Ordinance eliminates need for Lucas Berg Nature Preserve Commission

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

An ordinance approved at the Aug. 16 Worth Village Board meeting calling for the elimination of the Lucas Berg Nature Preserve Commission and the position of life safety officer marked the end of an era dedicated to the preservation and maintenance of the Lucas Berg Nature Preserve.

At the Aug. 3 board meeting, Mayor Mary Werner had announced the planned dissolution of the group and the volunteer position of life safety officer.

“Basically, the work of the commission, which was vital during the period of time the property was owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, has been completed,” she said.

The primary focus of the group was to prevent the dumping of sludge from the Cal-Sag Channel into the 78-acre property and to preserve the site that borders on 111th Street to the north, Oketo Avenue to the east, Southwest Highway to the west and the Cal-Sag Channel on the south.

Werner said the threat was eliminated in 2014 when Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) was successful in getting legislation passed prohibiting the dumping of dredged materials on the site, which ultimately resulted in the property being transferred from the Army Corps to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

“The MWRD now has control of the property and have subsequently provided their own security force. This also eliminated our need for the position of life safety officer,” said Werner.

Also approved was an ordinance amending the village’s municipal code regarding police department membership.

Additionally, a special use permit was approved for Ana Novak and Joseph E. Ritter to operate Carl’s Barbershop at 6946 W. 111th St.

A bid was awarded to D Construction in the amount of $293,370 for 2016 street resurfacing. According to Village Engineer Mike Spolar, the original bid amount was $306,834, but the village’s Public Works Department will handle a portion of the pay items, reducing the contract by $13,464. D Construction was the lowest of four bidders on the project.

In other matters, Werner announced, with much regret, the resignations of Ken Koester, the village’s building inspector, and Lyn Koester, a member of the Beautification Committee.

“Our loss is someone else’s gain,” said Werner, as she thanked them for their years of service to the village. The Koesters are relocating out of state.

On a brighter note, Werner announced the appointment of Police Sgt., Timothy Denton to the position of Deputy Chief for Worth.

“His appointment is a blessing to our community as he also serves on the South Suburban Major Task Force. Our citizens will be in very capable hands,” she said.

Village Clerk Bonnie Price administered the oath of office to Denton.

Also present at the board meeting were members of the local Fraternal Order of Police who were there to present a check in the amount of $7,500 to the commander and members of the Marrs -Meyer American Legion Post 991. The funds were raised at the recent FOP/American Legion golf fundraiser event

Police Chief Mark Micetich presented the check to Post Commander Dan Finnegan.

“We greatly appreciate this contribution,” said Finnegan. “The funds will be used to help our veterans, needy families in our community and for our annual Christmas Day with recruits from Great Lakes Naval Base. “

Trustees Tedd Muersch Jr. and Colleen McElroy did not attend the meeting.

Rain outside does not affect ‘blizzard’ indoors at back to school event

  • Written by Kelly White

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Photo by Kelly White

Oak Lawn resident Olivia Shaffer, 4, gets her face painted by Oak Lawn Ice Arena staff member Brandon Kapelinski, 21, of Oak Lawn, at the Summer Beach Blizzard Back to School event on Aug. 12 at the Oak Lawn Ice Arena.



The calendar indicates it is August but the Oak Lawn Park District supplied the cold and ice for kids preparing to go back to school.

The park district held its 16th annual Summer Beach Blizzard Back to School event on Aug. 12 at the Oak Lawn Ice Arena, 9320 S. Kenton Ave.

“This event began 15 years ago with just a pile of snow on the ice rink,” said Shari Wolfe, Oak Lawn Ice Arena’s assistant manager. “Within the last five years, the event has evolved into a much larger event. Kids really enjoy the irony of the snow and ice in summer and take advantage of it by making snowballs on the ice rink.”

The event was supposed to be held outdoors at Central Park and Pool, 9400 S. Kenton Ave., where the park district had planned to deposit a large pile of shaved ice for children to build snowmen in. However, the rainy weather resulted with the event being held indoors at the ice arena instead.

The damp weather did not seem to bother the children at all.

Beach blizzard attendees were still able to enjoy a DJ, interactive games, face-painting, hula hooping, snow-related activities and ice skating.

“It is so much fun,” said Luis Ascencio, 7, of Addision, “I love everything about this event, but especially the face-painting.”

Ascenio was the first child to have his face painted by ice arena employee Brandon Kapelinski, 21, of Oak Lawn. He wanted his face painted as a tiger.

He and his brother, Jesus, 5, joined an estimated 100 other people this year at the event, surpassing the 2015 attendance of 75.

All attendees were encouraged to ironically dress in winter gear of hats, scarves and mittens in the middle of summer.

“My children absolutely loved the idea of a winter-themed event in the middle of summer, combining the mix of warmth with cold and ice,” said Christal Shaffer, of Oak Lawn. “Plus they have never been ice skating before, so we were all really looking forward to enjoying a little bit of winter today.”

There was a $7 admission cost to the beach blizzard with a $3 skate rental fee.

The park district was also accepting donations of school supplies, which were donated to local school districts in the Oak Lawn area. Any participants who donated school supplies received a free open ice skating pass for a return visit this fall.

Due to the weather, participants were also able to enjoy an indoor viewing of the movie, “Surf’s Up” at the ice arena. The movie was originally scheduled to be shown outdoors.

The movie follows the life of a penguin hoping to become a professional surfer. It was chosen by the park district staff because of its summer and winter combined context, according to park district officials.

“The nice thing about this event was that participants were able to enjoy the Oak Lawn Park District facilities,” Wolfe said. “It introduced ice skating to participants who may not have utilized these facilities/programs prior to the event. This event was also great for busy families, with a big household who were looking for an all-encompassing event that the whole family could enjoy together.”

Learning to occasionally say no only means that we all have some limits

Chicago Ridge mayor files suit over ordinance reducing his authority

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

In a move that everyone involved knew was coming, attorneys for Chicago Ridge Mayor Charles Tokar filed suit on Aug. 9 against five trustees on the village board and the village itself in an effort to overturn an ordinance limiting mayoral powers.

The lawsuit filed by attorney John Murphey wasn’t on the agenda for the village board meeting on Tuesday, but the issue was raised by residents during the public comment section of the meeting.

After the controversial ordinance was passed in June by a 5-1 margin, followed by Tokar’s veto, the same five trustees overrode the veto on July 12. The ordinance requires a majority of trustees to approve all mayoral appointments, including that of village attorney. If the mayor’s selection does not receive the required votes once, the mayor would be given 30 days to change their minds. If the appointee is rejected a second time, the mayor would have to pick somebody else.

The initial dispute arose earlier this year when the five board members rejected Tokar’s choice of Burt Odelson as village attorney. He remains in that position because current state law states that no office can remain vacant, and appointees can hold offices on an interim basis. The trustees such as Bruce Quintos and Frances Coglianese who proposed the new ordinance simply reinforces state statutes that say mayors of home-rule communities govern with the “advice and consent” of the board.

In response to a resident seeking details about the lawsuit, Tokar said, “The bottom line is, it is a case of different interpretations of case law and state law.” He said his legal advisors have told him the ordinance violates the state constitution, because it makes changes to the mayor’s powers without a referendum.

“No one is asking for money. We’re simply asking for a declaratory judgment. Whichever way it goes, we will move on,” said Tokar. “This issue isn’t going to be hanging over us for years. We are hoping to have it resolved in the next eight weeks or so.”

When resident Mary Callan asked why the trustees opposed Odelson’s appointment, the mayor suggested she talk to the trustees individually elsewhere. “This is public comment time. We should be listening to your concerns and taking them under advisement. It is not a question and answer session.”

A proposed ordinance that was on the agenda Tuesday seeks to make village president/mayor a part-time position, and cut the annual salary from $85,000 down to $40,000. Another one would limit the hours and make other changes to the village clerk’s position, which is already part-time. The changes would become effective following the local elections in April 2017.

Quintos said he was prepared to vote on the measure, but at the request of Trustee Sally Durkin, the board agreed to table the ordinances until the mayor and trustees could iron out the details at a workshop on Monday, Aug. 22.

“Maybe this was put on the agenda prematurely,” said Durkin. “A lot of questions (about the ramifications of changing the mayoral position) have come up since this was proposed.”

The current wording of the ordinance calls for the hiring of a village administrator to handle day-to-day business.

Residents who questioned why the workshop is not open to the public were assured that whatever proposals that result from it would be brought up for public discussion at future meetings.

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: XXXXXL love coming Tuesday for Richards swimming coach

  • Written by Jeff Vorva





Supplied photo

Richards swim coach Joel Staszewski, who joined a JV team in the pool after a meet last season, has gone through some serious health issues this summer and area swim teams are rallying around to help him and his family.


The 2016-17 area high school sports season is in its infancy and already I am writing a column I hate.

And love.

I love the fact that away from the pool, some high school swimmers are doing something special. I hate the reason they have to do it.

Richards’ swimming and water polo coach, Joel Staszewski, fell ill during the summer and according to school officials, the guy nearly died and has been unable to eat normally.

I met the coach once, when Richards’ girls water polo team was playing in the postseason at Lyons Township in May. I talked with him for a few minutes and he was helpful and funny. The people in the Richards community have known him a lot longer and probably have a million great stories about him.

And his popularity extended outside the Richards’ family. Opponents want to see the man most people know as “Coach Stu” back on his feet and onto the deck of a swimming pool near you.

On Tuesday, the Bulldogs swimming team will host a meet with at 5 p.m. in Oak Lawn with Argo and Oak Forest coming to town. It will be a special night to help the Staszewski family. Coach Stu’s wife, Jill, is scheduled to be there as well.

Cora Umecker, who is filling in for coach Stu, said members of her family will sell lemonade at the event with the proceeds going to the family. Shirts that go all the way up to XXXXXL will be sold throughout the season with profits also helping the family.

Umecker said she appreciates what some of the other schools in the South Suburban Conference have done already.

“The Argo program has reached out to ask what they can do to help,” Umecker said. “Their girls swim team donated money to be spent getting a meal together for Stu’s family via the Meal Train link. They have been so supportive. They’ve been great.

“We had a coaches meeting at Evergreen Park with all of the swim coaches in the conference and their athletic directors. The first thing they wanted to talk about was what they could do to help Stu’s family. They decided that at the conference meet, they will run a split the pot fundraiser and give the money to Stu’s family.

“Also, a portion of the proceeds from the conference shirt that they sell at that meet will also be donated to him,’’ she continued. “I could not thank them enough. They asked me to keep all of them informed of anything being done for his benefit. They were all concerned, supportive, very wonderful people to work with. How awesome is it that the swim community is rallying around Stu and his family.’’

So far, coach Stu, the father of young triplets, is in bad shape. Umecker said that he recently started a liquid diet with ice.

“That was huge considering he hadn’t eaten anything since June 6,” she said. “It was looking as though he would be transferred to a rehabilitation facility within the next week or so. Unfortunately, he had to be taken for another procedure because the food he took in was ending up in the drain.

“So they had to replace the feeding tube and adjust the stent. We're hoping this was the last bump and that he will be on his way to rehab soon. I’m hoping he can attend a later meet or even the conference meet.”

If that happens, it will even be a more thrilling and emotional event than what’s going to happen Tuesday at the Oak Lawn school.

That is a column I would love to write.

Supplied photo

Richards swim coach Joel Staszewski, who joined a JV team in the pool after a meet last season, has gone through some serious health issues this summer and area swim teams are rallying around to help him and his family.


Local chess players display their moves

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

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Photo by Dermot Connolly

Club tournament director Alex Connelly explains his move to Christopher Harrison, 11, while other members of the South Suburban Chess Club play alongside them during a Friday meeting at the Oak View Community Center, 4625 W. 110th St., Oak Lawn.


By Dermot Connolly

Members of the South Suburban Chess Club can be found most Friday evenings quietly matching wits with each other across their checkered boards in their headquarters in the Oak View Center, 4625 W. 110th St., Oak Lawn.

But the club, sometimes called the Oak Lawn Chess Club, has been making some noise in regional competitions in recent years, with two teams competing In the Chicago Industrial Chess League.

Wayne Ellice, of Oak Lawn, now leads the club, which meets from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. every Friday. It was formed in 1994 by Fred Gruenberg and other following the closing of the Orland Park Chess Club, which originally met in Palos Heights. Members pay $10 annual dues.

Club members range in age from 11 up to over 80 years old, and their skill levels vary. From beginners to intermediates and experts. Most Fridays, if there is no tournament going on, they just pair up and playing games, chatting back and forth about various strategies over snacks.

But last Friday, eight members accepted national chess master Todd Freitag’s offer to play them all at once. Freitag, 35, a Palos Park resident and member of the group himself, is one of just 1,000 chess masters in the United States. He said he has been playing the game since his days in the chess club at Sandburg High School, and earned the master title by winning a certain amount of regulation games.

“Chess is a good community of folks,” said Ellice. “Players come from all walks of life, from Chicago and the suburbs. Some people take it really seriously, while others just play for fun.”

“Chess helps you with all of life’s challenges,” added Ellice. “Among other things, it teaches you to think several steps ahead, and be responsible for your actions, because once you make a move, you can’t take it back.”

Freitag moved quickly from chessboard to chessboard set up on three tables, making his move as soon as his opponents’ made theirs. He ended up winning seven of the matches, and drawing with Adrian Zolkos, one of the most experienced members of the club. And Ellice pointed out that the club members playing him weren’t beginners.

He said that the club’s two teams, the Wombats and the Pawns, finished first and second, respectively, in the West Division of the Chicago Industrial Chess League concluded its playing season in July. The League includes 20 teams, coming from communities as well as companies such as Fermilab in Batavia.

The Wombats took second place in the whole league in 2012, and won the CICL championship in 2014. Under its previous name, the Yorktown Wildcats, the team also were co-champions in 2010 also.

The club gained some international experience this year also, after member Eva Harrison arranged a tournament with a chess club in her hometown of Salzkotten, Germany. “I used to play a lot when I was growing up in Germany,” she said, explaining that she got back into the sport when her children started playing it in school. She, Ellice and Freitag, along with fellow members Vasyl Kukuruza, Marty Franek, Eric Mendenhall, Joe Sinople, Jim Nowak, Steve Russo and Jose Garza, played 10 people from Salzkotten. At one move per week, the 10-board match finished with the Oak Lawn team winning eight, and drawing two games.

“The main thing is, we weren’t beaten,” she said.

Harrison’s son, Christopher, 11, has joined the group now too. On Friday, while the eight tournament games were going on, Christopher was playing against club tournament director Alex Connelly, of Oak Lawn, and picking up tips along the way. Connelly assists Ellice in running the club.

“We have a lot of space in this room, so while tournaments are going on, there is always room for “open play,’ too,” said Ellice. “We have about 40 members but there are always room for more,” he added.

More information about the club may be obtained on its South Suburban Chess Club Facebook page, or by emailing Ellice at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .