An alarming hike

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Chicago Ridge to raise fines
300 percent for false alarms

New Chicago Ridge Fire Chief George Sheets’ review of department records revealed an alarming number of responses to false alarms, many of them at Chicago Ridge Mall.
In fact, firefighters responded to 86 such calls in 2013—a considerable waste of time and manpower, Sheets said, especially if another call came in at the same time.
So he is calling for stiffer penalties and increasing fines 300 percent. He made his recommendations at Tuesday night’s village board meeting.
Sheets said that a village ordinance lacked the teeth to reduce false alarms. The ordinance required business owners to pay $25 for each false alarm beginning with the seventh call.
For many business owners or managers, incurring the minimal fee was easier than driving to back to the mall to reset the alarm, Sheets said.
The fee is now $100 beginning with the second false alarm, Sheets said.
Sheets also has recommended an increase in the ambulance rate after realizing that the village’s rate was one of the lowest in the region.
“(The increase) does not affect the residents of Chicago Ridge,” Sheets said.
Instead, ambulance fees are paid by insurance or Medicare, and the village writes off any amount it cannot collect, Sheets said.
The fee has not been increased in six years.
“We’ve been quite a bit lower for quite a while,” Mayor Chuck Tokar said. “We’re behind the times. There should be a rate increase.”
Sheets also is recommending a new billing company to collect ambulance call fees, a decision the board delayed until ironing out some contract details.
Sheets described the higher fees for false alarms and the increase in ambulance fees as “major issues” that required his immediate attention.
Two months ago when he was hired, Sheets said that evaluating the department would be the first priority of his new job.
“Based on my mandate from the board, you wanted me to do an evaluation and I’ve done that,” said Sheets, who also serves as Oak Lawn fire chief.
“There will be some more things coming along,”

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Never thought I would hear Sid Vicious warbling on a car commercial

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions  In 1978, John Simon Ritchie, a drug-addict screwup who couldn’t sing and could barely play the bass guitar, went into a studio and recorded the standard “My Way.’’
  Ritchie, known to many as Sid Vicious, started the song out slow with a warble that would make dogs howl. Then the power gets ratcheted up and the band starts punking it up. He changed the words around and dirtied them up quite a bit to include the f-word and c-word.
  His voice was still garbage, but that was OK. He did it his way.
  In his video, a tuxedoed Vicious sings in front of a crowd and then pulls out a gun and shoots members of the crowd.
  It was shameful.
  It was disrespectful.
  It was awful.
  And I liked it.
  Paul Anka, the guy who wrote the song, wasn’t surePage-3-my-way-with-jvcolPhoto from Who would have thought Sid Vicious’s “My Way” single would be a part of a car ad on TV? what to make out of the Vicious version. Shortly after recording the song, Vicious stabbed and killed his girlfriend and then died of a heroin overdose at the age of 21.
  He did it his way.
  Anyway, I’m not here to talk about the waste of life that was John Simon Ritchie. I am here to talk about the song.
  This song was anti-everything. The kind of song our parents hated.
  It was snotty and a raised middle finger to the establishment. His former band, the Sex Pistols, built a small industry being controversial and oozing of punk attitude. Some of it was sincere. Some of it was just to make money.
  This song actually went to No. 7 on the charts in jolly ol’ England but in the un-jolly ol’ United States, it was seldom heard. It surfaced brilliantly at the end of the “Goodfellas” and popped up in “Juan of the Dead” and the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’’
  And now it’s in a car commercial.
  Yes, an edgy Acura TLX commercial blasts Vicious’s vicious “My Way” — minus the bad words — as the main music in the ad.
  This song?
  On a commercial?
  Good ol’ Sid must be either spinning in his grave or laughing in his suite in Hell.
  I usually follow the “never say never” philosophy when it comes to pop culture. Elvis Presley was so controversial because he swung his pelvis back in the day and he grew into iconic status. My own favorite group, the Ramones, received more love after they died than they did when they were making albums and performing live. Filthy funnyman George Carlin morphed into the narrator for “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends” TV show.
  Never say never.
  But I never thought I would hear Sid’s version of “My Way” on a car commercial.
  “It is an edgy interpretation of a classic song that we think aligns very well with what the brand is all about,” Mike Accavitti, general manager of the Acura division of American Honda Motor Co., told Adweek’s website.
  Hopefully, the “brand” won’t be shooting audience members.
  Anyway, it just goes to show that time has a funny way of forgiving and forgetting controversy of the past. We’ll see if G.G. Allin or GWAR ever gets to that status.
  So when you hear some of your teenage kid’s rap music and you think there is no way it will be accepted into the mainstream…give it a couple of decades.

A very stupid rule
  Not to be Scrooge when it comes to the great feel-good story of Jackie Robinson West’s national baseball championship, but there is something bugging me about the Little League World Series.
  The tournament is supposed to be double-elimination. That means a team has to lose twice before it is bounced from the event.
  Yet, for some goofy reason, the rules change for the national championship game. If becomes single-elimination. Las Vegas killed the Chicago heroes, 13-2, and everyone else that got in its way en route to the title game.
  JRW and Las Vegas played in a national championship game that was fun to watch and our fellas won, 7-5. It was very exciting and helped wake up a sport that tends to be sleepy.
  But Las Vegas was knocked out of his so-called double-elimination tournament after losing just one game because of some stupid and unfair rule that was introduced a couple of years ago. They call the tournament a modified double elimination tournament.
  The Grantland website quotes the LLWS rules as:
  “In a standard double-elimination tournament, the team coming out of the losers’ bracket, which would have one loss, would have to twice defeat the winners’ bracket finalist in order to advance. However, under the modified double-elimination format, Phase One ends with the final game of the losers’ bracket.
  That means there is no “if-necessary” game in either bracket. Instead, the winners’ bracket finalist and the losers’ bracket finalist are the two teams in each bracket (for a total of four teams) that move on to Phase Two.”
  It’s necessary to have an ‘‘if necessary’’ game because Las Vegas clearly was the best team in the first three games, beating opponents 12-2, 13-2 and 8-1.
  If the “if necessary” game were played, my gut feeling is that Las Vegas comes back and rolls in that game.
  But we will never know.
  Look, I don’t care anything about the Las Vegas kids. I don’t know if this is true, but their demeanor is that they appeared to be a group of cocky rich kids who needed to be knocked down a peg.
  And if Jackie Robinson was the dominant team and got screwed by these idiotic rules, I probably would have been yelling about this in last week’s column and it wouldn’t have been second-fiddle to Sid Vicious.
  But fair is fair and this is unfair.
  Jackie Robinson West played by the rules and the Chicago kids are national champions.
  But I’m not so sure it was the best team.

Have a Hart
  There were a few people who thought former Evergreen Park football coach Dan Hartman may have stepped into a hornet’s nest by accepting a job at Hinsdale Central, which is a place that has parents and community members who don’t take losses very well.
  Well, the guy made a terrific first impression. His Red Devils beat Bolingbrook, 23-15 on Friday night. Bolingbrook was ranked No. 1 on just about everybody’s local polls.
  So, for at least this week, Hartman is the man of the hour in Hinsdale. Fans are puffing their chests a little this week. All is good and right in the world in Red Devil-land.
  But on Oct. 11, the pressure will be on to beat Hinsdale South, coached by another former EP coach, Mike Barry. South’s nickname is the Hornets, so it Hartman’s troops don’t win that game, it will be the proverbial hornet’s nest for him…


Park Lawn volunteer event a Sox-cess

  White Sox employees, including mascot Southpaw,Page-1-2-col-southpaw were on hand Aug. 23 to do some volunteer work at Park Lawn in Oak Lawn. Park Lawn is a non-profit organization serving individuals with developmental disabilities since 1955. For more of Emily Smas’s photos from the event, see page 4.

Photo by Emily Smas.

Oak Lawn woman contracts West Nile virus

  • Written by Tim Hadac

The first human case of the potentially deadly West Nile Virus in suburban Cook County had been found in Oak Lawn.
  Cook County Department of Public Health officials confirmed last week the first human case of the virus was identified in a woman in her 40s from Oak Lawn who became ill earlier this month.
  Because of privacy laws her name is not being released but county health officials said she was not hospitalized and is recovering at home. The virus continues to circulate throughout all of suburban Cook County. Recently there were positive mosquito pools in 61 communities and three dead birds having tested positive for the virus.
  “I can’t stress enough the importance of prevention during West Nile virus season,” Cook County Department of Public Health COO Dr. Terry Mason said in a news release. “Every year, the virus circulates throughout suburban Cook County and while we can’t eliminate those mosquitoes, we all have the ability to take basic prevention measures to protect against human transmission.”
  This information was released shortly after Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park and Chicago Ridge were added to the list of suburban communities where mosquitoes infected with the West Nile Virus have been detected this year.
  A Cook County Department of Public Health surveillance report showed that the number of communities jumped from 18 to 33 in just one week. Other communities newly added to the list include Palos Heights, Palos Park, Orland Park and Lemont.
  Evergreen Park made West Nile-related headlines in recent years. Mayor James Sexton’s 2012 infection and recovery from a near-fatal case of West Nile disease was known to many and chronicled in a 2013 profile in The Reporter.
  Health officials say the most effective way to prevent against becoming infected with WNV is to follow the three R’s:
  • Remove standing water around your home in pet bowls, flower pots, old tires, baby pools and toys. Water that is allowed to stagnate for three or four days become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Repel mosquitoes when outdoors between dusk and dawn by applying insect repellent with DEET and wear light, lose fitting clothing.
  • Repair or replace torn screens on doors and windows
  Health officials say that people infected with WNV have no symptoms of illness and never become ill. But illness can occur three-to-15 days after an infected mosquito bite and cause symptoms of fever, headache and body aches.
  The disease can affect all ages, but people over the age of 50 and those with a chronic disease, such as heart disease or cancer may be at-risk for serious complications from encephalitis or meningitis. For that reason, people who experience high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, severe headaches, or a stiff neck should see a doctor immediately.
  The Northern House mosquito, Culex pipiens, is the primary carrier of West Nile virus. This mosquito species thrives in water with high organic content, such as that found in catch basins (storm sewers). Consequently, a hot, dry summer increases the risk of West Nile virus infection, exactly the opposite of what many people believe.
  In contrast, the swarms of "floodwater" mosquitoes that appear after heavy rains may be a nuisance, but they rarely are infected with West Nile virus.
  Northern House mosquitoes are not aggressive, and people rarely notice when being bitten.
  In 2013, some 2,469 human cases (119 of them fatal) of West Nile-related illness were reported nationally. In Illinois, there were 117 reported cases and 11 deaths. Statewide, cases ranged in age from 14 to 92 years, with a median age of 59. In suburban Cook County, there were 16 known cases and at least one death.

Canada or Switzerland?

  • Written by Claudia Parker

page-1-4-col-hockey They are wearing red, white and blue as Chicago Ridge’s Eileen Meslar (left) Worth’s Lorissa Sernus (center) and Alsip’s Denielle Strohmier (right) will represent the United State in international ball hockey tournaments in 2015.. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Area star ball hockey players to soon find out their fate for USA team play in 2015
 Three women from the South Suburbs will be anxiously waiting to find out if they will be heading to Canada or Switzerland next year.

  Eileen Meslar of Chicago Ridge, Lorissa Sernus of Worth and Danielle Strohmier of Alsip have been selected to represent the United States Women’s Team at The International Street and Ball Hockey Federation’s (ISBF) 2015 World Championship. They’ll go through a final round of drills in Dracut, Mass., Saturday to determine which team they will end up on.
  Team A will compete in Zug, Switzerland in June and Team B, in Barrie Ontario, Canada in September.
  Not a bad deal for a trio playing in a sport that not many people are familiar with.
  “Ball hockey is my favorite sport,” Meslar said. “I hadn’t played since I was 15. I was happy I found a women’s tournament where I could play again. I didn’t think it would lead to this!”
  This trio of childhood athletes-turned-adult competitors said they welcome the placement on either team but hope to remain together.
  They were elementary school students when they were introduced to the sport at the Southwest Ball Hockey facility located at 5801 W. 115th Street in Alsip.
  Meslar started playing at age eight while self-proclaimed best friends, Sernus and Strohmier, met when they became teammates at age five.
  “Southwest Ball Hockey is one of very few places to learn the sport,” Meslar said. “We each played there until we aged out at 15.”
  Some may ask, what exactly is ball hockey anyway?
  The American Street Hockey Institute (ASHI) describes Dek/ball hockey as being similar to ice hockey, played on smaller rinks, without ice. A small, rubber ball is used in lieu of a hockey puck.
  “You don’t get to glide like you do on skates, it’s all sprinting down the court,” Meslar said.
  The rink is equipped with boards, glass/fencing/netting, and an asphalt or sport court surface made of a modified polypropylene substance impervious to weather. The ISBF is the governing body of the sport that Meslar, Sernus and Strohmier said they felt was a distant memory until a carpool conversation changed their future.
  Sernus said: “Danielle and I joined a women’s ice hockey team in Kankakee that Eileen was already a part of called, The Kankakee Novas. Since Kankakee is such a long commute, our coach encouraged us to carpool. During our rides, we bonded over different things; one being our mutual love for ball hockey.”
  The sequence of events that followed plays like a movie.
  It was a Google search of ‘’ball hockey” that lured them to a solicitation for an adult women’s Ball Hockey tournament in Leominster, Mass.
  “We were so excited for an opportunity to play again — I recruited a team of 15 women and headed to the East Coast.” Meslar said.
  During that tournament, like a moth to a flame Sernus said she, Meslar, and Strohmier were drawn to recruiters rallying players to try out for the USA Women’s National Team.
  Of their group of 15, only these three were enticed enough to try out. Eight months later they found themselves in Dracut, Massachusetts for the first round of tryouts.
  “There were about 200 other women. Most were from the East Coast, where ball hockey is huge,” Meslar said.
  Unlike the previous ball hockey tournament, where the ladies competed as a team, the USA Women’s National Team tryouts were individually based.

  “Those tryouts were the longest days of my life,” Sernus said. “It was four to five hours of grueling endurance and fun at the same time.”
  Strohmier said, “Getting the call that all three of us made it through was amazing.”
  Several weeks later, they each got through a second round of tryouts making them officially a part of the USA Women’s National Team.
  “It all happened so fast.” Sernus said.
  Apparently dreams coming true don’t knock upon arrival — they barge in the door.
  “Recently I found a little note my mom kept from my second grade memorabilia where I said I wanted to represent the USA playing Hockey in the Olympics.
  “This is pretty close.”

  “During tryouts, we saw some fierce athletes,” Strohmier said. “There were Division I college players and Olympic ice hockey player, Hilary Knight was on my line!”
  While Ball Hockey isn’t considered an Olympic sport today, in January, the ISBHF made a presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In addition, they also met with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) to register the sport to be in compliance with its regulations and requirements.
  Sernus said, “Playing on the USA Women’s Team is going to help us spread the word about ball hockey. We really want a larger presence in the Midwest.”
  The travel to the East Coast has been costly.
  In addition, each of them are having to balance the lives they were living prior to this exciting voyage. Sernus is a student at Moraine Valley College. Once her prerequisites are met, she plans to transfer to UIC and major in sports nutrition.

  Strohmier just completed an Associate of Arts and Science Degree at Moraine Valley. She’s now pursuing a degree from Trinity Christian College in Business Communication and Graphic Design.
  Meslar is a graduate of Western Michigan University. She doesn’t have to juggle homework in the airport and on the plane like Sernus and Strohmier during all those trips out east. Though, she does manage working fulltime at BARBRI as a proofreader. The women said they’re grateful the training is on the weekends.
  In spite of the rigor involved to keep them at play, they all said it’s worth it.

  “Being able to represent our country playing a sport we learned as children is an amazing opportunity for us all,” Meslar said.