Oak Lawn fire and police departments battle in ‘supermarket sweep’

  • Written by By Kelly White

The Oak Lawn fire and police departments are usually fighting fires and enforcing the law, respectively. However, the first responders recently competed against each other in a friendly rivalry at an unexpected location – a supermarket.

This year marked the 16th Annual Food Checkout Day sponsored by the Cook County Farm Bureau, Country Financial and Jewel-Osco. To honor the day, the friendly Supermarket Sweep style competition took place at Jewel-Osco, 9424 S. Pulaski Road, Oak Lawn. The firefighter and police teams collected packaged goods and kitchen products for families at all five Ronald McDonald Houses located in the Chicago area on Feb. 9.

“Jewel-Osco is a wonderful host and the scavenger hunt is such a fun addition to the day thanks to the Oak Lawn Fire and Police departments for participating in the friendly competition,” publicist Megan Reidy said.

Broken into two teams, the fire department was led by Chris Ward and the police department was led by Sgt. Jim Pacetti.

Each team received a list of clues for the scavenger hunt, which hinted toward items the Ronald McDonald House really needs. The teams then raced through the store gathering the needed items as fast as they can. The more correct items collected, the more points the team received.

Both teams were assisted by members of Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood, who aided in the pushing of the shopping carts through the hectic aisles.

State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) also made an appearance to cheer on the departments.

The Oak Lawn Fire Department has won the supermarket sweep the past three years. The fire department took home a fourth title, defeating the Oak Lawn Police Department in the six-minute race for food items throughout the grocery store.

Jewel-Osco hosted the fun and fierce competition to benefit families at the Ronald McDonald House near Advocate Children’s Hospital. Food Checkout Day highlights the safe and nutritious food grown by local farmers while also drawing attention to those families who struggle to find solutions to feeding their families healthy food on a tight budget.

Through Farm Bureau’s partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana (RMHC-CNI), Cook County Farm Bureau members are able to assist families during the most difficult time of their lives, when their child is ill, by holding a huge food drive to support all five Ronald McDonald Houses located in the Chicago area.

“Food Checkout Day, led by the Cook County Farm Bureau, brings the community together in support of families at RMHC-CNI,” Reidy said.

The scavenger hunt was inspired to have quick and healthy food available for families in need and home cooked meals are provided by volunteer groups at each of the five Chicago area Ronald McDonald Houses, according to Reidy.

Prior to the event, the local community collected many everyday items, including bottled water, coffee, creamer, cereal, individually wrapped cookies and snack and quick meals, mac and cheese, canned soups, granola bars, and peanut butter and jelly. This allows families the flexibility to grab and go with food items, so they have the energy and strength they need to be their best for their children at the hospital.

A post-event dinner was held at the Ronald McDonald House near Advocate Children’s Hospital located at 4410 W. 93rd St., Oak Lawn, where 16 families currently staying at the house enjoyed a delicious dinner.

All food collected during the event went directly to the Ronald McDonald House.

Two-story medical facility to be built in Chicago Ridge

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly


A new two-story medical facility is coming to Chicago Ridge, offering pulmonary, thoracic and cancer care to residents from throughout the southwest region.

Sana’a Hussien, a local attorney representing the developers, explained at the Chicago Ridge Village Board meeting on Tuesday that a group of doctors affiliated with Advocate Christ Hospital, Little Company of Mary Hospital and Palos Community Hospital plan to have offices and treatment facilities in the center.

The Village Board gave its final approval on Tuesday for the $15 million-$17 million development plan for the as-yet unnamed facility, which will be built at 10604 Southwest Highway.

“I’m very excited about this. It is extremely beneficial for Chicago Ridge and the surrounding area,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar.

“When will they break ground?” Tokar asked.

“They can start tomorrow,” said Hussien. “The plans have been ready for a year. All they need now are the permits,” she said.

“I’ll bring a shovel,” joked the mayor.

Hussien said after the meeting that construction will begin in the spring, with the center slated to open in 2017.

Tokar pointed out that the 40,000 square-foot facility is being built on vacant land just east of Harlem Avenue, in the Harlem Avenue TIF District.

“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,” he said.

He said that with the Chicago Ridge Nursing Center already located next door at 10602 Southwest Highway, and the Davita dialysis center nearby at 10511 S. Harlem, “we’re getting a nice mixture of medical facilities in that area.”

Hussien said that pulmonology services will be based on the first floor of the center, which will open into a two-story lobby with a water feature, coffee shop and outdoor patio. A retail pharmacy and shop will also be included, as well as exam rooms and offices.

She said cancer specialists will be based on the second floor, where infusion bays for patients receiving chemotherapy treatments will look out on the wooded area nearby.

Patients will also be able to get blood drawn onsite, rather than having to go elsewhere.

“They expect to draw clients from throughout the area, probably from as far away as Burr Ridge,” she explained, noting that the center will be open to everyone, not just patients of the doctors involved.

At the request of Trustee Jack Lind, Hussien said that when jobs do become available at the center, the application information will be shared and posted on the village website so residents can apply.


Some Worth residents oppose multi-family units for village

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

A number of residents who attended an Open House Long Range Planning meeting for the Village of Worth last October returned Tuesday to hear the first report on the findings of the group at the village board meeting.

However, some residents were not pleased about some aspects of the report.

Farr and Associates, a consulting firm, was hired last year through a $75,000 Regional Transportation Association grant received by the Village for the purpose of establishing a Transit Oriented Development project near the 111th Street METRA Station.

During an hour-long presentation, Doug Farr, principal founder of the organization, outlined a report indicating that Worth has 5,129 residents living within a half mile of the station. Sixty-seven percent of commuters using the station drive to the station and are mostly from the northwest areas, including Palos Park. Only 17 percent of the commuters walk to the station.

In the October meeting, Farr had explained that TOD projects are designed to find ways to improve rider access to public transportation, while attracting residential and commercial development to the area. Increased walkability in the area is the goal, which could draw restaurants and shops appealing to commuters.

Farr’s presentation on Tuesday hit a snag when he mentioned a proposed design scheme for six-story multi-family units along Depot Street with up to 48 units per building. A number of people in the audience spoke up, saying that Worth did not need any more multi-family units and the problems that often come with them.

Her stated that prior to the meeting he had met with the village officials and learned that three-story, mixed-use buildings, with commercial/retail use on the first floor and apartments on the second and third floors, would be more acceptable in the village.

Farr said he was willing to revise the proposed designs but he also asked the audience to think in terms of a 30-year plan.

“None of this is going to happen overnight. We have to start really small. This is the most dramatic change that could be made in Worth,” he said.

“A row of three-story buildings with small shops on the first floor would encourage people to walk to the station. It could be done by small businesses, such as a small coffee shop, or a bakery, making it a cute place, with a nice ambiance. Worth doesn’t have anything like this now.”

Farr added that there has not been any new construction in Worth in more than 30 years, with the exception of the Chieftain’s Irish Pub on 111th Street.

“Developers need to know that there is a market here for new construction, and it is the responsibility of the village leaders to set the table for developers. Developers need to know that the market will support an up-scale apartment building. An occupied first building will attract a second building,” he said.

When questions arose about developments in northern suburbs and why they couldn’t be repeated in Worth, Farr suggested that he could provide a bus tour for village officials and the Long-Range Planning Steering Committee to view TOD’s in other communities.

After the meeting, Mayor Mary Werner said that the bus tour was a great idea and that she would be working with Farr to put it together. “This project is definitely a work in progress,” she said.

John Staunton, owner of Chieftain’s Irish Pub and chairman of the village’s Economic Development Commission, said that he thought the presentation had been well-received overall. He added, however, that he realizes there is some fear among the residents of any large changes.

“This is a very small manageable project and it has to happen in Worth, if we are going to move forward,” he said.

In other business, the board approved an amendment to the village’s Intergovernmental Agreement with the Worth Park District for the exchange of services between the two entities, calling for an annual meeting at the beginning of each year to determine the scope of services requested by each party regarding grass cuttings and asphalt services.

Also approved was expenditure, not to exceed $3,000, for a beautification plan for the northeast corner of 111th Street and Harlem Avenue.

The mayor also announced that the Water’s Edge Golf Club was hosting a new event, the Penguin Open, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 27 with a shotgun start. The cost is $50 per person, which includes a continental breakfast, green fee, cart fee and a buffet lunch following play. For registration, call (708) 671-1032.

Trustee Tedd Muersch Jr. was absent from the meeting.

Hickory Hills reviews dispute between ComEd and USIC

  • Written by By Sharton L. Filkins

A routine council meeting in Hickory Hills took an unusual turn on Feb. 11 when Public Works Director Larry Boettcher presented a letter from the Hasse Construction Company requesting assistance from the city in a situation involving ComEd and the U.S. Infrastructure Corporation.

The letter from Hasse Construction outlined what they perceived as problems with a project on 85th Court, east of Hillside Drive, in which attempts to complete work on underground lines had been hampered because ComEd had not indicated which lines had been de-energized in back yards and side yards on 85th Court.

Included in the contractor’s complaints was a lack of communication between USIC and ComEd, which resulted in the contractor having staff and equipment showing up for work and not being able to complete the assignment.

Hasse was seeking compensation for the downtime, which was estimated at $20,000 for labor, $25,000 for equipment and $25,000 for lost time.

Village Engineer Mike Spolar said, “This is a very unique situation. Hasse is not looking for an exorbitant amount, but it is hard to get compensation for economic loss.”

Cutting right to the chase, Mayor Mike Howley said, “This situation is clear as mud. Everyone is pointing a finger at everyone else. How is the city involved in this?”

Ald. Mike McHugh (1st Ward) said he did not think the city was liable in this situation and Boettcher agreed with him.

Village Attorney Vince Cainkar said he would look into it to see if the city had any legal obligation in the matter. The council agreed to delay a decision until hearing from the attorney.

In a later conversation with the mayor on Feb. 12, he indicated that Hasse Construction was scheduled to be back on the job this past Tuesday. The work is expected to be completed within 10 days. He added that the city will support Hasse in whatever they wish to file against ComEd and USIC.

The mayor said he had spoken with a ComEd representative and that ComEd is aware that Hasse Construction may pursue a lawsuit. But at the present time, all entities are now co-operating with each other.

In other business, the council approved a resolution allocating $500,000 from the Motor Fuel Tax revenue for the maintenance of streets and roads in the city.

Also approved were business licenses for Exclusive Cuts at 8859 Roberts Road; Clover’s Flower Garden, 8800 W. 87th St.; and Moe’s Lord of the Wings, 8033 W. 87th St.

Ald. Debbie Ferrero (2nd Ward) and Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward) gave notice that they were not going to attend the meeting.

Oak Lawn mayor views rising revenue as hope for future

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

While admitting that pension payments still has to be reckoned with, Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said she is confident in the village’s future and points to increasing revenue sources as a reason for optimism.

Bury mentioned during her “State of the Village” address Tuesday afternoon at the Hilton Oak Lawn that the sale tax had increased in the village.

“Oak Lawn is 19 out of 1,299 Illinois municipalities in Illinois in revenue,” Bury told a crowd of about a 100 who attended the luncheon. “That is something to celebrate.”

The sales tax is up 7.8 percent in Oak Lawn this year and has increased by 12 percent since 2011, said Bury. Business licenses are at record high in the village and the mayor believes that trend will continue.

She mentioned many new businesses that have opened up in the last year, including Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant, Massage Envy, Meatheads, Mooyah Burgers and Oak Lawn Bank and Trust, to name a few.

She joked that Cooper’s Hawk, which along with Mariano’s serve as anchors for the Stony Creek Promenade at 111th and Cicero Avenue, “did not cut any ribbons for the opening but uncorked a few wine bottles instead.”

But the Oak Lawn mayor said that the pension crisis that affects all municipalities in the state, and is not being dealt with during the current budget impasse in Springfield, has to be addressed.

“We have lowered our pension debt the past couple of years,” said Bury. “But in 2019, we have to double the amount of the funding. It’s very challenging. The way that you do that is to lower the village debt. We have to come up with ways to meet our pension obligations.”

An encouraging sign is that the municipal tax levy has decreased by 5.6 percent. Bury added that the village has lowered property taxes for the third year in a row.

“Lower taxes drive businesses to a community,” said Bury. “High taxes drive businesses away from a community.”

Bury said that all the taxing bodies that serve Oak Lawn should try to keep taxes low. The Oak Lawn mayor added that 72 percent of every dollar from the village is spent on employees. Providing employment is a top priority, the mayor said.

“We don’t want to diminish our services,” said Bury. “We want to enhance services.”

On the issue of crime, Bury stated what Oak Lawn Police Chief Mike Murray had told her. The figures fluctuate over the years. The mayor said crime statistics did spike over the past year but overall have been decreasing since 2011. She pointed to 84 violent crimes reported in 2011 and 82 in 2012. But compare that to 2015, in which 70 cases of violent crime was reported, Bury said.

Bury said that Oak Lawn has more police officers and less firefighters today on the basis of statistics. The 911 dispatch service company Norcomm handled 191,967 calls in 2015, according to Bury.

Bury had high marks for the village’s Public Works Department, which for the 19th straight year has received the “Tree City Designation” for planting and caring for trees. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has made available rain barrels for residents. Bury said that 4,190 residents have received the rain barrels.

Work continues on the Harker Water Plant, which will bring water to 325,000 homes. The project is scheduled to be completed this December. The Reich Plant is 20 percent completed and is scheduled to done in July 2017, said Bury.

The mayor said that the number of part-time employees, which is at 81, is the same amount as it was in 2010. The mayor admitted that full-time jobs have decreased due to budget constraints. But Bury mentioned that Steve Radice, who heads Oak Lawn’s Economic Development department, said that the Stony Creek Promenade TIF District had resulted in 870 new jobs in 2015.

Bury applauded the efforts of Radice, who she said has worked hard to secure jobs for the majority of Oak Lawn residents. Bury also said that the old Pappa Joe’s restaurant location will become a Culver’s this fall.

The Oak Lawn mayor reminds seniors that the village is still looking for new site for the center. Bury did applaud the efforts of Genesis, which provides services and conducts programs for seniors. She said talks continue with the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post about moving senior services there. The mayor also said that Trustee William “Bud “Stalker (5th) is also looking into ideas for a new senior facility.

Bury also hailed the efforts of the Oak Lawn Library, Oak Lawn Park District and Oak Lawn Children’s Museum. The new tower at Advocate Medical Center and the efforts of Advocate’s Children’s Hospital drew raves from the mayor. Bury said the children’s hospital is in the top five percent in cardiovascular surgeries for youths in the U.S and Canada.

“Oak Lawn is doing awesome,” said Bury. “We have a lot of things to be proud of.”