Palos Hills residents need prior permission to park overnight on the streets

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

By Michael Gilbert

Palos Hills has changed the way residents can obtain permission for overnight parking on city streets, and those not in compliance risk receiving an $80 ticket.
Budget cuts approximately five years ago prompted the Palos Hills Police Department to scale back from being open at all times to 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but since that time residents have been able to dial 911 after business hours to notify authorities they will have a car parked on the street overnight. The 911 calls were answered by operators from the Palos Heights-based Southwest Central Dispatch who would then send a log sheet over to Palos Hills police officers on duty overnight.
But just a few weeks ago, Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan was notified by Southwest Central Dispatch that the task of fielding calls pertaining to overnight parking had become “too cumbersome” and was taking away from their other job duties.
“Since we don’t have the station open 24 hours anymore, Southwest Central Dispatch was doing us a courtesy and taking those calls,” Madigan said following the City Council meeting last Thursday. “But they told us it had become too cumbersome and they had to stop it. Southwest Central was just doing us a favor for a while but you can’t be taking them away from their 911 calls.”
Residents who do not notify the police department by the end of business hours that they intend to park a car on the street overnight are subject to an $80 ticket, Alderman AJ Pasek (3rd Ward) said. Pasek brought the issue of overnight parking up for discussion because in this month’s Palos Hills newsletter he wrote in his column space that residents should still dial 911 after hours. Unbeknownst to him - and just a few pages over from his column – Madigan wrote about the change in procedure and that 911 operators were no longer fielding calls for overnight parking.
“I’m writing one thing and the chief is writing another thing in the same newsletter,” Pasek said. “When I read that I was saying to myself ‘what the heck is going on here?’ It turns out the change had just happened so I just wanted to clarify the situation.”
Pasek said the overnight parking ban in Palos Hills dates back to at least the 1970s.
“The main reason for the ban is safety for emergency vehicles getting down the street,” Pasek said. “If there was a fire and a lot of fire trucks had to get into an area it could be tough. This way we know who is parking on the street and if there is a problem we can call and say ‘you’re going to have to move your car because we have an emergency situation.’”
Both Pasek and Alderman Joan Knox (1st Ward) brought up the idea of allowing people to leave a message of an answering machine if they intend to park a vehicle on the street overnight.
“If there name is on the answering machine and a ticket is issued then the police department just sends them a letter saying to disregard the ticket that was issued,” Pasek said.
The council did not make an official decision on whether or not to utilize an answering machine in the future.

Worth cracking down on parked vehicles during snowfall

  • Written by Kelly White

ng conditions, not only for cars on the road but for parked vehicles as well.
The Village of Worth has a snow emergency ordinance in effect pertaining to parked vehicles but officials are saying it is being ignored.
“All in all, there are some roads where people take advantage of street parking,” Public Works Superintendent Wayne Demonbreun said at the Jan. 6 board meeting. “It is scary for a driver to drive down a street after a storm and it is also dangerous for the cars parked along the road. The driver may only be going 15 miles per hour and still accidentally clip a car when conditions are unsafe.”
The Village’s ordinance states that when two or more inches of snow has accumulated, it is unlawful for any person to stop, stand, park, or leave an unattended motor vehicle on the streets, highways and roadways within corporate limits of the Village until such snow has been removed. Any person not complying with this ordinance is subject to a fine.
The Village received 2.8 inches of accumulated snow during a snowstorm the night before the meeting.
“This is really something that we need to start enforcing for the benefit of everyone,” Trustee Pete Kats said. “There are a lot of cars parked outside with snow on them that has not been cleaned off. It is becoming a real problem.”
Kats noted particularly problematic areas on 110th Street and 76th Avenue where cars lining streets are resulting in almost impossible driving conditions.
“Cars need to be off of the street when there is snow on the ground,” he said.
Although the village’s snow emergency ordinance is specific, residents are not consistently following the code.
“This ordinance has not been strongly enforced in the past,” Mayor Mary Werner said and added that is why some residents do not tend to take the ordinance too seriously.
A notice was sent out to all Worth residents in the fall water bill, reminding them when there is two inches or more of snow on the ground to park their vehicles in their garage or driveway and not on village property; however, village officials contend this was also ignored.
Residents were given a harsh reality check during the 2013-14 winter season when tickets were issued by the Worth Police Department to vehicle owners who chose to ignore the ordinance during the rough winter months. With the heavy continuous snowfall last year, Werner said it was necessary at that time to enforce the ordinance more strictly.
“Last year, we had no choice, and we had to enforce it,” Werner said.
Vehicle-lined streets need to be addressed again this winter as well, according to Kats, who said the combination of the public works and police department will easily be able to enforce and resolve the issue quickly. Demonbreun agrees but said street parking is not the only problem in the Village during snowstorms.
“Our job here at public works is to clean the streets during snowstorms and we would like to keep a clean street,” he said, “People are shoveling their driveways and sidewalks and putting the snow right back into the streets that have just been plowed by the public works department making it appear as if the plows never came.”
Demonbreun reports calls from residents complaining of snowy streets after they had already been cleaned by the village’s snowplows.
“We go down streets once, twice and sometimes even three times, but when they are piled back up with snow again it is difficult to tell,” he said.

Half marathon organizers want to be back in black

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Like a long-distance runner returning to a course after a long layoff, the first meeting of the 2015 First Midwest Bank Half Marathon organizing committee sputtered and wheezed at first.
The meeting room at the Palos Heights Recreation Center was about half empty.
Co-organizer Jeff Prestinario announced that the race lost money in 2014, despite the addition of a 10K race that was designed to put it in the black.
He acknowledged that just 1,100 runners competed in the half marathon last year, about half of the event’s peak participation—2,100 runners—several years ago. The drop was mostly chalked up to an extremely harsh winter that hampered runners’ training efforts, as well as a proliferation of new races in the Chicago area.
He announced that the Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens has been dropped from the roster of charities that benefit from the event, due to lack of funds to go around—leaving the American Cancer Society and the South West Special Recreation Association as this year’s designated charity beneficiaries.
He noted that a new half marathon in Frankfort, eight days before the First Midwest Half Marathon, may possibly cut into participation in Palos Heights.
Prestinario also complained about what he said was a lack of downtown news media interest in the race.
“I’m tired of looking at the news and seeing all this crap about killings and this and that,” he told committee members. “They need to start putting good things on the news…for example, our event, I don’t know if it’s ever been on TV. It was maybe mentioned one time or whatever.”
He even admitted that for the second year in a row, he and co-founder Mel Diab, owner of the Running For Kicks store in Palos Heights, had toyed with idea of letting the race die a quiet death.
But as the meeting hit its stride, good news came forward to overtake the bad regarding this year’s half marathon, set for Sunday, May 3 on a course that starts and ends at Palos Heights City Hall, 7607 W. College Drive, running west along and through the scenic forest preserves of the Palos area.
Prestinario announced that the event has received a $5,000 grant from the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau, a needed shot in the arm for an event that last year struggled financially. He credited communications executive Tom Barcelona, who serves as race sponsorship co-coordinator, for obtaining the grant.
Prestinario also hailed the news that 922 runners have already registered for this year’s half marathon, the successful result of an aggressive, discount-driven push for runners last month. He beamed when discussing the numbers, calling them an “amazing” start.
He also announced that the Palos Area Chamber of Commerce will again host a community and business exposition at Moraine Valley Church, a popular event designed to encourage runners and their families and friends—who typically come from throughout the Chicago area and even beyond--and to discover and enjoy the shopping, dining and other pleasures of the Palos area.
In addition to the half marathon, the event will again include a 10K race and a Walk, Run or Roll race for people with disabilities. Registration details and more information on the event may be obtained at
Despite the bumps in the road, Prestinario predicted that this year’s event—the eighth annual—will in the end gel and be successful.
“It’s just absolutely amazing that this is our eighth year, he said, noting that he and Diab had worked on getting the race up and running two years before that. “To me, it’s one of the exciting things that I do in my life, although my life’s not that exciting to begin with,” he said, drawing laughs from the dozen or so committee members in attendance. “But I do enjoy this. It’s a positive event, a good thing for the community, but it’s also a pleasure meeting and working with so many good people.
“All things considered, we should all be very proud because we put on a great race, year after year. Most of the people who have worked for the race have stayed on with the race, and we have heard great feedback from the runners, volunteers and others.”

Chicago Ridge apartment fire displaces 15 people

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Fire-3The first major calamity to hit the area in 2015 did not have any deaths or even injuries.


But it did produce devistation and hardship mixed in with some heartwarming moments courtesy of first responders on the scene.


About 16 hours after four apartment units were completely destroyed and several others severely damaged Monday night following a late-night fire in Chicago Ridge, an observer stood in the cold and suveyed the damage.


He wasn't just any observer. He said he was the father and grandfather of some of the people displaced from the fire. He marvelled at the "compassion" and "professionalim" of the Chicago Ridge Fire Department during the ordeal, which occured in snowy and freezing weather conditions.


"I saw a young boy running barefoot out of the building," he said. "And I saw a fireman take off his boots and placed the boy in them. I saw another fire fighter pick up and hug another child.


"My daughter lost everything in that fire but what are possession when you still have your daughter and grandkids still alive?''


Firefighters from several communities responded at 10:36 p.m. and required about an hour to extinguish the fire at the 18-unit complex in the 9800 block of Sayre Avenue, Chicago Ridge Fire Chief George Sheets said.


“There was heavy fire blowing out the back,” Sheets said.


He said an electrical malfunction in a second-story bedroom likely is the cause of the fire, which spread to the third floor and the attic, Sheets said.


The blaze displaced 15 people, but no one was injured, he said.


More than 70 firefighters from 13 departments ultimately were called to battle the blaze, a task made more difficult because of the severe weather conditions, Sheets said.


Some tenants returned Tuesday to gather personal belongings. Some put them in garbage bags.


While some residents had places to stay, others relied on the Red Cross for temporary shelter and clothing, Sheets said.





Mayors protest 'inflammatory' t-shirt sale at Richards, but D218 officials say it was small incident

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Two area mayors co-wrote a letter of protest when they found out "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts at Richards High School.


But the sale of the controversial t-shirts was never sanctioned at the Oak Lawn school, and the individual who recently attempted to hawk the controversial shirt in the school cafeteria during finals week was immediately escorted out of the building, District 218 officials said.


The unidentified individual, who is reportedly a Moraine Valley Community College student, might have sold two or three shirts before security removed him from the Oak Lawn school, said John Byrne, superintendent of

Community High School District 218.


Byrne’s explanation of the incident came after he and Richards principal John Hallberg received a letter from Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury and Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar protesting the sale of the shirt.


The slogan on the black t-shirt was inspired by the last words of Eric Garner, the New York man who died after a police officer put him in a chokehold.


Both Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James and Chicago Bulls player Derrick Rose have worn the t-shirt during pregame warmups, prompting members of high school basketball teams to do the same.


In many instances, however, school administrators or tournament officials have prevented teams from wearing the shirts.


District 218 officials have prevented district teams from wearing the shirt because of its inflammatory nature, Byrne said.


Bury and Tokar agreed that the shirt casts an anti-police message that could potentially put officers in danger and conveyed that message in a letter to Byrne and Hallberg.


“It has been brought to our attention that Richards High School has approved the sale of “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts on its campus.  As you may know, the slogan has become the rally cry of violent anti-police protests nationwide, including the outright assassination of two police officers in New York,” the mayors wrote.


“We are writing to express our outrage at this decision and feel that the sale of anti-police/ pro-violence t-shirts should not be condoned on the campus of any area school.  Further, we feel the sale of these inflammatory t-shirts on Richards High School campus creates a climate that potentially can place our officers and communities in danger, and this is something we cannot be quiet about,” the letter said.


Byrne said a call from either mayor would have clarified the matter and obviated the need for a letter.


“I wish they would have just called me,” Byrne said.


He added that the school’s art department is working with students to create an alternate shirt that promotes unity. Byrne has not seen the final design for the shirt, he said. “We want this to be the kids' idea.”


Rumors circulated last week that some of the individuals involved in the melee at Chicago Ridge Mall were wearing the t-shirt.


The fracas was ignited by a fight in the mall food court and got out of hand when some mall patrons thought they heard gunshots fired. In fact, pots banged together by a food court restaurant worker attempting to disperse the crowd were mistaken for gunshots, police said.


Tokar described the t-shirt as “inflammatory.”


“Let’s not fuel the fire,” Bury added