Winter still sticking it to Palos Hills

  • Written by Michael Gilbert



Streets damaged by freezing temps

and snow to be fixed this fall

Last year’s historically cold and snowy winter may be gone, but it certainly isn’t forgotten.
And it may indirectly cause a headache or two in what is being called a “logistical nightmare’’ this fall for people who want to use 112th Place in Palos Hills.
The Palos Hills City Council awarded a contract to D Construction for the 2014 road resurfacing project at last Thursday night’s meeting. The road surfacing is needed because of damage caused by last year’s severe winter weather.
Palos Hills will pay the Coal City-based firm $148,000 to complete the project, but nearly $90,000 of that figure will be spent on crack sealing, which, according to Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley, was needed after the constant freezing and thawing that occurred this past winter.
“[Last winter] you had freezing and thawing and freezing and thawing and that tears the heck out of roads,” Weakley said in an interview following the council meeting. “You go up into northern Wisconsin, North Dakota or Minnesota and typically their road freezes in the winter and thaws in the spring, but here in Illinois, roads go through many freeze and thaw cycles and they do tear the roads up.”
A total of 21 city-owned roads are slated for improvements as part of this year’s project, Alderman Frank Williams said. Crack sealing will occur on 19 of those roads. The other two projects are the reconstruction of 112th Place west of Southwest Highway and the resurfacing of 98th Street from 88th Avenue to 89th Avenue.
The crack sealing is expected to start within the next week while the resurfacing and reconstruction will occur in the next 30 days, Weakley said.
Weakley expected the crack sealing work would cause “relatively no inconvenience” to residents, but that the reconstruction of 112th Place would be a “logistical nightmare” because all of the trucks that use the road. D Construction is required to notify residents in the area when the work is set to take place, Weakley added.
Palos Hills received five bids for the project ranging in price from $148,000 to $189,000, Weakley said. Although the city has never used D Construction before, Weakley said they are respectable firm with a solid background.
“They are qualified IDOT contractors and they are the contractors who are doing the LaGrange Road [widening] in Orland Park,” he said. “They’re a very big company.”


Website revamp coming soon

Alderman Rick Moore told the council and a handful of residents in attendance that the city’s new-look website is scheduled to launch on Wednesday. This will be the first major upgrade to the Palos Hills’ website in more than five years, he said.
“The No. 1 goal for the new site is to improve the navigation for visitors and make it easier to extract the information,” Moore said. “Basically we want it to be a venue for us to get information out to the residents in a quick and efficient way.”
A new feature to the website will be individual pages for each council member to post news and information about the ward they represent, Moore said.  Department heads will also be given the same forum, he said.
The website will continue to offer agendas for upcoming meetings, information on the city’s chipper service and the ability to pay water bills online, Moore said.
The overhaul of the website will be completed entirely in-house, Moore said.  Palos Hills IT Coordinator Bill Kinney and an intern from Moraine Valley Community College have worked since the spring to revamp the site, Moore noted.

“It was very cost efficient the way that we did it,” Moore said.  “The new website is really going to enhance our communications with our constituents and residents of Palos Hills.”


Leaving EP Bethless

  • Written by Bob Rakow

pge-1-3-col-hartBeth Hart bursts out of the Evergreen Park High School banner before Friday’s homecoming game. The school’s superintendent will retire in June. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Longtime super Hart to retire in June

Beth Hart does not know what it’s like to sleep in.

“I’ve just always been an early riser. I get up early,” Hart said Tuesday morning, five hours after rolling out of bed at 4:30 a.m.
The superintendent of Evergreen Park High School District 231, Hart recalls sitting alone in her college cafeteria early on Saturday mornings while classmates slept in.
Hart checks her email in the early morning hours—her first task in a typical day filled with myriad responsibilities.
“It’s a 24/7 job,” she said of overseeing the school at 99th Street and Kedzie Avenue.
But come June, Hart will call it career after 35 years in education as both a teacher and administrator.
“It just felt right,” said Hart, 63.
But retirement doesn’t mean Hart will start sleeping until noon.
She plans to teach or use her Spanish-speaking abilities in some capacity. In fact she’s often called on at the high school when Spanish-speaking parents stop to voice a concern.
“I hope that I’ll find something to do,” said Hart, who also plans to spend more time with her young grandchildren, who live in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.
Hart, who was honored at halftime of last Friday’s homecoming game, spent her entire career in the Southland after growing up in St. Thomas More parish in Chicago’s south side.
She taught Spanish at Quigley South, Brother Rice, Marist and Bremen high schools over a 16-year-period before becoming an assistant principal at Bremen.
Her path as an administrator ultimately led her to Evergreen Park High School in 2001, where she’s served as both principal and superintendent—a post she was named to in 2008.
“I feel like it went by unbelievably fast,” said Hart, who lives in Chicago’s Morgan Park community.
Hart described Evergreen Park an “unbelievable community” that is home to an “an all-American high school.”
She added that the school’s 850 students represent all aspect of the teen years. The school is home to a wide spectrum of students, including those who have gotten perfect ACT scores to others who excelled in sports or drama.
Hart oversaw renovations to the football field, science labs and theatre during her tenure at the school, but she’s most proud of her ongoing interaction with students.
“The thing I hope I’m known for is being student-centered,” Hart said. “I would describe myself as a democratic leader.”
Leading a small school and having her office in the same building makes that task a little easier, but Hart said that empowering students is a lesson she learned from her days at Queen of Peace High School and throughout her college days.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at Mundelein College and did post-graduate work at the University of Illinois and Loyola University. All along she learned that giving students responsibility and a voice was important.
That message was not lost on the School District 231, which has four members who attended the high school. In fact, board president Christopher Trzeciak was a student at the school when Hart was principal.
“Now he’s my boss,” she said.
Hart’s secretary, Sheri Sochacki, said Hart has always promoted teamwork and encouraged staff and faculty to make suggestions.
“I think she has the natural ability to bring people together,” Sochacki said. “She always promotes team effort. I’m definitely going to miss working for Beth.”
Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton lauded Hart for her accomplishments at the school.
“Beth has a done a wonderful job,” Sexton said. “She’s been very good to this community. She’s very involved. The school has made a lot of improvements since she’s been there.”
Principal Bill Sanderson calls Hart a mentor.
“She allows you to do your job,” Sanderson said. “She allowed me to put my own personality on the position. I’ll be forever indebted to her.”
Sanderson credited Hart for connecting with students. As principal, she would go through the yearbook to learn students’ names. She also started the senior exit interview as means of getting students’ honest assessment of the school
The district has already taking steps to find Hart’s replacement having hired a search firm that surveyed the community members, parents, faculty and staff before bringing finalists to the school board for consideration.

Fighting for the Knights

  • Written by Claudia Parker


Oak Lawn author ruffles some feathers with

book about African-American pilots

J. Marcellus Burke, a 15 year resident of Oak Lawn, Page-1-3-col-color-authorJ. Marcellus Burke and his wife, Gloria, thumb through his controversial book “The Black Knights” before he spoke at a Tilden Tech alumni meeting last Wednesday at the Chicago Ridge American Legion hall. Photo by Jeff a World War II veteran and retired Chicago Police Detective, who can now add ‘author’ to his list of accolades. 

“The Black Knights,’’ published by Path Press, is a fictionalized account of four fighter pilots of African descent who served in the Luftwaffe German air force during WWII.
While the book is listed as fiction, Burke said it’s based on actual events. It was released two months ago and it’s said to be ruffling feathers among people of color.
“Some of my black critics are upset,’’ Bruke said. “They’re saying that African Americans, specifically the Tuskegee Airmen, were the first military aviators.”
He demonstrated a raised fist being pumped into the air to signify how passionate one of his critics became during their conversation.
Burke said his five years of research revealed that Germany had the first aviators of African descent, claiming they went into combat in 1939, while the United States Tuskegee Airmen didn’t see combat until April of 1943.
Some feel The Black Knights portrayal of history is an insult and is discrediting African American history many worked hard to have acknowledged.
Burke however disputes that claim.
“I wrote this book because of the scarcity of information about the role people of color played during WWII in and beyond the US,’’ Burke said. “My research proved we weren’t adequately credited for our contributions in Germany, Russia or even Great Britain.”
He said many of his first-hand experiences are indicators of accuracy in his findings.
His 70-year old military discharge papers are kept wrapped in a protective covering. A vibrant, 87-year-old, Burke, proudly showed off his proof of service.
But it’s bittersweet.

Jeff Vorva's imPRESSions: Warning! E-books screw up your sleep patterns

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col ImpressionsI have never met Ruth or Larry Kuhn but I feel a kinship with the couple who own the Oak Lawn-based Paperback Trading Co., Inc.
They are trying to save books just like people in my racket are trying to save newspapers.
The couple realizes there are merits to e-books but they don’t want to see real books disappear. These two will go to any lengths to convince you that real books are better than e-books including seeking out medical research to prove their point.
Not to turn this into a Dee Woods’ column, but here are some medical facts the Kuhns have come up with in a letter that they sent my way.
They quote a dude named Stephen Adams, who is a medical correspondent and has these words of wisdom:
“More and more people are taking their PAGE-3-3-col-with-jv-col-BlueSky UglyGarageWinnerPhoto1This is the ugly garage contest winner from Glen Ellyn but organizers of the contest didn’t release the winner’s name. Submitted photo.e-books to bed with them,” Adams wrote. “Researchers are warning the blue light their screens emit can stop users from getting a good night of sleep because this type of light mimics daylight, convincing the brain that it is still day time.
“Blue light suppresses production of a brain chemical called melatonin, which helps us fall asleep. This is because our brains have evolved to be wakeful during daylight hours. Neurologists have known for years staring at screens late in the evening can disrupt sleep. However, because e-books are portable – not to say addictive – more people are taking them into the bedroom.’’
I don’t know if all of this is true or not, but it sounds good. So the Kuhns add: “To prevent oneself from possibly having a restless night, try the traditional book with the night light attached.’’
Now I am off to find a research expert to prove that getting your news from Twitter – or anyone except the Reporter – will cause blindness and warts to grow on your unmentionable parts.

Ugly garage contest

I get a lot of e-mails from all over the world and few make me laugh.
But my favorite press release so far from September comes from the Downers Grove-based Blue Sky Builders, which sponsored the Ugliest Garage Contest.
”The Ugliest Garage Contest of 2014 sought to identify the ugliest garage in the Chicago region and nationwide, and is pleased to announce the winner,’’ the release breathlessly announced.
And the winner is?
“A homeowner from Glen Ellyn, Ill.’’
Wait. No name?
The only other reference to this person is “the winner will receive their choice of a 50-inch LCD Television or cash equivalent.’’
Aw, come on. I can see someone being embarrassed by having an ugly garage and may not want their name splashed around. But if you enter a contest like this – and win a cool prize – you might want to let them use your name. After all, the photo of the offending garage was provided and used.
And a proud honor it is. We’re not just talking about a Chicago area bad garage. We’re talking about some stiff competition here.
“The Ugliest Garage Contest received entries from across the United States, with the majority from northern Illinois and the Chicago region,’’ the press release said.
 “The Ugliest Garage Contest has been a fun way to engage with the community and our social media networks,” said Scott Wendell of Blue Sky Builders in the release. “When we saw the winning garage, we knew it was one of the ugliest we have encountered.’’
 As long as we’re cracking wise about this contest, why not offer a first prize of a garage makeover instead of a TV?

Up in smoke

The editor of the Desplaines Valley News, a paper that serves a bevy of communities including Bridgeview, Summit and Willow Springs, wrote a lead piece in a business notebook about the village of Worth potentially getting a medical marijuana dispensary.
This editor informed people “Cannabis clubs will not be the stuff of Cheech and Chong movies with stoners knocking on an alley door and saying a password to get a bag of reefer. There are enough of those already.’’
The editor also had a little fun talking about the economic impact this clinic may or may not have in Worth.
“There are already enough restaurants in that area to help any future customers get over the case of the munchies.’’
Oh, and the name of the editor who is writing all of this? His name is Bob Bong.
I can’t make this stuff up, folks.


Two Stagg alums die in motorcycle mishaps

  • Written by Jeff Vorva and Bob Rakow


Stagg math teacher John Daniels came to school Monday and found out the bad news that one of his former geometry students, Amy Reed, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Joliet the night before.

His day was about to get worse.
Daniels, who is also coach of the boys basketball team, found out that night that a former player of his, Giedrius Lisnicenka, was driving a motorcycle Monday night in Palos Hills and was killed in an accident.
“This is sad, man,” Daniels said on Tuesday. “These were two good kids. It’s crazy. Two Stagg kids in two days killed in motorcycle accidents. It’s tough being on a motorcycle.’’
The accidents capped off a six-day stretch of death, destruction and arrests affecting several people from the communities in the Reporter coverage area.
Lisnicenka’s accident happened in the late afternoon on Monday on La Grange Road near 111th Street. Police said he hit the back of a stopped vehicle on southbound La Grange Road at around 5 p.m. and was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn early Monday night.
The accident closed a portion of La Grange Road for approximately four hours, according to police.
Daniels said that Lisnicenka, 22, “lived at a different speed” than other students. He said his former player would always make him laugh. The coach also remembered having a heart-to-heart talk with Lisnicenka when the player opted to leave the basketball team in December, 2010 for family reasons.
“I offered to let him come back in a few weeks to get ready for the regionals,” Daniels said. “He said that he didn’t want to do that because it wouldn’t be fair to the other players. That’s the kind of kid he was.”
Less than 24 hours before that fatality, Reed was killed in Joliet on Sunday night when the motorcycle on which she was a passenger crashed through the brick wall of a building, Joliet police said.
Reed, 24, and Patrick Ortiz, 34, of Channahon, were killed when Ortiz’s Harley-Davidson jumped a curb and collided with the building, police said.
The motorcycle was traveling at a high-rate of speed on Barney Drive and jumped the curb at a T intersection at Glenwood Avenue.
Reed died in the emergency room at 9:27 p.m. and Ortiz died in the emergency room at 9:54 p.m. at Saint Joseph Medical Center, according to the Will County Coroner’s office.
Police do not believe Ortiz had been drinking.
In other news:
• Leah Wright of Palos Hills was found asleep while she was at the drive-thru of the Palos Hills Taco Bell, 7601 W. 111th Street last Thursday.