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OL Park District stalls citizens’ full court press for hoop removal

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  An Oak Lawn trustee’s proposal to remove basketball hoops from all village parks was not well-received Monday by park district commissioners.

  “I didn’t get a good vibe from the board,” Trustee Carol Quinlan said after Monday’s park board meeting. “I’m not very optimistic.”
  Quinlan was one of approximately 30 residents who live near Little Wolf Park to attend the meeting. She asked commissioners to consider removing the hoops following an Aug. 14 fight at the park that led to two arrests.
  The fight took place at about 9:20 p.m. near a foot bridge that connects Little Wolfe Park with walking trails that stretch to the rear of Richards High School.
  Stephen Hyde, 18, of Oak Lawn, and Hexadore Randall, 19, of Chicago, were arrested and charged with battery after they were picked out of a lineup by teenagers injured in the melee, police said.
  The duo said the fight was racially motivated and broke out after a group of white teens used racial slurs, according to police. They said they were walking the trails adjacent to the park when they encountered the white teens, who shouted racial slurs before hitting them, police said.
  The white teens offered a different version of events. Two teens told police they were punched in the face while another said he was jumped, according to reports.
  Quinlan said problems have been ongoing throughout the summer and residents are concerned about the potential for more fights or mayhem.
  “It was not an isolated case,” Quinlan said. “I am not exaggerating at all.”
  She added that the park no longer attracts families or younger children. Instead, older teens and adults from outside Oak Lawn play basketball at the park, 109th Street and Laramie Avenue.
  “Mothers are not coming with their children. I think that we’re bringing in an element that’s from outside Oak Lawn,” said Quinlan, who lives near the park.
  She said she receives complaints routinely from residents who do not feel comfortable at the park. Those who use the basketball courts park on both sides of Laramie Avenue, shout profanities and litter in the park, Quinlan said.
  Police Chief Mike Murray met with Park Director Maddie Kelly recently to discuss park security, he said at Monday’s meeting. Murray and Kelly discussed increased lighting at Little Wolfe Park and the possibility of clearing dense brush and foliage that has grown along the paths.
  Murray added that there have been more than 300 police patrols at park since the Aug. 14 incident. No other confrontations have occurred at the park in the past month, Murray said.
  Park commissioners said they would consider Quinlan’s proposal at a future meeting when a full board was on hand. Commissioner Mary Margaret Wallace did not attend Monday’s meeting.
  Park Commissioner Donna McAuley said “safety is a concern for all of us,” but was hesitant to remove recreational opportunities from the parks. She added that recreational equipment is added to parks after the district receives feedback from residents.
  Kelly also was tentative about taking down the basketball hoops.
  “We hate to take out any recreational amenity in any park,” she said.
  Commissioner Gary Callahan said inappropriate conduct in the parks is not solely associated with basketball. He said the district’s skateboard park, near 89th Street and Ridgeland Avenue, has drawn inappropriate behavior from some teens who use the facility.
  Quinlan asked commissioners to consider removing the nets for a six-month trial period. If they are removed permanently, the courts could be replaced by sand volleyball courts, she said.
  Some residents who attended the meeting were unhappy with the park board’s failure to make a decision on the issue.
  Dennis Zator said park commissioners are ignoring a safety issue.
  “They’re doing it their way,” he said.
  Jim Durkin, who also lives near the park, said removing the basketball hoops was a “simple fix.”

ComEd attempting to restore ‘good faith’ to OL residents

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  ComEd will take steps to remedy the causes of power outages that have plagued the village, according to a reliability report issued to the village.

  Trustee Alex Olejniczak said the report is a step in the right direction but never would have been published if village officials had not pressured ComEd to act.
  “(ComEd’s) first line of defense is to tell you they did nothing wrong,” said Olejniczak, whose 2nd District has experienced many of the recent outages.

  Olejniczak and other village officials have been in regular contact with ComEd in past months, especially after a March power outage and surge in the northeast section of the village.
  The outage and subsequent surge caused approximately $25,000 worth of damage to appliances and electrical equipment in a neighborhood roughly bounded by 49th and 52nd avenues between 87th and 93rd streets, Olejniczak said.
  A down power line near 91st Street and Cicero Avenue and raccoon that got into a transformer located behind Freshline Foods, 5355 W. 95th St., were the cause of the outage, ComEd officials said.
  Three months later, thousands of residents were without power for two days after a storm swept through the village.
  ComEd denied the 59 claims submitted following the March surge, Olejniczak said, but recently agreed to pay $500 to those who submitted claims.
  “All we have asked is that they do what’s right for the residents,” Olejniczak said.

  Liz Keating, ComEd communications manager, said the utility sent the $500 to residents as a “good faith gesture.” The company does not pay for surge damage when wildlife is the cause, Keating said.
  Some residents have accepted the money, while others plan to reject the payment and instead file a claim with the Illinois Commerce Commission, Olejniczak said.
  Village Manager Larry Deetjen said pressure on ComEd led to the reliability report and the agreement to take steps to remedy the problem.
  “There is no question we would not have been where we are,” Deetjen said at Tuesday’s village board meeting.
  Olejniczak said much of the reliability reports contains “the same information I was talking about for years.”
  For example, ComEd will begin a vegetation management plan in the 9300 block of 50th and Sproat avenues, the report said. The area was hard hit during the June outage.
  “Now they’ve got an actionable plan,” Olejniczak said.
  The plan calls for work to be done through the end of year, he said.
  Keating said ComEd also has agreed to assess its entire system in Oak Lawn and asked village officials to identify troublesome areas.
  She disagreed with Olejniczak’s claim that village’s reliability is among the worst on ComEd’s grid.
  “The reliability is actually better that the reliability in some of the southwest suburbs,” she said.