Moraine approves plan for health & wellness center

$34.5M project to be funded by bond, tuition hike

(From March 1, 2012)

The Moraine Valley Community College board of trustees voted unanimously last week to move forward with its plan to build a $34.5 million health education and wellness center that will include a swimming pool, fitness center and field house.

The 115,000-square-foot facility to be built on the west side of the college's campus in Palos Hills will also feature an indoor walking track, three full-sized basketball courts, an athletic training room, group exercise studios, hydrotherapy tub and athletic offices. The field house will seat 3,500 people. The facility will replace the college's 40,768-square-foot fitness center and gymnasium housed in Building G.

After meeting with focal groups composed of Moraine students, faculty and staff members, and conducting a phone survey of residents in the college's district, the board believes there is enough interest in the project to make it a necessary endeavor. The project will be funded with $30.9 million in bond money and $3.6 million to be raised through an $8 increase in the cost per credit hour of classes at the college.

Funds from the tuition increase to be implemented this fall will be earmarked for capital projects, and will offset the lack of the state appropriations for capital projects over the past several years, according to Moraine Valley Executive Vice President of Administrative Services Andrew Duren. The money will be used to construct new facilities, renovate existing facilities, improve parking lots and replace roofs, and for the general upkeep of campus - with the initial project being the Health Education and Wellness Center, according to Moraine Valley chief financial officer/treasurer Bob Sterkowitz.

The next step includes working to finalize the building plans for the facility. The college's goal is to open the center in early 2014.

Proposed monthly membership fees for the facility's fitness center will be $59 per person, $89 per couple and $119 per family, and a separate rate for senior citizens. Full-time Moraine students will have full access to the center, and part-time students will pay a fee based on a sliding scale that could include "buy-up options" for full access to the facility, according to Sterkowitz.

College officials project the membership fees will raise enough revenue to cover the costs of operating the health and wellness center.

The college intends to partner with a health care organization on the project, and is awaiting a intent letter from an "in-district hospitals' corporate office," according to college officials. Another in-district hospital has expressed interest, and the goal is to obtain full sponsorship pledge within the next month. The sponsorship would provide rent, as well as student educational opportunities and community health wellness.

Recommendations from student, faculty and staff focus groups include traffic lights on the running track to provide pace; space for activities such as skateboarding, billboards and a game room; and addressing the needs of non-athletic student clubs. The focal groups were also interested in how the facility will support the college's academic programs, what will happen to current staff members, who will manage the facility, who will partner with the college on the project, and how the college's current wellness initiative will be incorporated into the programming of the new facility. Moraine officials plan to look at all those concerns as they move forward with the project.

The proposal has been met with limited opposition from the public, most from people who believe Moraine does not need such a facility or fear the college will increase its property tax rate to help fund the project. Moraine officials said last week the tax rate will not be raised.

One attendee at last week's meeting, Paul Dreger, considers the facility a "$34 million glitzy L.A. Fitness attached to a megabasketball arena."

"I realize that we have worse facilities than any of the surrounding high schools, but I do not think this facility will serve or needs," Dreger said.

Dreger said Moraine has a substandard physical education program, which may be a result of a lack of facilities, and provided recommendations for what he called "real college courses" and "life sports" such as martial arts, handball, canoeing, bicycle riding, aerobics and archery.

Oak Lawn to fell nearly 500 trees infested by borer

(From March 15, 2012)

Infestation by the invasive emerald ash borer has prompted Oak Lawn to plan felling almost five times as many trees this year as it did in 2011.

Oak Lawn village forester Heather Green on Tuesday told the Village Board that between 460 and 500 trees are infested by the beetle and will have to be cut down. That number is up from the roughly 100 the village chopped down last year, she added.

Green presented village officials a map showing the locations of infested ash trees. The tree-killing beetle is present in all six trustee districts, with one of the largest areas of infestation involving 202 ash trees between 105th and 111th streets along Laverne Avenue, Green said. The village has the funding to remove the trees, but not replace them, she added.

"We have $50,000 in the budget to remove the trees, and an additional $40,000 to trim the trees," Green said. "That is all part of the budget for this year. We will not be using any external funds or grant money this year."

Adult emerald ash borers - green, shiny beetles that came here from Asia - infect ash trees by laying their eggs on the bark of healthy specimens. The larvae then burrow beneath the bark, feeding on the nutrients of the trees and damaging their nutrient transport system starting with the upper trunk and tree limbs. The damage causes the trees to starve, and the dying trees and branches are brittle and break easily.

"They eat the blood vessels of the tree, what brings nutrients and water to the tree," Green explained. "Once that is gone, the tree dies.

Green said she is working on securing grant funding for 2013. She hopes to get $30,000 in community development block grant fund, to plant new trees where the infested trees are being removed.

Toys for kids fighting cancer

Worthwoods Elementary School students Isabella Ramirez, (from left), Natalia Harb, Katie Beltz and Raghad Abu-Shalbak hold bags full of toys and gifts that will go to help children fighting cancer.

Students and teachers at Worthwoods Elementary School, 11100 S. Oketo Ave. in Worth collected toys and gift certificates and donated them to the Treasure Chest Foundation. The foundation gives the toys and gift cards to children that are undergoing treatment for cancer in 34 children's cancer treatment centers nationwide, including Advocate Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn.

Hickory woman suggests expanding senior center

By Jessie Molloy

A Hickory Hills resident told the City Council last week she is concerned about the limited capacity of the city's senior center.

The Hickory Hills Senior Center allows a limited number of people to attend weekly meetings and programs because of the building's low capacity, Constance Nestor said at the City Council's meeting on Dec. 13. All seniors are welcome to attend trips and outings with the group, but the waiting list for a full membership to the center is about 40 people deep, Nestor claimed. People on the waiting list may feel excluded or miss out on the camaraderie involved in being a regularly attending member, she added.

Nestor suggested the center offer full membership for everyone and create a rotating schedule of members who would take turns skipping meetings so others can attend, and bandied about the or the possibility of expanding the center or double-scheduling events so more people can take part.

Hickory Hills Mayor Howley said he sympathizes with Nestor's complaint, but told her expanding the building is not possible for financial reasons. The city will consider the possibility of a rotating schedule, he added.

Howley and city Building Commissioner John Moirano said it would be possible to expanding the building's main meeting room by knocking down an interior wall, so long as the wall is not load-bearing and it the project would not be overly costly. Aldermen expressed interest in exploring the possibility, which would increase the room's capacity by about 30 people.

Students' winning video earns makeover for school auto shop

Oak Lawn High is beneficiary of $25K in cash & prizes

(From Feb. 2, 2012)

Oak Lawn High School's auto shop will get more than $10,000 in tools and another 10 grand in cash after students took first place in a national contest.

The students in instructor Tim Krough's advanced automotive classes won the $25,000 grand prize for presenting the best argument in Universal Technical Institute Foundation's "Why My High School Auto Shop Needs a Make Over" video contest. In addition to $10,000 the auto shop will receive a Clip Car and $12,500 in Snap-On tools.

The awards are courtesy of Universal Technical Institute, Snap-On, and Bridgestone/Firestone.

"We have officially been given first place, however, we are still waiting to figure out some logistics on when we can receive the prizes," Krough said. "We're still uncertain how exactly the money will be spent; it will go to updating some equipment."

Krough worked with his automotive students to create a video depicting the reasons Oak Lawn High's auto shop needed a makeover. After receiving an email from the school's career facilitator the students had just two days to complete the requirements for the contest, Krough said.

"I was sitting in front of my computer, reading this email thinking this was impossible," he said. "Then decided, okay, let's do it and see what happens."

The students and Krough decided they had to create a funny video to make people want to watch it.

"You see these rims, you see these, they even got no car for it!" student Eric Furlong states in the video.

Krough worked on the video in class with his students, edited it from home, and sent it via Facebook by the deadline. After not hearing anything for about a month, he received a phone call the Friday before the start of the second semester indicating Oak Lawn High was one of eight finalists, and the only one from the Midwest.

"Then it became work," Krough said.

The videos were posted on Facebook and the winner was chosen through a popular vote. With the support of Oak Lawn High Assistant Principal Joe McCurdy and division chairman Dave Johnson, Krough and the students worked on getting the word out to the community. The village of Oak Lawn also ran the video on public access Channel 4 and spread word of the effort on Facebook and with fliers.

Once the information was out, Oak Lawn High School District 229 Superintendent/Principal Michael Riordan agreed to shut down the school's block of Facebook for one day so students could vote.

"That day they turned it off, I think we had 2,200 votes," Krough said. "There was tremendous support from the entire school, from the entire community."

The video earned a total of 3,320 votes on Facebook to win the contest, according to Universal Technical Institute Foundation Vice President/Executive Director Veronica Meury.

"We're thrilled to be able to help Oak Lawn's auto shop provide a quality education for its students by giving tools and technology that makes that possible," Meury said in a statement.

Arizona-based Universal Technical Institute Foundation is a nonprofit organization with the stated mission to raise funds to support and encourage the technical education for the automotive, diesel, collision repair, motorcycle, marine, NASCAR, and other transportation industries through scholarship, grants, career development and other special programs.

The first-, second-, and third-place videos are posted on Facebook at https://apps. index2.php.