Finally, some ice weather for Palos Hills event

  • Written by Kelly White


After three years of weather-related cancellations,PAGE-4-TylerTyler Rafa, 6, of Palos Hills scores a goal during Friday night’s Skate Under the Stars at Glacier Park. The event was canceled the last three years because of weather problems. Photos by Jeff Vorva. Skate Under the Stars in Palos Hills was finally able to take place Friday night.
The outdoor ice-skating event took place at Glacier Park, West 101st Street and South 78th Avenue for the fisrt time in 2011. The 2014 Skate Under the Stars was scheduled to take place but heavy rain on the day of the event called for a last-minute cancellation.
Both the 2012 and 2013 events were cancelled due to unseasonably warm winter weather when Glacier Park was described by one city alderman as more of a lake instead than an ice-skating rink. The 2015 event was finally able to take place with the perfect mix of a cold winter and a mild night although temperatures in the high 30s during the day cast some doubt.
Tyler Rafa, 6, of Palos Hills showed off his ice skating skills while wearing a personalized Blackhawks jersey. An avid hockey player at Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood, Rafa says he loves hockey and plays any chance he gets. His father, Joe, tended to differ on his views of the ice and hockey.
“I like field hockey better,” Joe joked.
Joe had just learned how to ice skate a few months prior to the event, according to Tyler’s uncle, Mark Kleefisch of Mokena.
“Even if you aren’t the best skater, this is a really nice event and it’s beautiful outside,” Kleefisch said.
The family event is sponsored by 4th ward Aldermen Joe Marrotta and Ricky Moore and encouraged local families to come out of winter hibernation. Marrotta watched alongside the rink as his two sons, Sean, 18, and Kyle, 16, played an intense game of hockey.
“My sons are very athletic and competitive but prefer hockey for fun,” Marrotta said.
Marrotta’s older son may not play hockey in college but he will play on the gridiron. Sean was recently Page-4-girlIsabella Stillo, 7, of Palos Hills skates around at the Skate Under the Stars event.offered a full football scholarship and he is planning on attending Benedictine University.
Although boys were dominating the hockey portion of the ice rink, they were not the only ones enjoying the event. Isabella Stillo, 7, of Palos Hills, gracefully made her way across the ice with her dream of one day becoming an Olympic figure skater.
“I really like ice skating a lot,” she said, “I take lessons and I am able to do tricks now too. When I grow up I am going to be a figure skater.”
Stillo also takes ice skating lessons at Southwest Arena.
“She is very good,” her mother, Carol, said, “Her younger sister (Lese) did not take so well to the sport, but Isabella just loves ice skating and she really is one of the top skaters in her class.”
Lese, 6, originally signed up for ice skating with her sister but gave up the sport after only a few weeks.
“She didn’t like it,” her sister explained.
However, the sisters both were having fun Friday night skating hand-in-hand with their mother back and forth across the ice.
Not only is the event is designed to bring everyone together, it encourages and gives children in the community a chance to get outside and get some exercise during the cold weather, while enjoying the winter weather by ice skating, playing hockey and enjoying the heat of a couple of nearby fire pits.


FBI says bank robbery attempts spike in early part of year

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The attempted bank robbery last Wednesday in Evergreen Park is the latest in a statistic the FBI hopes to stifle.


There have been 16 bank robberies in the Chicago area in 2015, the FBI reported. There were 192 reported in 2014. The record year was 2006 when 284 bank robberies were reported, the FBI said.


A spike in bank robberies during the winter months in fairly typical because bank robbers wearing masks and hoods don’t seem out of place, said FBI Special Agent Joan Hyde, the agency’s media coordinator.


The agency is continuing its investigation into the attempted robbery last Wednesday at U.S. Bank, 2917 W. 95th St.


The attempted robbery took place at 1:07 p.m., according to BanditTracker, an FBI-run website.


The armed offender was described as a black man in his early 20s who wore dark clothing and a black neoprene mask.


The offender displayed a handgun but left the bank without taking any cash, an FBI spokesman said.


The incident was described as a non-takeover attempted bank robbery in which no force was used to restrain bank employees or customers, the FBI said.


“We’re very interested in identifying that person,” Hyde said.


The attempted robbery is one of several throughout the Chicago area that the FBI is investigating. Others include:


  • Jan. 14, Oak Bank in Chicago;

  • Jan. 12, the First Merit Bank in Bolingbrook;

  • Jan. 10, U.S. Bank in Chicago;

  • Jan.9, Belmont Bank and Trust, in downtown Chicago;

  • Jan. 9, North Community Bank in Chicago;

  • Jan. 6, Chase Bank, North Riverside

  • Jan. 5, the First Saving Bank, Calumet City

  • Jan. 2, Bank of America, Addison

    The FBI recently arrested suspects in the Belmont Bank and Trust and Chase Bank, Riverside branch, robberies, Hyde said.

    First American Bank in Evergreen Park was robbed in September 2012 when a man walked into the branch, 3221 W. 87th St., pulled out a steel revolver and demanded money, the FBI said.

    He made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.

    Anyone with information about the any of the robberies is asked to call the FBI’s Chicago office at 312-421-6700.



Rauner’s decision a hit with Bennett

  • Written by Bob Rakow



The local face of opposition to the proposed Illiana tollway received some vindication last week when Gov. Bruce Rauner put the brakes on the project.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett, the chairman of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), has long opposed the tollway and took a fair amount of grief last year when he described it as “a road to nowhere.”

That caused the local mayor to take some heat in some circles in Will County and Rauner’s decision helped take him off the hook. He may still be the bad guy to Illiana supporters, but they can now take their frustrations out on Rauner.

Suspending the planning and development of major interstate construction projects was Ruaner’s first act after taking office last week.

Rauner also named Randy Blankenhorn, executive director of CMAP, to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation. Blankenhorn, like Bennett, has long been critical of the Illiana project

Bennett stopped short last week of saying he felt vindicated by Rauner’s decision, but believed the new governor made the right call.

“Governor (Quinn) was determined to push this through,” Bennett said. “I think this project was pushed through politically.”

A Joliet newspaper editorial last year chided Bennett for describing Will County as a “wasteland” and opposing the tollway.

“Palos isn’t so far off from Nowhere Land, either. And surely as president of the Illinois Municipal League, Bennett must have ventured through other parts of the state settled after Lewis and Clark took off,” the paper said.

It added that Bennett, who attended Lewis University in Romeoville, should have been “more well-rounded and take into account the possibility (that) another east-west route through an already busy intersection of two cross-country interstates just might help.”

“CMAP officials have staunchly stuck to their parochial ways of protecting funds for their own projects with little regard for an area for which they have little regard,” the newspaper said.

But Bennett said CMAP had several reasons for opposing the plan, among them cost and a lack of advantages for the region.

“Let’s make sure we build a road that is going to have some impact,” Bennett said.

He added that CMAP seriously doubted that the project, which was described a public-private partnership, would pay for itself. The more likely scenario would find taxpayers holding the bag, especially if estimated toll revenue did not meet expectations, he said.

The proposed 47-mile expressway between Illinois and Indiana was designed to provide an east-west link from Interstate 65 from near Lowell, Indiana, to Interstate 55 near Wilmington in Illinois. The cost of the roadway was estimated at $1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, the estimated cost of the interchange connecting the Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) and I-57 in the southwest suburbs is $719 million, Bennett said. That project has a greater impact on the area, he said.

“All the facts (indicated) that the proposal should not be considered as a capital project for the region. It’s in southern Will County,” said Bennett, adding that federal and state transportation funds are limited.

CMAP studies have indicated that tollway would have little impact on nearby highways, reducing by only 10 percent the number of the cars that travel on I-80/94.

Bennett was careful to point out that Rauner’s decision to suspended planning and development of the major interstates does not necessarily kill the Illiana project.

“Nobody has said it’s completely over,” Bennett said.


Woman accused of bilking Palos Hills senior out of $631K

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Police expect federal charges to be filed against a Joliet woman who allegedly bilked an elderly Palos Hills senior out of $631,000.


The woman, Marion Issert, 65, was arrested last Wednesday by Palos Hills police and charged with one count of senior financial exploitation, a Class A felony.


Issert, who served as the elderly woman’s live in caregiver, reportedly was working with two other individuals, both who police believe fled to the Philippines. They are being treated as persons of interest, Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan said.


“We don’t know the level of involvement they had in this,” he said last Thursday at a press conference.


Police believe one of the two individuals introduced Issert to the victim as a caretaker, he said.


Police are asking the Cook County State’s Attorney to issue warrants for their arrest before contacting the State Department and Interpol in an effort to locate them, Madigan said.


Bond for Issert was set at $500,000. She is being held at Cook County Jail and is scheduled to appear in Bridgeview court on Feb. 5.


Meanwhile, police continue their investigation.


“We are researching other things that they may have done and others acts that they may have committed, and we anticipate more charges at a later date,” Madigan said.


“There were some Social Security checks that were signed by this woman and cashed, and that money was diverted to these other people as well. I would think there are going to be some federal charges as well as we develop this,” he said.


Issert’s arrest came about three months after Palos Hills police received information from the Plows Council on Aging about a possible financial scam involving an elderly woman from Palos Hills. Plows was notified of the activity of suspicious activity by Bank of America, Madigan said.


Police subsequently worked with Plows and Cook County Public Guardian and put a lock on the victim’s accounts, Madigan said.


Working with Plows and the Cook County Financial Crimes Unit, police identified the two banks where the offenders deposited the money. The accounts were frozen, Madigan said.


“What we found was that in the course of about two months the caregiver along with two other people had taken this elderly woman to a few different banks where she had accounts and they transferred $630,000 out of this woman’s accounts,” Madigan said. “It’s kind of amazing that this amount of money was allowed to be transferred out of this woman’s accounts. I’ve never seen anything like this.”


On one occasion, $317,000 was transferred out of the woman’s account. Other transferred amounts included: $39,000, $35,000, $15,000 and $202,000, Madigan said. Police have recovered all but $88,000 of the victim’s money, he said.


“There was some information that they were trying to get the woman to donate all this money to a Filipino church group. The woman did not want to do that and told them so.”


‘Water is gold’

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

But taxpayers have to come up with that gold in Palos Hills

The cost of water for Palos Hills residents has gone up nearly 100 percent in the last five years.
That sobering fact came from Mayor Gerald Bennett at the City Council meeting last Thursday – the same meeting that during which Alderman Frank Williams (5th Ward) confirmed there was another double-digit percent increase coming to residents in 2015.
“When we warned about [the spike in water costs] five years ago, I used the term ‘water is gold’ and it’s certainly moving in that direction,” Bennett said. “In tallying, over the last five years there has been an increase of $1 million in purchasing consumption by residents of the City of Palos Hills.”
The climb in water rates is a trickle-down effect that starts with the City of Chicago. Palos Hills and 12 other nearby municipalities receive water from Oak Lawn via Chicago. Roughly five years ago Chicago announced it was going to increase its cost to Oak Lawn to pay for repairs to its water system. Oak Lawn had to pass along those rate increases to its clients as well as impose its own increase to help pay for a $180 million overhaul to its own water system. Palos Hills then tacks on a small increase to its residents to cover operational and maintenance costs, Bennett said.
The minimum monthly water bill for a Palos Hills resident in 2015 is $55.95, which translates to $34.88 for the first 4,000 gallons used as well as $11.50 for sanitary sewer service and $9.57 for general capital improvement, Williams said. The cost of a minimum water bill in Palos Hills is $3.18 more than last year, Williams noted.
The overall percent increase from last year is around 10 percent, which is actually less than the 15 percent to 17 percent city officials were expecting back in the fall. Oak Lawn decided to use a new rate model that basis the increase on the proximity of its clients, Williams said. Communities further south of Oak Lawn will see a larger increase, he said.
Palos Hills residents are charged for a minimum of 4,000 gallons whether used or not. Bennett said this is done to cover the operational costs of the water system.
“People sometimes think all they pay for is when they turn it on and water is coming out, but there are water lines that need to be maintained,” Bennett said. “When you turn on the water it has to go somewhere so we charge a minimum to cover our operational costs.”
The good news is that after this year residents aren’t expected to see a double-digit increase for the foreseeable future. Bennett said Chicago has already stated its increase will be based on the consumer price index and then Oak Lawn will pass along a minor charge making the increase around 4 percent for 2016.
In other news, Alderman Ricky Moore (4th Ward) warned residents of a phone scam in which the caller identities himself as a ComEd employee and claims the residents’ electric service will be disconnected unless the payment is made.
“These impersonators instruct customers to buy a prepaid credit card and call back to a different phone number with the personal identification number or other personal information,” Moore said. “Remember that ComEd representatives will never call you to ask you for cash or request that you purchase a prepaid credit card to make a payment on your bill.”
Moore said scammers are even using a tactic called “Caller ID spoofing” to manipulate the displayed phone number so that it appears as a different number.
“Your display can say Bank of America or Internal Revenue Service but don’t believe it,” Moore said. “The display [number] is not hard to change.”
Bennett said the city puts information on the latest scams on its website, but often that is not enough to thwart con artists.
“We will continue providing the information as best we can but people have got to be aware,” Bennett said.
“These scams are just crazy – they are off the chart,” Moore added. “Whether it be email or phone the key term is ‘be aware.’ No valid institution will call you to ask your personal or sensitive information over the phone. If you get a phone and they do then that is your first red flag that it is a scam.”
Moore said anyone who believes they received a phone call matching that description should visit Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s website at for more information.