Fire issues still burn in Chicago Ridge

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The Chicago Ridge Fire Department remain at odds with village officials over a variety of hot-button issues including what the firefighters union describes as a “staffing crisis.”


“We are currently faced with more issues than I care to count,” Chris Schmelzer, president of the Chicago Ridge Firefighter's Union, wrote in an Dec. 13 email to Trustee Bruce Quintos obtained Monday by the Reporter.


“First on the list is the absolutely outlandish possibility of staffing a second station using only current personnel resources. To staff a firehouse with two people is unsafe, reduces services to the entire town, and just simply doesn't make sense,” Schmelzer wrote.


In an interview Monday, Schmelzer said poor communication between Fire Chief George Sheets and the firefighters remains a serious problem.


“There is no communication. We’re coexisting. We’re doing things under threat of discipline,” said Schmelzer, who added the teamwork that existed at the house has transformed into a ''dictatorship.''


Sheet was unavailable for comment Monday, but at last week’s village board meeting he said firefighters’ feedback is included in all his decisions.


Mayor Chuck Tokar said Monday that plans to reopen the Lombard Avenue fire station by Christmas have been delayed until the end of January.


But he contends that the decision is a good one.


The station will be open 12 hours a day during the period that the fire department receives the most calls, Tokar said.


The decision to reopen the Lombard station was made because it is located closer to the village’s residential area than the fire station in the village’s industrial park.


Additionally, providing ambulance service from the Lombard Station would reduce the number of times service is provided by neighboring communities—a service for which residents must pay, Tokar said.


But union officials said there are drawbacks to the plan to decrease response times.


“While some residents may see a short decrease in response times for an ambulance, under the new plan, fire protection is eliminated within the entire town every time we get an ambulance call.


“The new plan calls for two ambulances to respond to every call, reducing fire response within the village by 100 percent. Nobody is left to answer the next call,” Schmelzer wrote in his email. “To blindly place all of the village's already limited resources into an ambulance response is short-sighted at best.”


He added that two firefighters who retired in 2014 and were not replaced, a move that places a strain on the department.


“We run with a four-person minimum per shift, as anything less than that would be unsafe, according to all applicable consensus standards, past practice and common sense. Two of the three shifts are currently staffed with four people, creating overtime whenever a member is off,” he said.


“The bottom line is that our fire department has been defunded by two positions,” said Quintos, who cast the lone vote against the village’s 2015 budget for that reason.


“With all but one member having over 10 years seniority on the department and having the commensurate accrued time off, someone is scheduled off the majority of the time. On these shifts, overtime is created every single time someone is off,” Schmelzer said.


Tokar would not respond to Schmelzer and Quintos’ remarks.


“Don’t believe everything that you hear,” he said, adding that decisions regarding the fire department with “the input and cooperation of the union.”


“I understand the union’s position, but I represent the taxpayers of Chicago Ridge,” Tokar said.


The union also has issues with the village’s recent decision to purchase a quint, a fire apparatus that has a pump, water tank, fire hose, aerial device and ground ladders.


Purchase of the quint led the fire department to remove from the fleet an aerial truck and two pumper trucks, one that is badly rusted and requires significant repair, Sheets said.


Those vehicles will be sold and the proceeds will be used to help pay for the quint, he said.


The quint will cost $685,000, which will be offset by the $250,000 the village expects to receive for the sale of the three vehicles it is removing from the fleet. A $350,000 state loan could be used to pay for the bulk of the balance, Sheets said.


“To spend three quarters of a million dollars on a vehicle that will, according to the new response plan issued by the department, only be staffed with two people seems like an improper use of resources,” Schmelzer said.

Tragedy caused by alcohol

  • Written by Bob Rakow

A Chicago man who killed two nuns when his pickup truck collided into their car at 95th Street and Cicero Avenue had a blood alcohol concentration more that twice the legal limit, the Cook County Medical Examiner has reported.

Edward L. Carthans, 81, of Chicago had a BAC of .179 percent on Oct. 5 when he truck veered into the opposite lanes on 95th Street and slammed into the a car occupied by three Little Company of Mary nuns, the medical examiner’s said Monday.

The legal limit blood alcohol concentration limit is in Illinois is .08 percent.

Tests for the presence of benzoylecgonine (metabolite of cocaine), opiates and carbon monoxide were negative, the medical examiner’s office said.

Sister Jean Stickney, 86, and Sister Kab Kyoung Kim, 48, died at the scene after the car they were driving was struck by the pick-up truck.

Carthans also was killed in the crash, in which the pickup he was driving veered in to the opposite of lanes of 95th Street, ran a red light and slammed into cars waiting at for the light to change, police said.

Alcohol intoxication is being ruled as a contributing factor to the crash, as well as excessive speed, police said.

The third person in the car, Sister Sharon Ann Walsh, survived the crash.

Twenty-three people were treated at the scene and 11 were taken to area hospital, officials said.

This investigation is now closed, Oak Lawn Police Division Chief Randy Palmer said.

Witnesses told police they initially saw Carthans slumped over the wheel of the pickup truck at 95th Street and Western Avenue and asked if he needed assistance.

Carthans declined help and drove away, police said.

Moments later, Carthans was involved in a four-car accident at 95th Street and Keeler Avenue near Target. None of the drivers in the crash were seriously injured or transported to the hospital, officials said.

Carthans then drove at a high rate of speed toward 95th Street and Cicero Avenue. As he approached the intersection, he crossed into the eastbound lanes, ran the red light and struck cars stopped at a traffic light on eastbound 95th Street, officials said.

Wish comes true

  • Written by Claudia Parker

  Claudias-daughter-2-pixWe got our wish! We got our wish! We got our wish! We got our wish!
  I can’t say it enough. I can’t sing it enough. Just thinking about it makes me want to dance.
  We got our wish and this is going to be a special Christmas in the Parker household.
  When I made a wish for what I wanted my daughter, who has special needs, to get for Christmas, it wasn’t exactly a common request.
  This wasn’t a wish for dolls, iPads or Beats.
  It was more of a collaborative wish. It went like this…
  “Hi Santa, my name is Rhonda-Rene Parker. I’m four years old and I have Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Because I have CAS, I cannot talk so I cannot tell you what I want for Christmas, so my mom helped me write this note to you.
  “I’ve been a good girl this year. I’ve worked really hard in therapy. I’d love it if you could grant my wish to see Nancy Kaufman. She’s an award winning Speech Language Pathologist. If you grant my wish, I promise to keep working hard to learn new words. Toys would be nice, but what I really want for Christmas, is my voice!”
  The Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association (CASANA) created the aforementioned template note, for Santa’s lap.
  CAS is a complicated language disorder, suppressing the voices of a growing number of children. It’s a motor-planning barrier between how the brain communicates the timing and movement of the lips, tongue, jaw, and soft palate needed for speech to occur. It presents itself as the child is learning to speak.
  Rhonda-Rene has been receiving speech therapy since she was 18 months old. A pediatric neurologist diagnosed her with CAS when she was three. By following up with a geneticist, we found the cause to be a mutation of her FOXP1 gene. We were advised to teach her alternative ways to communicate and told she may never be able to produce words.
  I grieved for the life I expected her to have and wept over the anticipated difficulties being non-verbal would bring her.
  Children with CAS differ from those experiencing a speech delay.PAGE-5-Jump-page-I-claudiaRhonda-Rene Parker received a great Christmas gift this year in the form of a grant to work with a renowned speech pathologist. Photos by Jeff Vorva. One indicator of CAS is typically a huge disparity in a child’s receptive language.
  The techniques for treating a speech delay and Apraxia are different. That’s why having a proper diagnosis is imperative so that children can receive the appropriate therapy.
  Kaufman is the owner and director of Kaufman Children’s Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Many regard her as a national expert in her field. She lectures locally, nationally and internationally on the subject of apraxia of speech in children. Kaufman said, “It’s my mission to empower parents, caregivers, families, and friends to help their infants, children, and adolescents to become effective verbal communicators.”
  Testimonials boast that Kaufman has been helping children with CAS learn to speak since she established the KCC back in 1979. She has a four-day Intensive program magnetically pulling families from around the world to participate.
  My Second City writing instructor, Nick Johne’s daughter Emma, who has autism, was accepted into Kaufman’s 4-day program, he said, “Claudia, I’m telling you. Take Rhonda-Rene to see Nancy. It’s expensive but it’ll be the best money you’ve ever spent. She got Emma talking!”
  My husband, Don and I agreed, that even though the cost exceeds our family’s budget, we’ll make the sacrifice. Rhonda-Rene’s current SLP, Anne Scahill was completely supportive and helped us through the steps necessary to gain acceptance into the Kaufman program.
  We were anxious and wanted Rhonda-Rene to go right away. However, there’s a six- month wait list. She won’t be seen until the spring. On the bright side, that meant we’d have time to save our money. It turns out delayed gratification was working in our favor.
  St. Xavier University offers a Master of Science degree in speech-language pathology. I’ve been taking Rhonda-Rene there for supplemental therapy for a year. We’ve developed a great relationship with our supervising SLP, Jennifer Brown-Fitzpatrick. She’s always offering us additional resources. One afternoon she said,
  “Claudia, have you seen this?” It was a flyer she’d pulled from the wall. “You need to look into this.” It read, “Do you have One Wish for your child with apraxia? See the grant application at”
  That was the THIRD time The Apraxia Connection had come across my path.
  Our Evergreen Park school district hosted a special needs event where they were sharing that same flyer. I’d also heard about them while at Rhonda-Rene’s classmate’s birthday party held at Little You. It’s a pediatric, speech, occupational and developmental clinic.
  I struck up a conversation with a personable and outgoing blonde, who I later learned to be Betsy Lowery, the owner, who’s also a SLP. When I told her Rhonda-Rene had CAS, she too went and grabbed a flyer. She said, “Here, contact The Apraxia Connection, they give grants to families of children with CAS.”
  The good Lord was practically knocking me over the head saying, “Do you want this blessing or not?”
  Just days before their Nov. 30 deadline, I finally took action and applied for a One Wish Grant. On Dec. 9 I received a call from The Apraxia Connection’s Co-founder, Michele Kowalski informing me that Rhonda-Rene’s wish had been granted! The four-day intensive therapy program she’ll receive Kaufman next spring is being paid in full!   I was so grateful, I went into a “baaahh” ugly cry.
  Rhonda-Rene knows about 50 words in sign language, works with a picture communication system and can verbalize a total of seven words. She can say, Mom, Dad, eat, hi, bye, more and tea.
  Our prayer is that after applying the techniques we get from Kaufman, maybe by next Christmas, she’ll be talking so much we’ll be wishing she’d hush up!

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: These holiday songs tower over the others

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

“I’ll tell you what, if I hear Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer one more time, I’m gonna go up on a tower with a high-powered rifle.’’

Those were the words of wisdom from Peter Buck in REM’s holiday tune “Christmas Griping,’’ which is a sort of rap set to the beat of a poor man’s “Tusk” while the boys talk about throttling the person who invented fruitcake and having nightmares about Burl Ives.

Like Buck, a lot of people are driven crazy by some Christmas carols. Many of them are lame and sung lamely by lame artists. My daughter Lauren makes me listen to Justin Bieber’s version of “The Christmas Song” in which he sings “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” and the word “fire” seems like it has 13 syllables. If I have to hear that one again, I may join Buck on the tower.

But there are some good Xmas tunes out there. I have about 100 or so in my iPod, including the aforementioned REM gem. Like most people, I listen to a batch of them around this time of year. Unlike a lot of people, I will play some of them on days when the temperatures are in the 90s and 100s. But only for a few minutes.

Last week, we asked people in our Viewfinder to tell us their favorite Christmas carols. Today, it’s my turn. Out of the 100 or so holiday songs from my collection of oddball and traditional songs, here are my 12 favorite in reverse order.

12, The 12 Gifts of Christmas by Allan Sherman

This novelty song features Sherman merrily singing about the 12 gifts he will return including a statue of a woman with a clock where her stomach ought to be and a Japanese transistor radio. Over the years, I haven’t enjoyed the song as much when I found comedy’s Santa Claus was really sad and miserable most of the time. It’s still a fun song, though.

11, I Saw Three Ships by Blackmore’s Night

Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar riff in “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple is a classic and lately he’s been heavily involved with a project in which they play a bunch of songs in a Renaissance style. Break out the mandolins and flutes. This Christmas ode is no “Smoke on the Water” but it is special.

10, Let Me Sleep by Pearl Jam

Eddie Vedder’s haunting voice sings about a lost soul – possibly a hobo – thinking about the magic of Christmas when he was younger. But this Christmas he just wants to sleep. It’s kind of a downer with a trace of sentiment.

9, Silver Bells by REM

The Athens boys are just horsing around here, singing this classic with a hillbilly twang but for some reason, it works!

8, Little Saint Nick by the Beach Boys

Dismiss them as just a hot rod and summer band if you will, but these guys save some serious harmonic chops and show it on their “Christmas Album.” This song was the best of the batch with “Merry Christmas Baby” not far behind.

7, The Christmas Song by the Ravonettes

I am not a big fan of the Ravonettes and less of a fan of slow songs but for some reason, this original song has an old 50s or 60s-ballad feel that strikes me just right. It really should be a classic. Maybe in 20 years. 

6, Jingle Bells by Yello

It’s basically the Swiss electronic pioneers’  hit “Oh Yeah”  meets Jingle Bells but it works. The group probably just mailed this in as a song for the soundtrack for the 1995 film “The Santa Clause” but it’s fun and bouncy in which sleigh bells meets electronic gizmos.

5, Feliz Navi-nada  by El Vez

The Mexican Elvis Presley impersonator turns out a wicked version of this song with the punky “Public Image” riffs in the background. Wild stuff. It should make even the Scrooge-like Johnny Rotten smile, since he wrote the background tune.

4, Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight) by the Ramones

My favorite group of all time came up with a novelty tune in which the so-called brudders dialed down the punk guitars and added sleigh bells. The song is about a couple who are fighting during the holidays and the video of the tune ends with an elf throwing up in a toilet. Nothing says Christmas more like an elf barfing!

3, Jingle Bells by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters

Crosby is insanely famous for his version of “White Christmas” but for my money, his bouncy version of “Jingle Bells” with the iconic Andrews Sisters is superior. Aside from the great vocal talent, we have a hot band swinging away toward the end of the tune.

2, Little Drummer Boy by Sparks

One of the quirkiest musical acts around (“Eaten by the Monster of Love,” “Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls,” “Angst in My Pants” and “Pretending to Be Drunk” are just a few of their song titles) play it straight on this live BBC rendering of the classic. It’s always been one of my favorite Christmas songs growing up and the Mael brothers make it greater. 

1, Blitzkrieg Santa by Divide and Kreate

Some mashups work. Many don’t. This one is great as it mashes the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” with the Jackson 5’s version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.’’ No, I never thought that high-voiced Michael Jackson before puberty would ever be able to blend in with the Ramones, but there you go.

As a bonus, my favorite Christmas song title is “I Farted on Santa’s Lap (Now Christmas is Going to Stink For Me) by the Little Stinkers but it didn’t find its way to the Top 12.

If you have any suggestion of odd favorite carols, let me know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Our own Sports Center

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



File photo by Jeff Vorva

Simeon coach Robert Smith, left, talks with a referee during a game against Stagg at the Shepard Sectional in March. His powerhouse Wolverines will be back in the area, facing St. Rita Friday at Moraine Valley Community College’s new gym.

By Jeff Vorva

Reporter Editor

Bill Finn loves basketball.

The Moraine Valley Community College athletic director played at Richard High School and coached the sport at Moraine for 22 years and racked up 506 wins. He has a laundry list of great contacts in the inner circles of Illinois college and high school basketball and loves watching a matchup of power teams facing each other.

But don’t expect Finn to be glued to his easy chair on Friday when Simeon plays St. Rita on a game that will be broadcast live across the world on ESPN2.

That’s because he'll be busy. He and his facility will be hosting the event.

The Moraine Valley Community College Health, Fitness and Recreation Center officially opened in March. Nine months later, it will be featured for the world to see.

The new gym inside the facility, which seats 3,200 people, will be the host site of the game, which tips off at 5:30 p.m. But Finn figures to be working all day with preparation. The crew will be stopping by early in the morning to set up. Finn can’t wait.

“I am beyond excited,” he said. “I’ve been here 33 years and we’ve never had anything happen like this before. After my meetings, I would tell people ‘yeah, I just met with ESPN’ like it was a common occurrence.

‘’This fit the bill for them. They want to fill the place. They didn’t want UIC or Chicago State or Rosemont. This ended up being the perfect venue for size. We’ve had full-day showcases here before but nothing like this. This is requiring tons of more work but it’s worth it. The attention and exposure for our college and athletic program will be tremendous.’’

Finn said former players of his have connections with the Paragon Marketing group, which has ties with ESPN and the two sides came together in recent months to make this event work.

The talent on the floor will be special.

Simeon coach Robert Smith has coached stars Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker in his tenure.  He may not have players of that caliber this year, but he has three Big 10 Conference signees in Edward Morrow (Nebraska), D.J. Williams (Illinois) and Isiah Moss (Iowa). The Wolverines opened the season 3-0 including Sunday’s 71-66 victory over Morgan Park at the CPS Rivalry Showcase at Whitney Young High School.

Simeon has won six Class 4A state titles in nine seasons including a historic four-year run that ended last season.

St. Rita won three of its first four games including last Friday’s 80-61 victory of St. Joseph.

Charles Matthews is heading to college powerhouse Kentucky while Armani Chaney is heading to Tennessee State while Myles Carter has Northwestern, Notre Dame, De Paul, Illinois and others still on his wish list.

Tickets are on sale now at the Palos Hills school’s rec center and will be available at the door. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for high school students with identification.

Finn hopes the thousands of fans at the game and many more watching the game on ESPN2 will enjoy the school’s new venue.

“This is not the Taj Mahal,’’ Finn said. “But it’s the Taj Mahal for me.’’