Brittany’s family ready for calmer round 2 at Tuesday’s board meeting

  • Written by Bob Rakow


Family and supporters of Brittany Wawrzyniak will PAGE-3-2-col-TullyRebecca Tully and members of her family will return to Tuesday’s Worth Village Board meeting with more concerns about the death of her daughter. Photo by Jeff Vorva.gather once again Tuesday night at the Worth Village Board meeting to raise additional concerns regarding the 18-year-old girl’s death.
“We’re going. Whoever wants to go can go,” said Wawrzyniak’s mother, Rebecca Tully. “I’ve already had people texting me.”
This meeting could be calmer than the explosive first meeting between Brittany supporters and the board.
At the April 1 village board meeting, which moved to a larger venue, members of an angry crowd of approximately 200 people unleashed accusations and name calling on Worth Mayor Mary Werner, who repeatedly said she could not talk about the investigation.
Tully and other supporters repeatedly have said they understand that the details of the case cannot be discussed publically. Instead, they want Werner to signal that she’s confident in the police department’s handling of the investigation.

ComEd reps juice up their improvement plans in Oak Lawn

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Oak Lawn officials have unplugged a proposal to file a formal complaint against ComEd with Illinois Commerce Commission.
Village trustees discussed the possibility at Tuesday’s committee-of-whole meeting, but put the issue to rest after ComEd representatives outlined improvements made in 2013 and planned for the next two years.
“We do invest in Oak Lawn,” Katie Maier, ComEd’s manager of external affairs, told trustees.
Maier added that improvements include the area in the village’s 2nd District that has experienced several outages over the past several years, including one in mid March.
“That area is on our radar,” Maier said.
ComEd plans to bury an additional 8,700 feet of power lines in 2014 and inspect utility poles throughout the village the following year, Maier said.
Additionally, the company plans to continue tree trimming throughout the village and install several distribution automation devices, officials said.
“It seems to me you’re being more proactive,” said Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd), a long-time critic of ComEd.
Olejniczak, who asked the board to consider the ICC complaint, recapped on Tuesday several of the problems the village has experienced with ComEd, including a lack of preventive maintenance and inspections.
Trustee Mike Carberry (5th), who expressed support for ComEd at the March 25 village board meeting, criticized Olejniczak for his lengthy presentation.
“How long is this going to go on?” Carberry asked.
He added that he envisioned the new committee-of-the-whole meetings to be effective workshop sessions.
“I guess I want something productive,” Carberry said. “It’s not productive. It’s not making anything better.”

Olejniczak said he did not understand how resolving problems with ComEd was not productive.
“I didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I’ve got an issue with Commonwealth Edison,’” Olejniczak said.
At a previous board meeting, Carberry rejected Olejniczak’s position that ComEd’s service is below average. He added that the utility has followed up when he’s filed complaints.

In 2015, Carberry added, ComEd plans to inspect each of the 6,900 utility poles in the village.

Future for EP’s Planet Fitness is unhealthy due to new Plaza plans

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Tens of thousands of fitness fanatics may Page-1-2-col-plazaThe Plaza in Evergreen Park is ready for redevelopment but an issue remains regarding the status of a healthy facility that boasts 12,000 members. Photo by Bob Rakow.have to look elsewhere for their weights, treadmills and exercise classes if the Planet Fitness in Evergreen Park closes its doors.
The fitness facility, located on the north end of the Plaza, could be closed if the village uses powers of eminent domain to take over the shopping mall.
But village officials say the use of eminent domain powers is only a possibility.
“The village has been working for years on redeveloping the Plaza,” village attorney Vince Cainkar said at Monday’s village board meeting.
Representatives from Planet Fitness and Carson’s, which still has a store in the Plaza, appeared at the meeting to ask about the village’s redevelopment plans.
Bryan Rishforth, Planet Fitness owner and developer, said the Evergreen Park location has approximately 12,000 members and the club has multi-year lease at the mall. He added that Planet Fitness supports the redevelopment and wants to stay at the location.
Rishforth could not be reached for additional comment on Tuesday.
The fitness center’s primary concern is communicating with the village about redevelopment plans and want to stay out of court, he said.
The village is considering using “quick take” powers to acquire the mall for redevelopment. “Even if it’s quick take, it’s still a slow process,” Cainkar said.
Carson’s representatives have said they oppose the use of eminent domain to acquire the Plaza.
Cainkar said the village does not necessarily plan to use has not eminent domain powers simply because it has the authority. The village and Carson’s remain in negotiation regarding the store’s future, officials said.
Evergreen Park trustees last year authorized Cainkar to negotiate with Carson’s so that demolition of the mall, 95th Street and Western Avenue, can proceed.
The mall closed on May 31, 2013. Applebee’s, which is located on an out lot, is the only other property that remains open. An Applebee’s representative attended Monday’s meeting.
DeBartolo Development wants to demolish the mall and replace it with a “lifestyle center,” Chicago Real Estate reported. The development firm is owned by former San Francisco 49ers’ owner Eddie DeBartolo.
The 61-year-old shopping mall, formerly the Evergreen Plaza, has been in foreclosure since 2011. The property is currently in receivership.
The mall was conceived by developer Arthur Rubloff in the 1936 and opened in August 1952 as an open-air shopping center. Carson’s anchored the mall along with the Fair Store, Lytton’s and Walgreens. The mall also featured a Jewel supermarket. The entire mall was enclosed in 1966.

Palos Hills in wrestling match with environment versus money decisions

  • Written by Kelly White

  Saving money?
  Saving money?
  That’s a decision Palos Hills alderman are chewing over when it comes to bringing in an electrical supplier.
  “We need to be more concerned about environmental issues,” one Palos Hills city alderman stated at Thursday night’s City Council Meeting.
  Referring to possibly choosing a predominantly coal-burning electrical supplier, Alderman Joan Knox (1st Ward) stressed the importance harming the environment has over “saving a couple dollars monthly per household”.
  “Is our intent to get the lowest price out there or for us to look at the environmental issues?” Alderman Martin Kleefisch (1st Ward) asked. “I do believe that what we do has an impact on global warming. We are only one community with one bid, but we can make a difference in our town with our choice to bid more cautiously.”
  Knox would not give a certain percent in which she felt was acceptable in a company using coal-burning energy; however she urged to move away from using coal as a provider of electrical energy as much as possible.
  “We need to worry about the environment,” she said. “One of the biggest problems with coal is the amount of water it wastes.”
  Palos Hills’ two-year contract with First Energy Solutions, with a locked-in rate of 4.74 cents per kilowatt hour, is set to expire this July. Northern Illinois Electrical Collaborative went out to receive new electrical bids two weeks ago for the city and at the March 27th Committee Meeting, Mayor Jerry Bennett presented several bids to discuss among the city council members, including a bid from Homefield Engery. Out of the six new bids received, Homefield Energy came in the lowest with a rate of 7.2 cents per kilowatt hour. At the time, Bennett and the city council were content with that bid.
  But at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Knox telephoned Bennett with a discovery and what she felt was a major concern. Upon reviewing Homefield Energy’s contractual agreement, she noticed 64 percent of its energy derives from coal-fired power. Bennett said he was unaware of this and decided to wait until the City Council Meeting last Thursday to discuss this further with the rest of the city alderman before having N.I.M.E.C. go out to obtain more bids. Bennett made city alderman and residents aware rates will change now from what N.I.M.E.C. received the previous week.
  Knox pointed out the next highest bid received was not from a predominately coal-burning energy source and they presented a bid with a rate of 7.6 cents per kilowatt hour.
  “We are talking about a couple bucks a month per household here,” she said. “I hope that people will look at the big picture over price and do the right thing.”
  Some alderman disagreed with Knox and said saving money took priority over underlying environmental issues.
  “The middle-class people I represent are concerned with one thing and that’s price,” Alderman Ricky Moore (4th Ward) said.
  “If residents are concerned about the pollution aspect of a certain supplier, they always have the option to opt into the green energy choice that is available within every contract,” Alderman Frank Williams (5th Ward) added. Although the renewable energy option was also available with the two-year contract with First Energy Solutions, only nine out of nearly 6,900 residents opted into that portion of the program.

Oak Lawn senior needs votes for special van

  • Written by Bob Rakow


page-9-2-colRiley Spreadbury is hoping for enough votes to win a specially equipped van to drive. Submitted photo.Riley Spreadbury needs a car.
  But the Oak Lawn Community High School senior can’t drive just any car. Instead, she needs a vehicle equipped with a wheelchair lift and hand controls. Her math teacher, Ellen Kruger, is doing all she can to make that a reality.
  “She made a joke about how her brother, who is a sophomore, can drive and she can’t,” Kruger said.
  The veteran educator didn’t forget Spreadbury’s remark and began to wonder what she could do to resolve her student’s dilemma.
  Spreadbury’s family owns only one van and the cost of another vehicle equipped with a lift and hand controls is cost prohibitive, Kruger said.
  She wrote a letter to Ellen DeGeneres’ television show in the hopes that that they’d tell Spreadbury’s story and give her a van. The show, however, did not respond. Kruger then turned to the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association.
  She nominated Spreadbury for a contest the association is sponsors. The winners receive specially equipped vans.
  “I thought that something like this sounded more realistic,” Kruger said.
  More than 900 people were nominated. The top 10 vote getters are selected and the three finalists win a van. Riley has gathered nearly 8,000 votes, primarily the result of a promotional campaign at the high school and via Facebook, Kruger said.
  She’d like to get the entire community involved. Votes can be cast for Spreadbury at One vote can be cast each day.
  Spreadbury was born with a condition called Goldenhar Syndrome.
  Despite this condition, she led a typical childhood, participating in dance, ballet, swimming, rollerblading and hiking. But at age 10, she developed scoliosis. She had numerous surgeries on her back and because of complications; she sustained a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed.
  She spent over 100 days in the hospital and was able to regain control of her arms but she remains paralyzed from the chest down.
  Spreadbury has never let her condition hold her back, Kruger said.
  “It’s almost like you have to tell her she’s in a wheelchair,” she said.
  Spreadbury, a Hometown resident, has been significantly involved during her four years in high school.
  She was a writer for the school newspaper and was involved in the leadership of several student organizations.
  She takes piano lessons and played on a youth sled hockey team for two years. She also is active in the Shriner’s Hospital community as a spokesperson and poster child and served as a camp counselor for their Spinal Injury Sports Camp. Finally, she is taking a peer training class where she helps developmentally disabled children with physical education activities.
  Spreadbury wants to become a recreational therapist and work with children whose mobility was affected as a result of an accident or surgery. She plans to attend community college for two years before transferring to Illinois State University to complete her degree.
  She’s so optimistic,” Kruger said. “She has embraced her situation in life and lives it to its fullest. “This girl needs a car.”