’s comments were not just idle words as Aparo was named a Master Municipal Clerk in the International Clerk’s Association two years ago. She is a member of the Southwest Municipal Clerk’s Association and is one of only 43 clerks in Illinois to achieve the Master Clerk designation.

Later, Aparo said the achievement is a long process.

“It took me almost 12 years to complete all the requirements. There were a couple of times I thought about giving up, but I kept going, and I am glad I did,” she said.

She explained that the requirements include many hours of seminars, classes and meetings. “It is done in steps; first you are a registered clerk, then certified and finally you reach the highest level, which is the rank of Master Clerk. It is a title you hold for life.”

“The clerks do all the work in municipalities, but get none of the credit,” added Sexton. “I am very happy to announce this proclamation.”

A second proclamation announced that Friday, April 29 as “Arbor Day in the Village of Evergreen Park.”

In conjunction with the proclaimed Arbor Day, the village’s Public Works Department, under the direction of Gavin Yeaman, hosted its fifth annual Arbor Day contest, which was open to all K-8 students from schools within the boundaries of the village. One hundred entries were received. The top three winners in each category were honored at the board meeting.

This year’s theme was “Trees are important to our health and happiness.” Students were asked to produce an essay or poster reflecting the theme.

In the Poster category, Meydlin Rodriguez, a fifth-grader at Southeast School, captured first place. Louise Brady, a second-grader at Northwest School, placed second. Sarah Schroll, a sixth-grader at Most Holy Redeemer School, came in third place.

First place in the Essay category went to Sarah Beyer, a fifth-grader at Southeast School. Marion Isaac, a seventh grade student at Central Middle School, placed second. Samantha Ricks, a fourth grade student at Southeast, placed third.

“In addition to their other prizes, the first place winners have also earned a tree for their school,” said Yeaman. “We will be planting a tree at Southeast School on Arbor Day, Friday, April 29.

In other action, the board approved an ordinance to the village’s municipal code, which will prevent individual poles being erected in the public right-of-ways for the purpose of personal wireless telecommunications services and facilities.

Also approved was a resolution approving a grant application for the 2016 Cook County Community Development Block Grant Program, in the amount of $390,000. If received, the funds would be used for sewer linings.

The board also approved an application from Brendan Rosner to participate in the Evergreen Park Police Department’s College Student Internship Program. Rosner is a student at Loras University in Dubuque, Iowa.

Upgrade of Parkview Apartments in Hickory Hills continues on right path

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

The Hickory Hills City Council provided a positive update on the condition of the Parkview Apartments during a brief meeting last Thursday night.

Mayor Mike Howley was absent from the council session because he was attending the confirmation of his son. Ald. Scott Zimmerman served as the mayor pro-tem.

Ald. Michael McHugh said that new pipes are being installed in the buildings at the complex, 7800 W. 89th Place. The buildings, which now houses seniors since the city bought the property over 20 years ago, has undergone a number of repairs to modernize the facility.

The Parkview Apartments had sustained some damages over the years. Water damage from leaking pipes deemed it necessary that repairs were needed after this winter. McHugh said that problem is being addressed. New wiring was needed in some of the apartments, said McHugh.

“It has been pretty much overdue (for repairs),” said McHugh. “We are going to do it the right way. I think this is going to be a good investment.”

Upgrades at the Parkview Apartments have occurred over the years, including a new roof for one complex and a balcony for another.

“It really looks nice now,” said Dee Catizone, the city clerk. “The buildings are right next to the Community Center where the seniors don’t have to go far to take part in activities.”

Mike Spolar, the city engineer, discussed the weekly refuse and recycling for the city with Waste Management. The current recycle offset rate was $22.40 with the senior rate at $21.40. That was slightly above the rates for the contract year of June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015, in which the unit rate was $21.75 and $20.75 for seniors.

The new rate, which was approved by the board, will be at $23.07 and $22.07 for seniors from June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2017, said Spolar.

Waste Management will provide residents with 96- or 64-gallon refuse carts. Weekly collection of refuse will be placed in carts, bags or 32-gallon containers. Residents have the option of renting or purchasing additional refuse carts from Waste Management.

A check for the amount of $7,500 will be given to Hickory Hills annually in support of community programs each contract year.

The city also approved two business licenses during the meeting. G & K Baking Butercrumb Bakery will open a wholesale bakery at 7731 W. 98th St. in the city’s industrial section. The warehouse will supply bakery for other businesses. The business is owned by Kathleen Meyer and Gina Errico.

Chill and Grill, 9348 S. Roberts Road, will also be open for business. Owners Nada Abed and Ghandi Dini will be serving ice cream and fast food.

Rep. Flowers rips Rauner over flap with Madigan

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

Gov. Rauner fired off yet another round of complaints at House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd), blaming him for the budget stalemate that is now in its 10th month.

However, one local legislator is tired of hearing the governor targeting Madigan as the main culprit behind the budget impasse.

“The governor's voice is lurking in the newspapers and on TV,” said state Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st), whose district includes Oak Lawn. “He complains about the Democrats and the Speaker instead of negotiating.

“If the governor keeps moving the goal posts, we can't get anything done,” added Flowers. “The governor is trying to destroy education. How are we supposed to get along? How are we supposed to work together? This is not a dictatorship.”

Legislators went back to work last week where some bills were initiated. During the recess, Rauner said that Madigan has not contacted him or attempted to offer any proposals to end the budget stalemate. Following Rauner’s criticisms of Madigan, Senate Democrats introduced a school funding bill on April 6 that would redistribute funds from wealthier districts to poorer communities. The measure would take place over four years.

Rauner has not ruled against the most recent measure that was introduced by state Sen Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill). The governor said that the state’s current funding relies too much on local property taxes to fund schools. He said that state money should be provided evenly for lower-income districts and rural areas.

Manar’s plan is supposed to cost about $600 million. During the first year, $400 million will be provided to make sure that school districts don’t lose money. Manar’s bill would offer $200 million for the state to pay Chicago teacher pensions.

The bill is actually an amendment to Senate Bill 231. The language is based on a bipartisan report two years ago. While Rauner has not ruled against Manar’s bill, the $3.8 billion funding bill passed by Senate Democrats last month has not persuaded the governor. Republicans were also not in agreement. Democrats used their majority to pass the bill by a 39-18 margin. The vote had already cleared the House.

The proposal would allow for about $1.9 billion to colleges and universities that have not received funding since this budget lockdown started. Before the vote, Republicans called the bill irrelevant because it provides no funding to be put in the bill.

State Senate Republicans are calling on Democrats to support the governor’s proposal to fund elementary and secondary education. Senate Leader Christine Radogno (R-41st) said Rauner’s proposed increase of $55 million will meet the recommended per-student spending of just over $6,000 annually. The unveiled $1.3 billion budget spending plan introduced on April 7 would provide services and other programs to those who have struggled during this budget deadlock, according to Radogno.

But Radogno said the reforms would affect the retirement funds for teachers at local high school districts and public universities. Rauner’s plan would cease salary hikes for school officials who are near retirement. Pension costs of employees making more than $180,000 to a local school district would be deferred. Radogno said that the extra cost would have to be picked up by the universities.

Radogno discussed the budget impasse during a speech recently to the City Club of Chicago. A budget without the governor’s agenda, a budget passed only by Democrats, or no budget at all is not acceptable, according to Radogno. But she added that Democrats have to get on board.

“The only out for Illinois is option four, and that is real engagement from the Democrats, even though that means the status quo is going to change,” Radogno said.

While some Democratic and Republican legislators have been talking, Flowers said that the governor’s insistence on all aspects of this “turnaround agenda” bring negotiations to a halt.

“If we ever do get together, Rauner is going to protect his friends,” said Flowers. “Until everybody truly has some skin in the game, nothing is going to happen.”

Flowers said instead the governor, with the assistance of Democrats and Republicans, should be providing more jobs and coming up with innovative ways to provide health care for residents of all ages. The local legislator said it is time for the governor to get serious in negotiations.

“The vast majority of my political life I have worked for Republican governors,” said Flowers, who was elected in 1984 and began serving in 1985. “This governor has no institutional history. He is going by sound bites. Let’s move forward, governor. I’m going to stay the course. When the governor wants to talk to us, we will listen.”