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Oak Lawn Board decides to keep towing company after heated debate

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

The local towing company that has held the contract with Oak Lawn for village business for more than 15 years almost lost it this week, but received a last-minute reprieve after a tense discussion among Village Board members on Tuesday.

The issue was first raised during the public comment portion of the meeting when Ed Forsythe, a longtime employee of Jack’s Towing, pleaded with the board to retain the company’s services. For more than 15 years, Jack’s, located at 4400 Southwest Highway, has been the company used by the police department and the village whenever vehicles need to be removed from local roads.

Forsythe feared the decision to change towing companies had essentially been made, but urged the board to reconsider, saying it would cause at least two Oak Lawn residents, including himself, losing their jobs.

“Everything we do is for the good of the village,” said Forsythe, noting that the towing company depends entirely on the village for business, and there have been no complaints about service. “I’m 60 years old. What else am I going to do?

Village Manager Larry Deetjen addressed the situation later in the meeting, pointing out the 15-year contract that a previous administration had awarded Jack’s Towing in 2000 had run out last October.

“They have been on a month-to-month contract since then,” said the village manager, asserting that Mike Queenan, the owner of the company, had been notified the previous year a change in vendor was a possibility.

“It is a business decision. It is nothing personal,” he said, assuring the owners of Jack’s that there had been no complaints about service. But he said the 15-year contract was unusually long, and it was time for a change.

He said that he had put the contract out to bid, and a committee, made up of himself, Police Chief Michael Murray, village attorney Pat Connelly, and Steve Barrett, director of the Public Works Department, thoroughly vetted the five companies that submitted bids.

He said that at the committee’s suggestion, TechniCraft in Justice and Walsh Towing in Chicago, had agreed to share the village’s towing business, pointing out that prior to 2000, the business had been shared by at least two companies.

However, the idea of taking the contract away from a local company did not sit well with Trustees Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Bob Streit (3rd).

When Olejniczak questioned the necessity of making a change, since there had been no complaints about Jack’s work, Deetjen raised other issues.

He pointed out that Jack’s is located on village property, and has not paid any rent since the contract ended. Furthermore, he said the village has determined that the company has somehow managed to avoid paying any water or sewer charges for the past 15 years.

“They are in arrears on utilities,” he said.

Olejniczak agreed that the village is entitled to get any money owed to them, but said that putting village residents out of work is the wrong thing to do.

“You’ve got a good Oak Lawn business here. Why would you even want to change?,” wondered Olejniczak, who had asked that the vote be postponed to allow further review of the process.

Streit spoke more stridently, asserting that Deetjen’s efforts indicated a lack of loyalty by the administration. “The only thing you get after providing nearly two decades of dedicate service to the village is fired,” he said.

“No one has gotten fired yet,” retorted Trustee Tim Desmond (1st). “Try to tell the truth, if you can.”

Indeed, no one did get fired, because Desmond, Olejniczak and Streit voted against the move, and Mayor Sandra Bury sided with them to break the 3-3 tie.

“I just think after all this discussion, we need to look at the matter further and make sure the right decision is made,” said Bury.

Deetjen said his next step in light of the vote, will be to draw up a contract for Jack’s, to be offered for the board’s consideration.

“But the village cannot do business with a company that is in arrears in rent and utilities. It is against the law,” he said.

Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th), who voted to change companies, said he had no problems with Jack’s but felt the vetting process was thorough and “a 15-year run is a long time.”

“I know “Jack,” (the company owner), and my only regret is that I guess I won’t be going out for any more beers with him,” he said wryly.

Break ground for new medical facility scheduled for Chicago Ridge

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

Village officials and the group of doctors planning to open a new cancer center in Chicago Ridge came together on Friday for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site where it is being built at 10604 Southwest Highway.

The real digging was expected to begin this week on the site just east of Harlem Avenue, with completion tentatively scheduled for May of 2017.

The Chicago Ridge Village Board last month approved the plans for the 40,000 square-foot facility, which represents an investment of between $15 million and $17 million.

“This is phenomenal. It is going to be our home here for a very long time,” said Amar Hamed, MD, the lead doctor in the group of six who will be moving their practices into the building.

“It is going to be great for the community of Chicago Ridge. It is going to be great for the whole area,” he said of the center, which is expected to draw clients from throughout the southwest suburban area.

He and his partners and their staffs, with Mayor Chuck Tokar and trustees Frances Coglianese, Jack Lind, Sally Durkin and Amanda Cardin, toasted the achievement with sparkling grape juice before lifting a few shovelfuls of dirt to mark the occasion.

The two-story center, open 24 hours a day, will include about two dozen exam rooms, as well as thoracic and pulmonary surgery suites, a PET/CT scan suite and a blood center. Chemotherapy bays will be on the second floor, situated in front of large windows so that patients receiving chemotherapy will be able to look out on an adjacent wooded area.

In addition, a pharmacy and retail store for medical supplies will be on the first floor, as well as an outdoor patio area.

“We want a friendly space for our patients. We want them to think positively. That is important in cancer care. So, to promote that, we have incorporating a water feature, a fountain in the two-story lobby and reception area,” said Mahmoud Mahafzah, MD, one of the cancer specialists partnering with Hamed.

He said that while a name for the center has not been officially chosen, they are seriously considering “Fountain of Hope.”

The six are affiliated with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, and Palos Community Hospital in Palos Heights.

Cathy Griffin, the regional director of operations for the group, said they will be consolidating three medical offices, including two in Oak Lawn and one in Burbank, at the new site.

“We are so happy and excited that this is coming to Chicago Ridge,” said Griffin. “It is a tremendous addition.”

“It seems like 10 years we have been working on this, rather than one,” said the mayor.

“We’re here to celebrate. We are so proud to have this center here. It is going to be great for Chicago Ridge and the whole area,” said Tokar.

When the Village Board approved the plans last month, the mayor noted that developing the land within the TIF district will benefit the village financially, too.

“The increment on taxes is going to mean a lot. It is a big difference in what is being collected now on vacant land. It will mean some jobs, too,” said Tokar.

With the Chicago Ridge Nursing Center already located next door at 10602 Southwest Highway, and the Davita dialysis center nearby at 10511 S. Harlem, and other facilities in the area, Tokar said at the groundbreaking that area is becoming a “medical corridor” for the village.

“And it has been a pleasure working with these doctors to come to an agreement that is good for everyone.

The Rev. Joseph Mol also led the medical and village staff in a prayer, seeking blessings for everyone from the construction workers to the future generations of healthcare workers and patients who will pass through the doors.

“May the Divine Physician shower his grace upon all the good that will take place in this building for years to come,” he said.

School buses based in Evergreen Park will require village stickers

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Action taken at the Evergreen Park Board Meeting on Monday approved an ordinance that will require that village stickers be purchased for school buses based in the suburb.

Mayor James Sexton explained that only buses with a base of operation located in the village will be required to purchase stickers.

“If buses are operating in the village, but their headquarters are elsewhere, they will not be required to have a village sticker,” he said.

Also approved were ordinances updating Evergreen Park’s Intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Oak Lawn to provide emergency dispatch services and to establish and authorize the operation of a 911 joint authority.

Participating in the Intergovernmental agreement in addition to Evergreen Park, are Burbank, Hodgkins and Bridgeview. Also participating is the Bedford Park Fire District and the Central Stickney Fire Protection District.

Additionally, the approval of an ordinance providing for the acquisition of property located at 9138 S. Kedzie Ave. will allow the village to move forward in its efforts to purchase the property. Sexton said the property has been in foreclosure for a number of years and the village is hoping to purchase it in order to provide off-street parking for ThiThi’s Restaurant, located just north of the property.

Other approvals included granting a request from Tavern in the Green to erect tents on the east side of its building at 3422 W 95th St. on April 29, July 1, Aug. 19 and Sept. 16.

An application for a business regulation certificate was approved for Shaker Subs Elite, d/b/a Firehouse Subs, a fast food restaurant located at 9204 S. Western Ave.

In other board action, approval was given on the selection of Environmental Cleansing Corporation as the company to demolish two buildings at 2942-2946 W. 95th St. at a cost of $23,554. Their bid was one of eight bids received. Two of the bids presented reflected lower cost estimates, including IESCO Construction Company at $16,385 and Signature Demo Service at $22,500.

Trustee Mark Marzullo questioned Public Works Director William Lorenz on why the lower bids were not considered. Lorenz replied that he was not familiar with either of the companies and that none of his peers in nearby municipalities had ever heard of the businesses.

“Also, Environmental Cleansing Corporation has previously worked in Evergreen Park and is familiar with our village and its environment,” Lorenz said.

Sexton also added that when a company submits such a low bid on a major project, it usually results in trouble down the road.  

Palos Hills is ranked one of 50 safest cities in Illinois

  • Written by By Michael Gilbert

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett has made no secret of his support for the city’s police department.

“Quite honestly since the time I became mayor (35 years ago) I’ve been proud of our department,” Bennett said last week. “Our crime stats have always been low, and the crimes that are out there our detectives solve them.”

So Bennett was rather pleased on March 17 to share with the city council that Palos Hills was ranked 17th on BackgroundChecks.org’s list of the 50 safest cities in Illinois.

The rankings, which were released on the website earlier this month, are based on FBI violent crime stats and propriety BackgroundChecks.org research data.

This is the second time in less than six months a website has recognized Palos Hills as a “safe city.” In November, Safewise.com listed Palos Hills as the 47th safest city in the Prairie State.

“We continue to receive those recognitions, which we are very proud of,” Bennett said. “We thank our citizens for helping us (be a safe place to live). We don’t have a neighborhood watch but the citizens of this town do a very good job of keeping us informed and being an extra eye on the streets.”

Western Springs topped the BackgroundChecks.org list and nearby Orland Park ranked 13th. Worth and Palos Heights were ranked No. 27 and No. 28, respectively.

For the Palos Hills entry, the website wrote “A southwest Chicago suburb, Palos Hills is located in Cook County and is home to 17,400 residents. The city covers just 4.29 square miles and is served by the North Palos School District. The violent crime rate here is 34.2, and residents have just a .07 perfect chance of being affected by property crime.”

While there is no official award or certificate the city receives from BackgroundChecks.org, Bennett said there is a “web badge” – essentially a small graphic stating the honor – Palos Hills can display on its website, www.paloshillsweb.org.

“Our police do a great job,” Ald. Pauline Stratton (2nd Ward) said. “Even though we are short-handed with the police department they really are good with working to help the people out, and our residents are very aware of what is going on in their city too.

“This honor is absolutely something our city can be proud of.”

In other news, Palos Hills officials unanimously approved an ordinance setting the guidelines for the placement, use and maintenance of rain barrels in the city.

The ordinance was necessitated due to an intergovernmental agreement the city authorized with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District this past September that allows residents to receive rain barrels at no cost from the MWRD.

Prior to the ordinance, the city had no restrictions on the number, color or placement of rain barrels on one’s property. The ordinance allows a single family residence to have one black or white rain barrel located at the rear of the residence to limit its visibility from the sidewalk or street, said Ald. Mark Brachman (2nd Ward).

The rain barrel must also be “maintained and serviced frequently by the resident so that it functions properly as intended,” Brachman noted.

The ordinance prohibits water collected in a rain barrel from being deposited in the public sanitary sewer drainage system, Brachman said.

In an effort to reduce basement backups, sewer overflow and flooding, the MWRD began offering the free rain barrel program in 2014. Municipalities needed only to opt in by signing an intergovernmental agreement with the MWRD.

The barrels are designed to capture rain water from a downspout with the intention of the homeowner then using the water during dry months or for uses like watering plants or washing vehicles.

In order to receive a rain barrel a resident must fill out an application at City Hall, 10335 S. Roberts Road. A Palos Hills staff member will then notify the MWRD that a resident has requested a barrel, and the MWRD will then deliver the barrel to the resident’s home.

Clinton, Trump prevail in Illinois; Alvarez is ousted as Foxx breezes; Duckworth wins

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

With a large voter turnout in Cook County, Hillary Clinton was the victorin a tight race with Bernie Sander in the Democratic primary in Illinois, while Donald Trump was the easy winner in the Republican race Tuesday night.

In another highly contested local race, Cong. Tammy Duckworth (D-8th) was easily victorious over the former head of Chicago Urban League Andrea Zopp and state Rep Napoleon Harris. Duckworth will face Republican incumbent Mark Kirk, who cruised past James Marter.

Kim Foxx, former chief of staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, stunned Democratic incumbent Anita Alvarez in the race for Cook County State's Attorney. Former state and federal prosecutor Donna More was a distant third.

Clerk of Circuit Court Dorothy Brown was the winner Tuesday night despite not receiving the support of the Cook County Democrats, who were concerned when the FBI began investigating her office. Brown defeated Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris ((D-8th), who received the support of the Cook County Democrats in October, and attorney Jacob Meister.

In the Democratic presidential primary, Clinton had 50.3 percent of the vote, or 970,268, with 97 precincts reporting. Sanders had 48.9 percent, or 942,637 votes. Despite the narrow win, Clinton continued to collect delegates with primary victories also in Florida, Missouri, Ohio and North Carolina. Sanders, currently in Arizona, said he plans to continue his campaign.

“If we stand together, there is nothing we can't accomplish,” Sanders said.

Clinton campaigned heavily in Illinois after Sanders recorded a surprising triumph in Michigan. She visited Vernon Hills, which was quickly added to her campaign visits, and made several trips to Chicago's South Side.

Trump, despite recent controversy over disturbances at recent campaign stops, continues to surge ahead of his Republican opponents. With 96 percent of the precincts reporting, Trump had 38.9 percent of the vote for a total of 527,504. Cruz recorded 30.5 percent of the vote for a tally of 414,956.

Kasich was third with 19.6 percent of the vote, or 267,358. Rubio was in fourth with just 8.5 percent for a total of 115,527.

Primary victories in Florida, Missouri and North Carolina has provided Trump with a large lead, along with his Illinois win. However, Kasich won his home state of Ohio, which opponents of Trump that includes Republicans state will result in a contested convention in August.

However, that race will not include Rubio, who lost his home state of Florida to Trump. Rubio has decided to suspend his campaign.

Speaking from West Palm Beach, Trump said he is proud of his campaign and the supporters he has drawn.

“We have people who are working (for us),” he said. “Democrats are coning in. People are voting who have never voted before.”

With 85 percent of the precincts reporting, Duckworth compiled 64 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate. Zopp, who got a late start in the race, had just 25 percent of the vote. Harris was a distant third with 12 percent of the vote.

Duckworth will face Kirk in the general election , who had just over 71 percent of the vote in his victory. Marter had 29 percent. Kirk said he is ready for the challenge and describes himself as a moderate.

Duckworth had a different view of Kirk.

“We sent a clear and loud message tonight,” said Duckworth. “We are going to lead without fear.”

Duckworth said that Kirk would support Trump. Kirk responded by stating that an earlier statement was taken out of context. He said a decision on the Republican candidate he will support for president will be made in July.

In Brown's victory in the Clerk of the Circuit Court race, she had 47 percent of the total with 427,253 votes. Harris recorded 275,207 votes for 38 percent. Meister was third with just 21 percent and 197,944 votes.

“We had some great, great endorsements,” said Brown, who had support from some south suburban mayors. “I am grateful to them for believing in me.”

Brown will face Diane Shapiro, the Republican committeeman from Chicago's 46th Ward, in the general election in November. Shapiro was unopposed in the primary.

Also unopposed in the primary Tuesday were Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) and Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, who faced no challengers in the race for state comptroller. She will face Republican Leslie Munger in the November election.

Democratic state representatives Mary Flowers (31st), Andre Thapedi (32nd), Fran Hurley (35th) and Kelly Burke (36th) were also unopposed.

This year, Democrats accounted for 90 percent of early voting in Chicago, with Republicans recording 10 percent. In suburban Cook County, Democratic voters registered 72 percent of early voting, while Republican accounted for 29 percent, according to the Cook County Clerk's office.