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Riviera Raccoons presence felt again in Palos Hills

  • Written by Kelly White

They are back.
  Twenty potentially rabid raccoons have been captured in the Riviera townhome complex in Palos Hills this summer according to officials from the Riviera in Palos Improvement Association Animal Control Committee.
  They said that raccoons have been spotted in the subdivision off of 85th Avenue. and 111th Street and residents have been reportedly having a problem with the number of raccoons in the area.
  RIPIA manager, Karen Ferguson said Friday she is not sure whether or not the raccoons are rabid but the number of raccoon sightings in the area has since subsided.
  The raccoon problem was touched on during Thursday’s council meeting.
  “I, myself, was not aware of the trapping of raccoons taking place this summer in the Riviera,” Public Works Director Dave Weakley said. “However, I am aware of raccoon complaints, over the years, in that particular area of Palos Hills.”
  In 2010, Palos Hills made national news when CBS2Chicago.com had a piece on Kathleen Woods, who said that three large raccoons knocked her down and bit her on the legs, hand and buttocks. She lived in the complex at the time of the attack.
  She said the raccoons weighed an estimated 35 pounds each and they emerged from a storm drain. She said her dog was bitten during the attack.
  That report was picked up by other websites including Xenophilia.com, which says it reports on “true strange stuff” and Unexplained-mysteries.com.
  As for this year’s problems, RIPIA began raccoon reduction the first week of July. The traps were placed near trash areas and on the sides of the townhome buildings, where raccoons have been spotted by residents.
  RIPIA officials said all of the cages are checked daily by a technician, and any trapped raccoons are removed and taken immediately to animal control.
  Raccoons are wild animals and known for carrying diseases, and RIPIA officials said residents living in the Riviera subdivision should not move or handle the cages.
  During the trapping period, residents were encouraged to keep all children and pets away from the cages. Feeding or placing water inside of the cages for the animals is forbidden as this contact could cause stress on the animals. Residents should also not feed any animals outside during this time because the uneaten food will attract more wildlife to the area.
  Time outdoors for pets should be limited and monitored and all house cats also need to be kept indoors during the trapping period for their safety and protection.
  RIPIA urges residents to keep away from any spotted raccoons and to especially retain children and house pets away at a safe distance. These animals are not to be treated as pets.

Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: It’s automatic: Good stories come from Rakow and Hadac

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

  Here are a couple of guys I want you to meet.REPORTER-2-col-reportersTim Hadac, left, and Bob Rakow are a couple of seasoned journalists whose stories will be appearing in the Reporter.  photo by Jeff Vorva
  Bob Rakow joined the staff of the Reporter this week as our main reporter.
  The guy has been around the area for many years and is familiar with all of our six communities. He’s had some pretty hard-hitting daily news stories over the years and is capable of turning in some heartwarming features.
  He had one feature just a few weeks ago in which a woman in Flossmoor retained her drivers’ license — at age 100.
  Those are the types of cool stories that we are looking for and if you have any like that, feel free to e-mail Bob or I at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
  He will also be covering board meetings, reporting on the police beat and providing insight and perspective to issues that will affect readers in our various zones, such as the Oak Lawn 9-1-1 story that appears in the front of this paper.
  Another name that will pop up on these pages is Tim Hadac. He was hired a few weeks ago as the Regional reporter to replace some mope named Varvra, or Virva, or whatever the heck his name is.
  Tim will be covering Palos Heights, Palos Park and Orland Park but his stories will find his way to our paper as well. This guy has a boatload of writing talent and experience. In last week’s paper, he wrote a wonderful piece on deadline after a four-hour Oak Lawn board meeting about the Village’s financial health and a great piece on a Korean War vet from Orland Park who revisited South Korea all these years later.
  These two fellas will make our paper strong and if you happen to see them at a meeting or event, welcome them aboard.
  We also have a gang of stringers such as Jessie Malloy, Kelly White and Kevin Coyne and newcomer Claudia Parker whose work you will see quite a bit as well.

Behind the scenes
  A few other folks that have been huge in putting this paper together don’t get near enough credit.
  Designer Kari Nelson has been the heart and soul of this paper for years and her talented fingerprints are all over the front section each week. Jackie Santora does the same for the second section. And while Rebecca Lanning works mostly for the Regional News, she has worked some of her magic on special sections including last week’s Worth Days tab. Among his many duties at this place, Pat Engle is the force when it comes to keeping the photos in order and looking great.
  Typesetters Angie Burke and Sharon Ulanowski don’t have the most glorious jobs on the planet but their hard work helps keep this paper humming.
  So as we move forward with a new editor, new reporter and a seasoned staff behind the scenes, we’re hoping to turn this product into a must-read every Thursday.

 

411 on Oak Lawn’s 911 system still up in the air

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 

  Oak Lawn is considering outsourcing its 911911-COLOR-1-col-phoneOak Lawn officials are figuring out what to do with their 911 system. photo by Jeff Vorva emergency dispatch services if the village cannot reach an agreement with telecommunicators to rein in expenses associated with the operation.

  Trustees recently gave Village Manager Larry Deetjen the authority 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.
  “It’s not a service issue,” Deetjen said.
  Rather, the dispatch center is facing mounting expenses, which could cause some of its customers to leave. He added that if any of the towns the village serves choose another dispatch service, Oak Lawn would be forced to lay off dispatchers.
  Kathy Hansen, the village’s director of emergency communications, said the center also is losing revenue as more people eliminate land phone lines in favor of cell phones. The village receives $1 per a month from customers with land lines. It only receives 58 cents a month from cell phone users, Hansen said.
  The village receives only a nominal fee from pay-as-you-go cell phones and nothing from government-issued phones, she said.
  “We’re faced with revenue depletion,” Hansen said.
  The dispatchers are represented by the Metropolitan Alliance of Police. The union in late 2012 approved a two-year contract with the village after a lengthy negotiation, said Ron Cicinelli, a union attorney.
  One month later, 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.
  “The package as a whole was voted down,” he said.
  The union filed an unfair labor practice grievance with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which was rejected. The union appealed the decision, and the village has responded, Cicinelli said.
  He added that the union would sue the village if it replaces dispatchers with an outsourced firm.
  Deetjen said the village will “explore any and all savings by outsourcing or other means to cost effectively serve our Oak Lawn residents and our fine neighboring communities who we currently serve.”
  He said the village in December notified union officials of cost concerns after an independent analysis was completed and presented to the village board.
  “We have always offered an open door and exchange of options with the interest of our customers first but with respect for continuing the gone services delivered by our associates in Oak Lawn dispatch,” Deetjen said.
  Deetjen added that the village “will vigorously defend and support the rights and demand for quality services at a fair price that our taxpayers and municipal customers so deserve.”
  Trustee Bob Streit (3rd District) questioned the wisdom of outsourcing a vital service such a 911 dispatch.
  “Those folks who work for us in the 911 center, they work hard,” Streit said.
  He added that outsourced dispatchers may not be reliable or know the community as well as the current team.
  “It will save money, I guess, but will it really in the long term,” he said. “Contracting out the services sound like a good idea until you really examine the facts.”
  Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th District), a former Oak Lawn police officer, also raised concerns about outsourcing 911 services. He said there’s a “unique relationship” that exists between patrol officers and the dispatchers that might be lost if the service is contracted out.

 

Oak Lawn board vanquishes Weiler’s position

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 

Some cite cost-cutting but one trustee calls it ‘ludicrous’

  The elimination of Oak Lawn’s business operation director, Chad Weiler, is either a cost-cutting move or political retribution, depending on who you ask.

 

  The village board recently voted 4-2 to eliminate the department of business operations, which has been headed by Weiler since 2005.
  Trustees Bob Streit (3rd District) and Carol Quinlan (5th District) voted against the move, saying it was political retribution against Weiler, who supported former mayor Dave Heilmann in his unsuccessful re-election bid.
  “I don’t get it. Chad has successfully done his job and more,” said Quinlan, a long-time Heilmann supporter.
  She credited Weiler for attracting new business to the community, overseeing the beautification of the village and leading efforts to ensure a success Fall on the Green festival each year.
  “Overall, he’s enhanced the look of Oak Lawn,” Quinlan said. “In my opinion, it’s ludicrous.”
  Village Manager Larry Deetjen told the board that the village work force has decreased by 20 percent since 2009. Additional cost-cutting measures, such as eliminating several vacant positions, will help the village hold the bottom line.
  He added that the village’s focus has shifted to retaining existing businesses. Meanwhile, the public works department oversees the village’s beautification projects.
  Deetjen added that he is in charge of economic development with help from all of the department heads
  “We all have to accept more responsibility,” Deetjen said. “We’re going to have to be leaner. This was not an easy decision for me.”
  Bury, however, criticized Weiler for failing to make connections within the village’s business community.
  “I didn’t see a lot of networking, historically,” said Bury, a long-time Chamber of Commerce director.
  Quinlan raised concerns that the loss of Weiler puts more responsibilities on Deetjen’s plate at a time when he is burdened with numerous responsibilities.
  Trustee Bob Streit (4th District), who also voted against eliminating Weiler’s post, said he always received positive performance reviews.
  “His only mistake was supporting our former mayor,” Streit said.
  Eliminating Weiler saves the village $101,000 in annual salary and benefits, Deetjen said.
  “You’re making a reasonable case to someone who doesn’t know better,” Streit said.

 

The circus was…just a circus

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 Despite preliminary controversies, show in Palos Hills was uneventful

 It turned out to be a typical circus after all.CIRCUS-COLOR-3-col-perfomerA circus performer smiles during the opening act. The first performance went off without controversy despite some drama in the weeks leading up to it.

  The Carson & Barnes Circus put on four shows in Palos Hills earlier this week and if Monday’s first show was any indication, the circus was just a circus one would expect complete with clowns, animal tricks, singing and high flying stunts.
  The controversy the weeks leading up to the event were a lot more dramatic.
  The circus planned on a special segment with a candlelight vigil and information about sexual assault victims and other victims under the title “Survivors Under the Stars’’ to benefit the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
  Jacque Hollinder, who said she is a victim of sexual assault and filed a lawsuit that she was attacked by singer James Brown, organized that segment, which has been a part of various stops along the circus’s tour this year. T-shirts were to be sold to benefit the victims.
CIRCUS-COLOR-3-col-specatorsPalos Hills’ Gail Livigni and Mia Chieco watch the Carson & Barnes Circus during Monday afternoon’s performance.  City officials were not aware that it was a part of the entertainment until reading stories and seeing ads in the Reporter and Regional News and wanted that taken out, deeming it inappropriate for a family circus.
  After the city negotiated with the circus, the vigil and victims portion of the show was taken out in Palos Hills but Hollinder’s song “I Am the Circus” was allowed to be sung by trapeze artist Franchesca Cavallini. Children and parents were allowed to parade in the ring and outside the ring while the song was performed but there was no mention of ICASA or victims.
  Hollinder said she saw a lot of police presence and assumed it was for her but she said she had no plans of making trouble and said she would conform to the city’s wishes.
  “It’s sad we weren’t able to do the full presentation,” Hollinder said. “But I’ll do what I’m told.’’
  That was one problem solved but the city also received letters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urging city officials to either cancel the circus or to not allow it to return next year, citing cruelty to the elephants in previous stops.
  There were no protesters from PETA seen during Monday’s first performance.
  For some people, the controversies were not a factor in coming to see the show.
  Gail Livigni of Homer Glen was with her nieces Eva, Mia and Olivia and sister-in-law Maria from Palos Heights.
  “I heard about the controversy but I didn’t pay attention,” she said. “No matter what happened I was going to come and bring the kids.’’
  The circus is now in Steger and has future stops in the Stickney-Cicero area and Wilmington.

Photos by Jeff Vorva