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Stopgap budget brings local leaders some relief

  • Written by Joe Boyle


The Illinois legislature finally has a budget after a year. But since the agreement is only for six months, no celebrations were forthcoming.

Local legislators were relieved that a budget was approved at the last hour. They were in agreement that funding for the state education was the key. The budget was approved on June 30 after two days of marathon sessions between Democratic and Republican leaders.

“Illinois has very big problems, and we need bipartisan solutions. I am glad that we were able to come together and agree that investing in primary, secondary and higher education needs to be a top priority,” said state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th). “This is a start to ensuring that we can get Illinois back on the correct fiscal path.”

Cunningham joined a bipartisan group of senators that were able to pass legislation that would raise the investment the state makes in elementary and secondary education by more than $6 million for the southwest suburbs school districts he represents. It would also send stopgap funding to institutions of higher education and human service providers throughout his district, which includes Worth Township.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, who is also the president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, felt that something was going to occur due to the unrelenting pressure on both parties to avoid another budget deadlock

“I think everybody agreed that a budget had to be reached,” said Bennett. “So, as far as funding for education, that was sort of a surprise. It was not only Chicago Public Schools that were in danger of not opening in the fall, it was schools downstate and everywhere else.”

The stopgap budget bill includes $720 million for state operational expenses and will go toward paying off bills at state facilities and agencies. The funding includes $1 billion for universities, community colleges and MAP grants. Nearly $655 million will go to nine universities including Chicago State, Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois. Chicago Public Schools will receive $100 million.

Rauner had set aside his “Turnaround Agenda,” which calls for measures to reduce collective bargaining and lessen the power of unions. The governor is hoping that more Republican victories in November will allow for some of his agenda items to become a reality in the future.

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-16th), whose district includes portions of Oak Lawn, was grateful that at least the compromise budget fully funds kindergarten through 12th grade education for the 2016-17 school year and restores state resources for afterschool and employment programs for at-risk youth:

“With bipartisan support, the General Assembly and the governor have finally reached a compromise that will allow our schools to open in the fall and will route desperately needed state funds to services for society’s most vulnerable – including afterschool and employment programs for youth at risk of falling victim to the cycle of violence in our inner cities,” said Collins.

Both Democrats and Republicans were feeling the heat as yet another budget deadline was about to occur. The agreement was reached on June 30 as Rauner signed budget deals to get state funding operations to move forward. This came after two days of marathon sessions between Democratic and Republican par

BRIA facility set to open soon in Palos Hills

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

bria of palos hills photo 6-30

Photo by Dermot Connolly

The STRIVE Center for Rehabilitation, a short-term rehab facility affiliated with BRIA Health Services of Palos Hills, Rehabilitation,” will host a July 12 grand opening in a brand-new building at 10400 S. Roberts Road in Palos Hills.

 

The STRIVE Center for Rehabilitation, billed as “the future of short-term rehabilitation,” will be opening in a couple of weeks in a brand-new building at 10400 S. Roberts Road in Palos Hills.

The grand opening of the new facility is scheduled from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 12.

The new building, which represents at $20 million investment in the city according to Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, is a 63-bed facility, offering short-term sub-acute rehabilitation. Its “five-star amenities,” as described in marketing materials, include “lavish private suites, and a 9,000 square-foot therapy gym complete with the world’s most advanced aquatic therapy pool and spa.”

STRIVE stands for strength through restoring independence, vitality and energy, and the program is promoted as the “most effective way home after a hospital stay.”

“People could stay here for five days for a hip or knee replacement or up to 100 days if necessary for something else,” said Amy Torres, marketing director for BRIA Health Services of Palos Hills. She said that while there are 63 beds now, it may add more in the future.

In addition to assisting people recovering from hip-replacement and other surgeries, those needing physical and occupational therapy following strokes and paralysis would also be candidates for the center.

Patients will have access to speech and physical therapy, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, psychiatrists and a wide range of other help onsite.

BRIA also operates an existing 133-bed long-term care facility adjacent to the new building at 10424 S. Roberts Road, as well as others around Illinois and one in Wisconsin.

Torres said the two BRIA facilities in Palos Hills will eventually operate independently of each other, although they are being run as one unit for the time being.

“The long-term plan is to rebuild the long-term facility,” said Torres.

More information may be obtained by calling BRIA at (708) 770-5595

MWRD station closed as search for stray dog continues in Worth

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

 

The search for an elusive stray dog has resulted in the temporary closure of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s aeration station known as Harry “Bus” Yourell Waterfall Park at 117th and Harlem in Worth.

The popular park, which has been cordoned off for a month, is adjacent to the Calumet-Sag Channel and Water’s Edge golf course. The walking paths and wide lawns around the central waterfall pool are a big attraction for people, as well as geese, ducks and seagulls attracted to the flowing waters. People often feed them there, despite warnings not to do so.

After a 16-year-old boy reported being bitten by what he described as a coyote there in late April, the village of Worth sent out notices in June water bills informing residents of the incident. The boy said he and a friend left a walking trail, and climbed down the banks of the canal to get closer to a beaver. When they climbed back up, they said a coyote was standing in front of them, and bit the teen, causing a minor wound.

Several area residents questioned why the park was suddenly closed earlier this month. But according to a notice published on the village website at www.villageofworth.com, it will be closed until further notice while a suspect dog is tracked down. The note states that village officials working with Cook County Animal Control have determined that while coyotes are longtime residents of the area, the problem animal was likely a mixed-breed dog, such as a German shepherd-husky mix that resembles a coyote.

The note states that together with the eyewitness account and an examination of biological material in the area, Dr. Donna Alexander, administrator of the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control, and Stanley D. Gehrt, an expert on urban coyotes, “are confident there is a mixed-breed dog (probably German shepherd-husky or malamute) that has been stalking the area.

“It would be easy to mistake the dog for a coyote. Especially when someone is probably in panic mode, trying to fend off an attack. The park will remain closed until further notice while Cook County tries to trap the dog,” according to the village statement.

Becky Schlikerman, a county spokesperson, said Tuesday that, “The traps have been set and nothing has been captured by the traps. No sightings have been reported to Cook County Animal and Rabies Control.”

“It is not unusual for the department to assist municipalities who request assistance with specialized animal control issues,” said Schlikerman, emphasizing that Cook County Animal and Rabies Control is assisting the Village of Worth and is not the lead agency on this matter.

She also noted that “humane traps” are being used, and said that it will be up to the village and the MWRD to decide when to reopen the park.

According to the village statement, “(Alexander and Gehrt) are fully aware of the fact there are coyotes wandering around the Village of Worth and there are more than 2,000 coyotes living in Cook County. The coyotes have lived here for many, many years…. and decades of research indicate coyotes and humans can live together, side by side, and coyote attacks on people are isolated and very rare,” the statement continued. “It would be virtually impossible to trap and remove every coyote in Cook County. Dr. Alexander has indicated if a coyote is removed from a certain area another one will simply move in and take that space.”

Village officials said more information about living in close proximity to coyotes may be obtained at online at urbancoyoteresearch.com.

Palos Hills mayor: 'Great time for the city'

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

With a lack of progress in the continuing budget impasse in Springfield, Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett would prefer at this point to concentrate on projects that are taking place in his city.

Bennett said that development plans are occurring right now while other projects will begin in the near future.

First, he is always excited about the annual Palos Hills Friendship Fest, which will take place at the Moraine Valley Triangle, 107th Street and 88th Avenue, from Thursday, July 7 through Sunday, July 10.

“It’s a great time for the city,” said Bennett. “When I started this about 35 years ago, we felt it would bring the community together. It’s a great family event. We have a lot of people come out from not only Palos Hills but other communities. We have a lot of entertainment and great food. It really is a great event.”

Bennett is looking forward to the grand opening of the Bria of Palos Hills at 10400 S. Roberts Road on July 12. The new facility is part of the Strive Center for Rehabilitation. The center has modern amenities that please Bennett, who is excited about having the facility in Palos Hills.

“It is great to have something like this here for our residents who may need it,” said Bennett. “This is a $20 million project that has taken a couple of years of planning. We are very excited about this. It is a great addition to our town.”

The mayor also points out that the corner of 111th and Roberts Road will be revamped. Bennett said the corner could use a facelift, along with trying to fill some vacant storefronts.

“We are working on a beautification project for that corner,” said Bennett. “We would like to add some flower and a brick landscape to make it more appealing. I have been walking with country officials in the area to point out what we would like to do.”

Bennett said that he would like the corner to look like 143rd and LaGrange Road in Orland Park, which has also added flowers and brick landscaping to make the area more appealing.

And Bennett received a pleasant surprise with the Bettucci’s restaurant planning to reopen this month at 10331 S. Roberts Road. The restaurant closed without warning in March. Bennett is a fan of Bettucci’s, which also is located next door to City Hall. The business is in the process of interviewing and hiring employees.

Bennett has met with representatives of the Cal-Sag Trail about possibly building an annex trail in the city.

The mayor told members of the council and roughly a dozen residents in attendance at the committee-of-the-whole meeting May 19 that he was contacted by Cal-Sag officials in April and met with them last week to discuss a potential trail in Palos Hills.

“They’d like us to consider building an annex trail on our side,” Bennett said. “That is something we always wanted to do at some point in time.

“Right now we are just in the discussion stage, but obviously we’re pretty excited about possibly being able to include additional walking trails in our town.”

But with running a municipality after the economic freefall that began in 2008, challenges are always present, said the mayor.

“We are still trying to work on filling our vacant businesses on 111h and Roberts Road,” said Bennett. “The beautification project will help. It’s tough because we are pretty much a bedroom community.”

In terms of the budget deadlock in Springfield, Bennett has seen enough false starts throughout this year that he is not optimistic.

“We keep hearing things and it is just up and down,” said Bennett. “This week is really the breaking point. They are really under the gun to get something done. But what could happen is that schools won’t start on time. So, we are just waiting.”

 

Cheesecake lovers have chance to taste treats at Evergreen Park Library

  • Written by Kelly White

cheesecake tasting photo 6-30

Photo by Kelly White

Melaine Herbert (from left), of Chicago; Evelyn Sendziak and her husband, Robert Sendziak, also from of Chicago, taste some cheesecake samples last Thursday night at the Evergreen Park Library for Maureen Schulman's presentation on Eli's Cheesecake.

 

 

People can now make the well-known Eli’s Cheesecake in the comfort of their own kitchens.

Maureen Schulman, author of “The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook: Remarkable Recipes from a Chicago Legend, “made an appearance, along with her husband, Marc, at the Evergreen Park Public Library, 9400 S. Troy Ave., Evergreen Park, last Thursday night to share her secrets.

“I hope readers gain confidence from this cookbook,” Schulman said. “Cheesecake is traditionally considered an intimidating dessert to make at home. If you do everything outlined in these recipes, the cheesecake will turn out perfectly. And if, for example, the cake cracks, the reader is now armed with the scientific knowledge to address the problem. I think our approach empowers the home cook to not only make a great cheesecake, but to understand the principles behind successful baking. The book provides a jumping-off point to be creative.”

The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook captures the glory of this globally celebrated interpretation of one of America’s favorite desserts. The book focuses strictly on the Chicago-style cheesecake as described by Schulman.

“Eli’s Cheesecake is different than most cheesecakes in terms of taste and texture,” she said. “If you like it, you’re a fan for life because nothing else tastes quite like Eli’s. It’s like a souffléed custard on the inside, a little firmer and golden on the top and sides, and not too sweet.”

Local residents were able to reminisce about their favorite cheesecake recipes from the past and learn some new recipes from Schulman, including learning the secrets from baking the same cakes from home that made Eli’s Cheesecake a national institution.

Participants were also able to indulge in free cheesecake sampling, with the cakes prepared by Schulman.

“Cheesecake is absolutely one of our very favorite desserts,” Evelyn Sendziak, of Chicago, said.

Sendziak attended the event with her husband, Robert Sendziak, who is also a huge cheesecake fan.

“I love everything about cheesecake,” he said.

Eli’s Cheesecake began more than 35 years ago, rising to prominence first as a featured item at one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants — Eli’s The Place for Steak, a classic steakhouse and pillar of the city’s culinary community that was also a noted celebrity watering hole. From Eli Schulman’s first cheesecake creation at Eli’s The Place for Steak to President Obama’s 50th birthday cake, this book details the storied history of one of the nation's most famous desserts.

The cookbook was published to coincide with the 35th anniversary of Eli’s Cheesecakes, which originated in Chicago.

Inside the cookbook, published in December of 2015, are 40 cheesecake recipes, including Original Plain, Chocolate Chip, Cinnamon Rum Raisin, Belgian Chocolate, Espresso, and Banana, plus 10 signature steakhouse dishes like the acclaimed Liver Eli. Schulman is often credited with putting “Chicago-style” cheesecake, richer and creamier than its New York counterpart, on the map. The book also includes Eli’s Trade Secrets and step- by-step photos.

“Baking is a science, so we felt the best way to approach the recipes was to address the issues that affect the outcome of baking a perfect cheesecake,” Schulman said.

Eli’s Cheesecake will be making an appearance at the Taste of Chicago this summer on Saturday, July 9.