Arrow damages mayor's optometry office

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Oak Lawn police are investigating a case of vandalism in which an arrow was shot through a glass door at the main entrance of Mayor Sandra Bury’s optometry office in the overnight hours between Oct. 18 and 19.

          The damage to the double-paned glass door of Complete Vision Care, 6209 W. 95th St., was discovered by a newspaper deliveryman, who called police at 4:48 a.m. Oct. 19 to report finding the glass shattered. The arrow was found lodged in a chair about 10 feet from the door, Bury said this week.

          When police called her to the scene, she said they were shocked to find that a steel-tipped arrow caused the damage.

          “Welcome to my world,” she said wryly.

          Asked whether she thought political opponents unhappy with her for one reason or another might be behind it, Bury, a first-term mayor, said she would rather not focus on that possibility.

          “I’m leaving the investigation up to the police. It is in their hands now, and they are taking it very seriously. They’re very good at their jobs,” she said.

          “I am just very relieved that no one was in the office, and no one was hurt. I’m hoping that it may have been kids playing in the back behind the parking lot who did it by accident,” she said. “Judging by the time it was done, whoever did it, didn’t want to cause any injuries.”

          “I employ 20 women, and the majority are mothers. They didn’t sign up for this,” said Bury, an optometrist whose practice is marking its 10th anniversary at that location.

          Security cameras were focused on the entrance to the optometry office, and Police Division Chief Randy Palmer said the tapes are being reviewed.

          Security cameras were focused on the entrance to the optometry shop, and police are reviewing what they recorded, Palmer said.

          According to reports, Palmer said a practice arrow was used, making it harder to track because practice arrows are not cut to fit certain bows. Therefore, it would be impossible to determine which store sold it.

          Rather than worrying about who might have shot the arrow, using a compound bow, Bury said she prefers to focus on all the support she has received since the incident happened.

          In addition to residents and village staff who expressed their support, she is thankful for everyone from the deliveryman who called police when he saw the damage, and stayed there until she arrived, to the glass company that made sure the damage would be repaired as soon as possible.

          “I was originally told that it could take 10 days to get the new glass delivered, but the (representative) drove to Indiana to pick up the glass himself,” she said.


Worth development plans are a hot topic

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

It was standing room only when nearly 70 people crowded into the Village Hall Board Room in Worth Oct. 21, to participate in an open house regarding future plans to enhance the area surrounding the Worth Metra station.

Presented by the village’s Economic Development Commission, chaired by Trustee Collen McElroy, in conjunction with the Chicago-based Farr Associates Consulting Group. The event was the first public workshop on the proposed project. McElroy said committee work has been underway in recent months with a number of commission meetings and interviews with local business and property owners to select members for upcoming Focus Groups.

Primarily, the open house was designed to present the concept of a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project to residents while also getting feedback on what they envisioned for the future of Worth.

By definition, 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.

Doug Farr, president and founding principal of Farr Associates, said that TOD plans are always about whether change is needed, or wanted. The evening’s program was geared to examine the feasibility of the project and whether or not Worth residents were in favor of it.

McElroy thanked the attendees for their show of support by attending the meeting. “We want to overcome the “It’s only Worth, what do you expect?” mentality. By being here, you are demonstrating that you are interested in the future of Worth,” she said.

The planned TOD project is a result of a $75,000 Regional Transportation Agency grant awarded to the village earlier this year. Funding for the $75,000 plan is made up of $40,000 in federal funds from the United Work Program, $20,000 from the RTA’s Community Planning program and $15,000 from the village.

In spite of an initial technological glitch at the beginning of the meeting, which delayed the presentation of a PowerPoint program, Farr kept the energy high in interactive exercises, which kept the crowded room attentive.

“Worth is a very special place. This kind of turnout is very unusual. It clearly indicates that you, the residents, care about this community,” Farr said. He added that in his many years of experience in working with municipalities, he had never seen such a large turnout for a program of this type.

“We are here tonight to get a sense of what you want for Worth and to help you see the full potential of the core area, including the Metra station, the Village Hall and the police and fire stations. We want to define priority areas for improvement.”

He sparked a discussion when he introduced the SWOT exercise, which is comprised of listing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the community.

Interestingly, responses indicated 21 strengths, 15 weaknesses, eight opportunities and seven threats, as perceived by the audience. Listed among the strengths were: location, walkability, diversity, water tower recognition, the Water’s Edge Golf Club, schools, Krapil’s Restaurant and the Chieftain Pub.

Perceived weaknesses included: no town identity, divided by expressways, lack of commercial development, no destination points, ageing population, lack of good signage to identify businesses and no conformity of style for commercial development.

Some opportunities listed were: better coordination between schools and park districts to improve use of facilities and schedules, more communication between elected officials and civic organizations and beautification of village entryways.

Numbered among the threats to development in the community were: lack of major stores, competition from surrounding communities, lack of restaurants, Cook County property taxes and fear of change.

After a polling of the attendees, taken electronically by tabulation devices on which the audience could push buttons to register their responses, it seemed that the majority of people in the room did not want multi-family apartment buildings taller than three stories near the Metra station. The polling question had presented choices of three, four, five, or six stories for proposed multi-family buildings.

The polling indicated that while 90 percent of the audience lived in Worth, 59 percent used the Metra station and 32 percent had never used it.

Other polling questions revealed that there is little new housing construction in Worth, and that the key to improvement would be redevelopment.

Eighty percent of the group voted “No” to single family development in the core area, with a majority voting “Yes” for increased commercial development. On the matter of improvements to the municipal buildings in the core area, 41 percent voted “Yes” and 53 percent voted “No.”

Residents speaking up included Rick Landry, who responded to the complaint about lack of cooperation between the school district and the park district.

“It seems that the two groups could work something out to utilize the wonderful park facilities we have in Worth so that school activities could be held in the parks, or after-school activities could be coordinated,” said Landry. “If we can see the future differently, we can move ahead.”

Peggy Healy, who moved to Worth 11 years ago because of the small-town feeling of the community, said she was happy to be included in this discussion. “It was good to hear realistic options and information.”

David Daujatas said, “It was exciting to be here tonight. We heard a lot of good information and it was great to see the community coming together. It will be great to bring in some new blood.”

In a later conversation, McElroy said she was impressed with the turnout and the support of the community.

“I feel that the residents expressed very good points to consider in the future planning for the village. I think this long-range plan will open the dialog to the potential of Worth. It is important that the residents know that the board is listening.”

Farr also said he sensed hesitancy in the response of the attendees. “The turnout was excellent and people were truly engaged in the discussion and excited. However, it was unclear as to whether the proposed changes were feasible or if they were truly wanted.”

He added that the consensus of the room seemed to be that in order to attract young families to the area there needed to be changes made. “However, the polling we did indicated that the residents want more of what they have, in regard to the type of housing proposed at the Metra station.”

Farr said the meetings will continue with the Economic Development Commission and the planned focus groups. The next presentation scheduled for the public will be in March, 2016.

Mayors frustrated by budget impasse

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Local mayors have been less than enthusiastic about Gov. Rauner’s proposal to offer loans to municipalities to assist them financially since the budget impasse began in June.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, who is the president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, said Rauner’s low-interest loan proposal is peculiar at best

“It’s like going to a bank and taking out money and the bank charges you for a loan,” said Bennett, who has been mayor of Palos Hills for 35 years. “You know because of the impasse, 911 emergency, motor fuel tax and video gaming revenue has been frozen by the state.

“If this continues, we are going to have to look for other resources for revenue,” added Bennett.

Rauner’s proposal is in response to the Democrats passing a bill that would allow the release of dollars being withheld by the state for local programs. Democratic officials said that they want the revenue sent to local municipalities to fund programs.

Local mayors have said the impasse should have no effect on the 911 emergency funds, motor fuel tax and video gaming revenue. However, these officials said they have not received any revenue since the impasse began.

“I can’t understand it,” said Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar. “Compromise is what it’s all about. These guys down in Springfield have been doing this for a long time. You would think somehow they could come up with a compromise. But there seems to be no sense of urgency. It’s kind of scary.”

Tokar said that annually the village would have received $400,000 at this time of the year from the motor fuel tax. But since the budget impasse, Chicago Ridge has only seen $193,000.

“We are at 50 percent of where we should be,” said Tokar. “The motor fuel tax is important. It pays for street improvements. And with the past couple of winters we have had, that is important.”

Video gaming does not bring in as much revenue but Tokar said the village has not received any funds since June, when the impasse began. He is concerned about the state taking income tax money that should go for the village. He added that there is about a five-month lag on income tax revenue. However, if the impasses continues into the new year, the income tax revenue could become a target of the state, Tokar said.

“It’s just not right,” he said.

Worth Mayor Mary Werner is looking at ideas to bring in more development for her village. She said the budget impasse is not helping in that regard. Funds from the motor fuel tax and video gaming have been frozen since the impasse began.

“I think at this point, the funding should go through for video gaming and the motor fuel tax,” said Werner. “Video gaming and MFT funds have nothing to do with the Illinois budget.”

Werner is not optimistic that an agreement will be reached soon.

“With elections coming up next year, no one wants to make a move,” she said. “It sounds like nothing is going to happen until next year.”

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton said that his village may be in better shape right now than other municipalities. However, there are limits. He recalls when Rauner approached the village in the spring to encourage the local government to embrace his five-point plan to jumpstart the economy. Critics have said that Rauner’s plan, the “Turnaround Agenda,” also wants to make restrictions on unions and lower salaries of employees.

“There were a lot of requests earlier this year,” Sexton said. “But it was kind of like all or nothing.”

Sexton added that while the impasse is not affecting the village right now, problems will arise if the stalemate continues into next year.

“Politics is the art of compromise,” said Sexton. “If they would just sit down and talk, they might find out they have more in common than they thought.”

Tokar agrees with that assessment.

“It is mind boggling,” he said. “You would think the governor and the speaker could go out to dinner. There are a lot of good restaurants in Springfield. They should be able to talk and figure this out.”

'Teacher of the Year' brings agriculture to Oak Lawn classroom

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The lack of farms in Oak Lawn has not stopped St. Germaine teacher Carole Scannell’s fourth-grade students from learning how their lives are touched by agriculture every day.

An Evergreen Park resident with 32 years of teaching experience, Scannell has been incorporating farming and agriculture into lesson plans for the usual subjects of math, reading, language, social studies and science since getting involved in the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom program five years ago.

Illinois Farm Bureau officials recognized her efforts last Thursday, naming her 2015 Teacher of the Year. Keven Daugherty, education director of the Agriculture in the Classroom program, and Maureen Burns, surprised her in her classroom in the school at 9735 S. Kolin Ave. with her award and a bouquet of flowers.

As the Illinois nominee for Teacher of the Year, Scannell also will get a trip to the 2016 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference in Litchfield Park, Ariz.

She was among 40 nominees statewide, chosen from the more than 7,000 Illinois teachers involved in Agriculture in the Classroom.

Scannell also participates in the IAITC Adopt a Classroom program, which matches her class with farm families in rural Fulton County, in western Illinois.

“The students have a lot of great pen-pals in Fulton County,” explained Agriculture in the Classroom presenter Linda Dunn, a resident of Chicago’s Garfield Ridge neighborhood who visits Scannell’s classroom periodically to share agricultural information.

Each May, the fourth-graders at St. Germaine, with their teacher and parents, take a bus trip to visit their farming friends in Fulton County.

“It gives them a chance to see working farms up close,” said Scannell. Like her students, Scannell doesn’t come from a farming background, “But I’ve been interested in it since I was a little girl,” she said. “I think I was a farmer in a former life,” she added.

“It certainly shows that we are teaching more than reading and math here,” said Principal Kevin Reedy. “We don’t teach agriculture as a subject, but she finds a way to incorporate it into everything.”

Reedy said that during the school year, St. Germaine students don’t visit the working farm attached to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences in the nearby Mt. Greenwood neighborhood. But he said Scannell volunteers at a summer program at the Ag School, which gives her pupils a chance to see the crops and livestock there.

A runner-up last year, Scannell is only the third teacher from Cook County to receive the Teacher of the Year award.

“Now you’re legendary, Mrs. Scannell. One of the best teachers in the state,” said student James Mahia. “I don’t know about that,” she said modestly.

James and his classmates enjoyed pumpkin sugar cookies in honor of their teacher’s award, after showing off their considerable knowledge about agriculture in Illinois, including the fact that Illinois produces more pumpkins than any other state.

With the Cubs in the playoffs, they were also asked how baseball is connected to agriculture. They were able to reel off everything from the game being played on grass, to the bats made of wood and the clothing and shoes of players coming from plants and animal products.

“Getting this award is really a big honor,” said Scannell, who was nearly brought to tears by the surprise visit and presentation.

“But it’s really because of all these people that it is such a success,” she said, pointing out Daugherty, Dunn and Burns. She thanked them for providing course material and a smart board for her classroom, and said the active participation of the Fulton County farmers is another key.

Oak Lawn trustee: Crime has not risen

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The Oak Lawn Police Department officials said that despite some home break-ins during the past year, residents should not feel that this is a trend.

Oak Lawn Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) also said that he sees no increase in crime in his district or the village as a whole.

“Since I’ve been a trustee there has been times it was higher during some times of the year and lower at other times of the year,” said Olejniczak, who has been a trustee since 2005. “But I can honestly say that there is no rise in crime.”

A debate took place during the Oct. 13 Oak Lawn Village Board meeting regarding crime reports. Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) said that he is not receiving all of the information and implies that some incidents are not being reported. Other trustees disagree, stating that they have always received the reports they have requested.

Olejniczak said he can’t understand what Streit is referring to.

“I have never had problem getting police reports,” said Olejniczak. “Now there may be ongoing investigations or if juveniles are involved. But I have never had problems getting reports. Never.”

Olejniczak said that he does study the reports to see if any patterns have developed. He admits that there are some establishments that have more reported incidents, but overall he sees no significant changes.

“If you are a trustee, it’s good to read all of the reports,” said Olejniczak. “You want to know what’s going on in the neighborhood. This way you can do something about it by talking to people.”

And that’s what puzzles Olejniczak about Streit’s claims during the last village board meeting. He added that Streit’s actions are only frightening residents about an alleged rise in crime.

“It concerns me when he uses that information that way,” said Olejniczak. “What he should be doing is meeting with people to try and solve some of those problems.”

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said that information about vehicle collisions and domestic-related incidents are not provided. However, information is provided to news reporters.

Streit said during the meeting that he “can see no reason why all these reports should be kept from the public.” Streit, who has been a trustee since 1991, said the board of trustees should make a decision on this.

Olejniczak said that the information from the reports can be beneficial in other ways. Blocks that have empty residences could be a sign that problems may appear in the future.

“You start looking at homes that are a little shabby or in disrepair,” said Olejniczak. “My biggest scare is squatters coming in. That’s why it is good to look at the reports and know as much as you can about the district.”

But Olejniczak said that his district and the village as a whole are not going through a crime surge.

“I can tell you honestly I feel secure about the village,” said Olejniczak. “I have every bit of faith in our police department. I think they are doing a great job.”