Oak Lawn trustee questions village manager’s motives

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

When the Oak Lawn Village Board was asked to approve a motion authorizing the village attorney to file paperwork necessary to recoup costs relating to a lawsuit filed by a former employee, Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) took issue with the public nature of it.

The incident involves the lawsuit filed by Chad Weiler against Village Manager Larry Deetjen and the village after his job as head of business operations was eliminated along with the department in 2013.

Streit and former 5th District Trustee Carole Quinlan had voted against the elimination, calling it political retribution because Weiler had supported former Mayor Dave Heilmann. In addition to citing political recrimination, Weiler had also accused Deetjen of firing him because he complained about racially charged remarks.

But on Jan. 14, 2015, the Illinois Department of Human Rights dismissed former Weiler's complaint against the village.

Attorney Patrick Connelly noted that the funds in question were not legal fees, but rather transcript and copying fees that he estimated could amount to between $6,000 and $7,500.

Streit, who has been a trustee since 1991, said he would not stand in the way of the village recouping money it was entitled to, but he questioned the practice of “planting routine legal matters on the agenda.”

The trustee accused Deetjen of doing it “for show.”

“In all my time serving on this bar, I do not recall one time that this board was ever asked to do this. This is a public show of vindictiveness against a former employee, a village resident,” said Streit.

“That was not what it was about,” said Trustee Mike Carberry (6th), urging Deetjen to address the issue.

“There is no intent to be vindictive. It is the taxpayers’ money,” said Deetjen. “The only show that was put on was done by a former employee.”

At the time Weiler’s job was eliminated, Deetjen said it was just a cost-cutting measure that saved the village $101,000 annually.

In other business, the board also approved a resolution authorizing a settlement agreement with Andrew Carroll, a former police officer who recently retired after being on desk duty due for some time.

The board also approved the hiring of a new police officer off the eligibility list to replace Carroll.

Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th) pointed out that the village will now have 109 officers on the force, up from 104 when he retired from the department in 2002.

“We’re making efforts to keep the community safe and the statistics show it is working,” he added.

Hickory Hills Council is in agreement on increased water rates

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins



The question of water rates was settled in Hickory Hills at the Jan. 28 council meeting with a unanimous approval of an ordinance affecting water rates, delinquent charges and turn-on fees.

Approval of the ordinance established a rate consisting of a basic user charge, water rate, minimum billing amount and a minimum charge for the use of water supplied by the City of Hickory Hills.

What this means to residents is that effective this past Monday, the basic user charge is $5.25 per month, increased from $4.80, regardless of whether any water is being used. The rate for water used shall be $7.80 per 1,000 gallons, increased from $7.26.

The ordinance also established a minimum charge for commercial users at $39 per monthly billing, and a $93.60 minimum per quarterly billing for residential users.

However, any single family residential user who qualifies as a senior citizen ages 65 years or older shall not be subject to the minimum billing amount and minimum charges.

Also outlined in the ordinance were new consequences for late pays on water bills. If a bill is not paid within 30 days, the city clerk will send a notice of delinquency by mail. The notice will state that if the delinquent bill is not paid within 10 days from the date of the notice, the water services will be turned off. The service will not resume until all water bills, including delinquencies, have been paid.

In order to restore services, there will be a $50 turn-on fee. If the city is required to restore water service more than one time in a 24-month period, the turn-on fee will be increased by $25. The fee will increase by $25 with each additional turn-on required.

Other action by the council resulted in good news for residents. The council voted unanimously to not add a $2.50 surcharge fee to the water rates that had been proposed by Treasurer Dan Schramm at the Jan. 14 council meeting. The surcharge proposal was to prepare for costs which would be imposed to satisfy mandates from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District regarding replacement of lateral lines to residential homes.

Public Works Director Larry Boettcher explained that he thought it was too early to try to plan for meeting these mandates of MWRD. “They have not yet been very clear on how a municipality is to accomplish these replacements. It is going to happen, but it is a long way down the road.

Aldermen Thomas McAvoy (3rd) and Mike McHugh (1st) agreed, saying there was not enough information yet on the mandates.

Schramm added that he was OK with waiting. “If we don’t have to do it this year, then I am fine with it,” he said.

In other business, the council approved an amendment to an ordinance changing the number of Class E liquor licenses from nine to 10, to include Sonny’s Slots & Café, located at 8841 W. 87th St. The vote to approve was 7-1, with Ald. Joe Stachnik (3rd) opposed.

In later comments, Stachnik said he voted against the ordinance as a protest to the name of the café.

“I would like the council to consider that a requirement be included in liquor licenses that the name of the business reflect a more residential atmosphere. We need to be conscious of the image we are projecting in the city,” he said.

Other approvals included the purchase of an Elgin Street Sweeper at a cost of $230,000 and final payments to a Gallagher Asphalt project, at $17,121, and $4,083 to AC Pavement Striping Company.

New Chicago Ridge ordinance enforces rental and property standards

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly



A new ordinance enforcing residential rental inspections and property maintenance in Chicago Ridge is aimed at ensuring that all residences being rented in the village meet health and safety standards.

The village board on Tuesday approved the ordinance, which had been under discussion for several months. The board agreed that the legislation was needed to address complaints of illegal conversions, and rental properties being poorly maintained, inside and out.

Now, anyone planning to rent a house, apartment or condo must allow the village to inspect their property annually.

“We really did need this,” said Trustee William McFarland afterward, explaining that in his role as a firefighter prior to being elected he saw a lot of properties that did not meet safety codes.

“We would see kitchens divided into separate rooms, that people were living in,” he said.

“It will also address the problem of parking,” McFarland said. “When you have several families living in a single-family house, and everyone has cars, it causes congestion. It’s really going to clean up the village.”

McFarland said that the inspection fee will be $200 for a single-family house, and $75 per apartment or condo.

If code violations are found, they must be fixed within 30 days. If things are still out of order when an inspector returns, fines for first offenses will be $100. Fines for repeat violations will go up to $300, and will keep adding up.

“We need to have an incentive for the property owners to take care of the problems,” said Trustee Jack Lind.

Mayor Chuck Tokar added that property owners continually in arrears on fines refuse to pay them may also have their rental licenses revoked, after a hearing.

Also at the meeting, the board voted to hire two part-time licensing officers to handle the inspections and licensing of rental properties. They will work 15-20 hours per week, at $13 an hour.

In other business, the trustees also approved the hiring of attorney Kevin Camden as legislative counsel, a newly created position. The vote was 5-1, with only Lind voting against it.

Trustee Fran Coglianese said that Camden’s role will be as a consultant, serving as a second opinion for trustees in cases where they disagree with the advice of village attorney Burt Odelson. So he will only be paid on a case by case basis, and won’t be at most village board meetings.

She said the decision was made to hire him after trustees interviewed about five candidates.

“He has experience as a legislative counsel, doing the type of work we need him for,” Coglianese said.

The board agreed to hire a legislative counsel last month, at the same meeting that four trustees voted against Tokar’s appointment of Odelson as village attorney.

Although the village attorney role is a mayoral appointment, Trustee Bruce Quintos maintained that the mayor should have sought the advice of trustees before officially appointing Odelson. He had been serving as acting village attorney since last spring, when George Witous retired.

Quintos said Camden’s hourly fee is $170, compared to $175 for Odelson.

But Lind said he voted against the legislative counsel, in part because of the added cost.

“Also, I’ve never worked under a system like this. I see no need for it,” he said.

Races thin out as early voting begins today

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Early voting starts today, Thursday, for the Illinois primary election on March 15, but there are a few less candidates to choose from due to successful ballot challenges.

Aside from the presidential election, which understandably generates the most interest, one of the most-watched local races might be for the seat in the 1st Congressional District, which incumbent Cong. Bobby Rush (D-1st) has held since in 1993. Three opponents registered to run against him in his bid for a 12th term in Congress, but Harold Bailey did not survive a challenge to his nominating petitions so he was removed.

Rush, who survived two objections himself, will face O. Patrick Brutus and Howard Brookins Jr., the current 21st Ward alderman in Chicago.

In November, the winning Democrat will face either August (O’Neill) Deuser or Jimmy Lee Tillman II, who are running against each other in the Republican primary.

In the 3rd Congressional District, incumbent Cong. Dan Lipinski is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. And Lyons resident Arthur Jones, the only candidate to register for the Republican primary, was knocked off the ballot following a challenge. So it will be smooth sailing for Lipinski, who is seeking his seventh term in Congress unless someone is appointed to run against him.

According to the state Board of Elections, Jones, an insurance agent with past ties to white supremacist groups, was removed because the signatures on nominating petitions he submitted were ruled invalid.

This year, the Cook County races may provide some excitement, especially because of the opposition to incumbent State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez stemming from the controversy involving police shootings in Chicago.

She is being challenged by Kim Fox and Donna More in the Democratic primary, while Christopher EK Pfannkuche is running unopposed as a Republican.

Dorothy Brown, the incumbent Cook County Clerk, is running without the Democratic Party’s endorsement in the primary. She is opposed by Jacob Meister, Shirley T. Coleman, Tio Hardiman and Michelle Harris, who was endorsed.

Diane S. Shapiro is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

In the recorder of deeds race, incumbent Karen Yarbrough is running against Jan Kowalski in the Democratic primary. No one is running in the Republican primary for that office.

The only statewide Illinois race this year is for state comptroller, to complete the term of Judy Baar Topinka. After she died of a stroke last December, one month after being elected to her second term in office. Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed Leslie Geissler Munger to fill the position until the election.

Munger, who is running unopposed in the Republican primary to retain the seat, will likely face off in the Nov. 8 general election against Susana Mendoza, currently the Chicago city clerk, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Most of the local Democratic state senators and representatives are running unopposed in the primary, and many will be unopposed again in November because no Republicans have thrown their hats in the ring.

These include incumbent state Sen. Jacqueline “Jacqui” Collins (D-16th), whose Chicago-based district extends into Oak Lawn. Also, incumbent state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th), of Evergreen Park, is running unopposed in the primary, and no Republicans have entered the race. The same can be said for state Reps. Robert “Bob” Rita (D-28th) and Andre Thapedi (D-32nd), whose district includes Hickory Hills.

In the 19th Senate District, which includes part of Orland Park and numerous other southwestern suburbs, incumbent Democrat Michael E. Hastings is seeking a second term. He is being challenged in the primary by McStephen “Max” Solomon, an attorney from Hazel Crest. They both survived challenges and remain on the ballot, without any Republican opposition.

Hastings, an Army veteran, is the former vice president of High School District 230.

State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-31st), whose district includes Oak Lawn, is also unopposed, as she often is, following the recent withdrawal of her Democratic opponent, Michael Crawford, of Chicago’s Wrightwood neighborhood.

Likewise, Justin Q. Slaughter withdrew from the 27th District race, so incumbent state Rep. Monique Davis (D-27th) is unopposed. But no Republican candidates have filed for either race.

State Rep. Frances Hurley (D-35th), faces no opposition in the primary, but in November, she will go up against Victor Horne, the only candidate running in the Republican primary.


Appoint new general manager of Water’s Edge Golf Course

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins



A new general manager for the Water’s Edge Golf Course in Worth was introduced at the Tuesday night village board meeting

Trustee Ted Muersch Jr., the board’s liaison to the golf course, introduced Dean Gabey as the new general manager. Gabey is filling the position previously held by Kevin Fitzgerald, who served for two years at the club and recently moved on to another golf club.

“I am looking forward to working with Dean. He has a lot of energy and has already come forward with a lot of new ideas. He has a sales and marketing background which will be really helpful in promoting Water’s Edge,” said Muersch.

Additionally, Gabey is familiar with Water’s Edge, as he had stepped in occasionally during the last year to assist Fitzgerald, who he has been friends with for many years.

Gabey, 48, was most recently employed at the Lost Marsh Golf Course in Hammond, Ind., where he held the position of head golf professional for nearly five years.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Gabey has 28 years of experience in the golf industry.

“I feel like this is a really good fit for me,” said Gabey. “The Village of Worth is a carbon copy of where I grew up. It is a small town-type community, with a mix of blue-collar and white collar workers, an atmosphere I know very well. I see a great potential here for Water’s Edge and I look forward to a long career here.”

Muersch also announced a number of February events at the golf facility including a Super Bowl Party from 3:30 to 10 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7.

Fish fry dinners will also be held from 4 to 8 p.m. beginning on Friday, Feb. 12 and continuing through March 5.

In other business, Village Clerk Bonnie Price announced that IDOT will hold an open house meeting today (Thursday, Feb. 4) at the Village Hall to present information on the planned widening of 111th Street from Harlem Avenue to Southwest Highway. The public is invited.

Trustee Colleen McElroy also announced that Farr and Associates will make a presentation on their preliminary planning for the Transit Oriented Development Project at the Feb. 16 board meeting. The presentation will be based on results of the open house conducted by Farr and Associates last fall where they gathered information from the board of trustees and Worth residents.