Chicago Ridge Board awaits decision on receiving CDBG grants

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

The deadline for applying for Community Development Block Grant funds through the state is approaching, and the Chicago Ridge Village Board spent some time at the Tuesday meeting discussing whether to seek CDBG funds for street improvements of water tower renovation.

Village engineer Andrew Pufundt informed the board that applications will be due in April for the CDBG grants, which are funds from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development that are distributed by states. He said that last year, municipalities applied for grants for as much as $400,000, and it is hoped that about that much would be available this year as well.

Mayor Chuck Tokar pointed out that last year the village’s application for a CDBG grant to be used for rehabbing the village water tower was turned down, after being awarded the previous year for another project. CDBG funds can only be used for utility or infrastructure repairs.

“Maybe they were just reluctant to give it to us two years in a row,” he said.

Tokar suggested that because the cost of the maintenance work needed to be done on the village water tower, including exterior painting and interior inspection, has been estimated to cost $800,000, that might not be the best project to use CDBG funds on. He said it would still leave the village with a bill of at least $400,000 to cover the remaining costs.

The mayor said any grant money received might be better used on street improvements.

“We do have quite a few streets that need repairs and qualify for the money,” he said, noting that CDBG funds can only be used in areas of municipalities where the average income does not exceed a certain level.

“There is no doubt that a lot of our streets have really gotten a battering in recent years,” Tokar said, adding that last winter was much worse than the current one.

However, Trustee Jack Lind stressed the importance of maintaining the water tower.

“I agree the streets are very important, but we can’t wait for CDBG funds to get the water tower done. We don’t know when they will be coming anyway,” said Lind, the former public works director, suggesting that a bond issue might be needed to pay for it, rather than depleting the water and sewer fund or other village accounts to do it.

Lind said the water tower project entails much more than repainting the exterior.

“There is nothing more important to a community than its water supply. Ours is fine now, but we want to keep it that way. Some repairs are needed inside the tower,” he said.

“I have a background in this and we need a comprehensive study done every so many years,” said Lind. He said it may have been 16 years or more since the last one was done.

Lind explained that such a study would include inspecting the outside of the tower, and then using a camera to inspect the inside.

At his request, the board agreed to ask Public Works Director Stanley Barwock to get the process started, by seeking proposals to get the study done.

“You have your marching orders now, Stan,” Tokar told the director, who was in the audience.

In other business the board passed a resolution approving the village’s purchase of a vacant restaurant property at 10255 S. Harlem Ave. for $650,000.

Lind and Trustee Sally Durkin said after the meeting that acquisition of the former Nicobee’s restaurant, which will be torn down, was important because the property is located just south of a vacant trucking terminal that the village is trying to market to a developer.

News about Worth golf course is encouraging

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

The Worth Board of Trustees received some good news about the Water’s Edge Golf Course at its regular meeting on Tuesday.

Trustee Tedd Muersch Jr. board liaison to the golf course, reported that the facility is in a good place. “I would like to take credit for that fact, but I attribute it to our new general manager, Dean Gabey who has brought a new energy to the club,” said Muersch.

“We already have 47 golf outings on the book for this year, which is 37 percent ahead of last year’s number. Several of the scheduled outings will bring 120 to 140 golfers to the club for each event, which is the maximum number for the course. These numbers are great financially for the club,” he said.

He added that Gabey has brought some new marketing strategies to the facility, which is really getting the word out to the area about upcoming activities. Future events include a Shamrock Scramble on March 19 and brunches planned for Easter and Mother’s Day, with those dates yet to be announced.

He also announced that Water’s Edge has re-negotiated a lease agreement with EasyGo, the company, which provides the club’s golf carts. The club was in the fourth year of a five-year lease, at a cost of $9,000 per month, providing an option to purchase the golf carts at the end of the five year contract.

The new lease will provide new carts at a cost of $6,000 per month with a beverage cart and two maintenance carts added to the deal. Muersch said it did not make any sense to buy the five-year old carts because of the years of wear and tear.

“We were very happy with the new contract and glad that we were able to stay with EasyGo,” said Muersch.

In other board action, a business license was approved upon the recommendation of the Economic Development Commission for Luxe Embellishment to be located at 6401 W. 107th St.

The approval is contingent upon the business passing all inspections and being in compliance with all codes and ordinances.

Luxe Embellishment is a specialty retail store selling Irish dance, bridal, communion and every day accessories.

Also approved was an ordinance approving a lease agreement and an amendment to the lease agreement with PNC Equipment Finance, LLC concerning personal property at Water’s Edge Golf Club.

A resolution was approved for the allocation of $300,000 MFT funds allowing for general maintenance of streets and highways in Worth, such as streetlight repairs and curb replacements.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, resident German Cordova presented a petition signed by residents living on Depot Street, between Southwest Highway and 107th Street, requesting that parking be banned on both sides of the street.

Cordova, a 10-year resident on the street, had attended a previous meeting where he raised an objection to tenants from a condominium located on his street, parking their vehicles on the street instead of in the parking lot provided for their building. He said it was unfair to the other residents and presented a safety hazard and prevented the street from being plowed properly.

Trustee Pete Kats agreed that he had a good case and asked if the board could take action on the petition.

Village Attorney, Greg Jones, said that an ordinance would have to be prepared and then brought to the board for approval.

Mayor Mary Werner said that she would direct the attorney to prepare the ordinance. However, she wanted to reach out to the owner of the condominium first to see if an agreement could be peacefully reached to require the tenants to park in the space provided for the building.

“This will be addressed at our next board meeting,” she said.

Trustee Kevin Ryan was not present but had given notice that he would be unable to attend the meeting.

Local Dems seek solutions for budget impasse

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

Gov. Bruce Rauner originally vetoed a bill by state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th) that passed through the Senate on Monetary Awards Program, or MAP grants, for college students.

Burke felt confident that after a few revisions with the assistance of state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-17th) that Rauner would be in agreement with the bill as he prepared for his budget address on Feb. 17.

But what happened is Burke’s bill was vetoed for a second time within a month.

“You know, I was hopeful that he would agree this time,” said Kelly, whose district includes Evergreen Park and portions of Oak Lawn. “We will just have to go back to work.”

The governor vetoed the Senate Bill 2043 because he said it would “explode the state’s budget deficit.” Rauner believes that approving MAP grants would put a strain on the cash flow for other agencies in the state that are already having financial difficulties because of the budget stalemate.

Burke said that she, along with other legislators, have sent a letter to the governor to discuss aspects of his “turnaround agenda” and where they can find some middle ground. Rauner would like to see some loosening of union rules that he thinks restricts employers from hiring and prevents companies from settling in Illinois.

“Talking about the budget and funding is an ages-old struggle,” said Burke “So, if we talk about the budget, I think we can come up with some ideas. But the maddening part of the budget talks is that the governor wants to eliminate collective bargaining. That’s why these conversations don’t go any further.”

Many Republicans oppose that the bill was going to restore $397 million in scholarships and more than $324 million for community colleges. GOP leaders said the funding does not exist because there is no budget.

State Sen Bill Cunningham (D-18th) said that hearings will be held next week in Springfield to deal with the budget issue and at that time discussions will focus on some compromises that can be reached with the governor.

Cunningham mentioned that perhaps some pension limits can be examined, especially the “golden parachutes” offered to some college executives who some institutions want to rid themselves of for a variety of reasons. However, some of these officials are offered large sums of money in an attempt to sever ties.

“I think if we can talk to the governor about some reforms in these areas, we can compromise on other issues like MAP grants,” said Cunningham. “In the realm of higher education, I don’t think we are really that far apart.”

But limiting collective bargaining that the governor has insisted on is not going in the right direction, said Cunningham.

“We can be mired in this standoff for a long time,” said Cunningham if collective bargaining reductions are stressed by the governor. “The right for workers who can negotiate for better wages is a right that should not be taken away. It is at our core beliefs.”

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission estimated that if the Senate bill was not vetoed, 125,000 to 130,000 eligible students would have been approved for MAP grant assistance.

In regards to compromise, Republicans have stated that they would set aside $1.6 billion for grants for community colleges and four-year universities with their proposal. But according to the Republican plan, this would allow Rauner to move funds around during a budget crisis.

Burke is suspicious of that idea because money that is set aside for MAP grants and education in general should not be altered during a budget standoff.

Colleges and universities have not received funding from the state since July 1 because of the budget impasse. Other programs have been funded through court orders and laws.

“Thousands of Illinois students rely on the MAP grant program for access to education and to prepare for a better life,” Burke said. “Higher education is an essential state service that is just as important as elementary and secondary school, and should not be held up by this budget impasse.”

Chicago Ridge raises rates for video gaming machines By Dermot Connolly

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

After seeing how much money was being spent on video gaming in town, the Chicago Ridge Village Board has decided to raise the fees to businesses for each video gaming machine they have.

“Nobody knew how much would be raised from this when we started it several years ago,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar, explaining why the annual fee per terminal was originally set at $100.

But after reviewing data gathered by the Illinois Gaming Board on the amount of money spent on video gaming, the board agreed unanimously with Tokar’s suggestion that the annual fee per machine be raised to $500.

The mayor said the village can use the additional funds for law enforcement, among other things, because the video gaming is done at places that serve alcohol, where the police typically have to focus more attention.

Trustees Fran Coglianese and Bruce Quintos suggested even raising the fee to $1,000, after Coglianese pointed out that Illinois Gaming Board statistics showed more than $5 million was wagered last year on video gambling in one business in the village.

But when Trustee William McFarland said raising the fees might hurt non-profit organizations such as the Glen Maker American Legion Post 1160, at 10739 S. Ridgeland Ave., and McDonald-Linn VFW Post 177, at 10537 S. Ridgeland, the board settled on raising the fee per terminal to $500. The Oak Lawn Elks Lodge 2254, at 10720 S Central Ave., is the third non-profit in Chicago Ridge with a gaming license.

Village Attorney Burt Odelson explained that non-profits cannot legally be charged a different fee per terminal than other businesses.

“I can’t believe I am the one saying $500 is enough,” said Trustee Andrea Cardin, noting that she has been seeking a limit on video gaming licenses for some time.

When Coglianese brought up the issue of limiting the number of video gaming licenses allowed in the village, Tokar said the trustees could treat them just as they do liquor licenses, which are limited.

Neighboring Oak Lawn had 35 establishments with video gaming licenses in 2015, while Palos Hills had six, Hickory Hills had 14, Worth had 10, and Evergreen Park only has one, the Evergreen Park American Legion Post 854.

Detailed information about the gambling activity at all of the establishments, including the 20 in Chicago Ridge with gaming licenses, is available on the Illinois Gaming Board’s website at VideoReports.aspx.

According to the IGB, Jenny’s Steakhouse, at 11041 S. Menard Ave., was the business that saw most, with $5.49 million in wagering done on its five video gaming terminals last year. Over $5 million was won, leaving a net wagering activity of $463,749.

Just five of the Chicago Ridge establishments with gaming licenses recorded less than $1 million in wagers, with the least amount registered by O’Connor’s Pub & Grill, 5900 W. 111th St., with $21,993 wagered. The $19,278 won left a net activity of $2,715.

The net taxable income, which is roughly the same as the net wagering activity, is taxed at 30 percent, with 5/6 of the money going to the state, and 1/6 to the municipality. So in 2015, Chicago Ridge’s share of the video gaming revenue was $240,778.22.

Rename ice rink in Evergreen Park in memory of fallen firefighter

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Residents came out in full force late Saturday in Evergreen Park to pay tribute to the late firefighter Dan Capuano, whose memory was honored with a dedication service and renaming of the ice rink at 9000 S. Kedzie Ave.

Capuano, 42, served as a part-time Evergreen Park firefighter for 16 years. He was also a Chicago firefighter for 15 years. Capuano, 42, died in an abandoned warehouse fire on Chicago’s Southeast Side on Dec. 14.

He left behind his wife, Julie, and three children, Amanda, Andrew and Nick to mourn his loss. He was known as devoted family man and was active in coaching his sons in hockey, which made the remaining the rink in his memory fitting.

Mayor James Sexton announced last month that he and the board of trustees had agreed unanimously to honor Capuano by renaming the ice rink.

“We could think of nothing more appropriate to honor this young man, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, than to name this facility after him. He spent many hours at the rink, coaching his two sons and other youngsters in the game of hockey,” said Sexton.

More than 300 people gathered in the Evergreen Park Fire Station, located directly south of the ice rink, as the dedication ceremony began. It was a multi-generational group comprised of senior citizens, young families with babies in strollers and toddlers, in tow, and large groups of high school students and young adults.

“There are a lot of good people here today,” said Sexton.

First to speak was Village Fire Chief Ronald Kleinhaus, who thanked everyone for coming out in honor of the Capuano family.

“We were honored to know him not only as our brother in the department, but we were honored to know him as our friend. He will be long-remembered for the good man he was,” said Kleinhaus. “Losing him has been a tremendous loss, both for us personally as fellow firefighters, but for our community as well. He will be greatly missed.”

Sexton said Capuano was a giving man.

“He was devoted to his family, first and foremost. He gave to the community through his work, he generously served his church, Queen of Martyrs, which he loved and he was a dedicated coach for the St. Jude Hockey Club.” said Sexton. “It was never about Dan. For him, it was always about others and what he could do for them. With this memorial located so near the fire station, Dan will be remembered on every call, with each truck that leaves the fire house.

“We are honoring Dan Capuano here today, but I also want to say thank you to all of our first responders, for all that you do to keep our community safe,” added Sexton.

Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago, said, “We are honoring our brother here today with this beautiful memorial, by which he will be remembered. Fifty years from now, a child will be skating here and will ask, ‘Who is Dan Capuano?’ And Daniel V. Capuano will be remembered.”

The Rev. Benedykt Pazdan, pastor at Queen of Martyrs Parish where the Capuano family attends church and school, officiated the service, offering Intercessions and the prayer of blessing.

Sexton then invited the group to move to the site of the memorial, immediately north of the fire house, for the unveiling of the plaque. Following a prayer by Pazdan, Capuano’s widow and the three children unveiled the memorial revealing a large stone on which was placed a beautiful red plaque bearing a photo of Capuano wearing his firefighting gear.

Next to the photo is a block of text telling the story of the tragic accident that took his life. Emblazoned across the top of the plaque, in large gold letters is his name, “DANIEL V. CAPUANO.” Underneath his name it reads, “September 27, 1972 – December 14. 2015.” At the bottom of the plaque are the words, “Dedicated on February 20, 2016.”

In addition to the memorial stone, a new sign has been added near the roof of the ice rink. It reads, “Village of Evergreen Park, Daniel V. Capuano Ice Rink, Dedicated February 20, 2016.” On the bottom left side of the sign is the logo of the Evergreen Park Fire Department and on the right is the Chicago Fire Department logo.