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Oak Lawn man is charged with felony abuse of elderly relative

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

Oak Lawn resident Thomas Bartley is facing charges of felony abuse and neglect of an elderly person after police doing a wellness check on his 76-year-old cousin found her sitting in human waste in the kitchen of the home the two share in the 10700 block of South Keating Avenue on May 10.

Police said they were asked to check on the well-being of the woman, after the manager of a dental office called to say she had missed an appointment. When they went to the house, police said they noticed an overwhelming foul odor inside. They said the woman was sitting at the kitchen table, with human feces on her legs and the floor around her.

They said she appeared disoriented and suffering from malnutrition. Bartley told them she was eating spaghetti, but had not eaten “for a day or two” before.

Bartley also told police she had not showered for two or three weeks. He said he would wheel her back and forth to bed. Police said she was suffering from bedsores and a live maggot was found on her body.

The staff of Advocate Christ Medical Center where the woman was taken by ambulance, told police that she was "one of the worst malnourished patients they had ever seen." Police said her socks and other clothing was stuck to her skin and had to be cut off to be removed.

At a bail hearing the following day, bail was set at $100,000 for Bartley, who had been sharing the home with his cousin for nine years, prosecutors said.

Bartley’s next court appearance is set for June 8.

Students get FIRED UP at O'Hare

  • Written by By Joe Boyle

How many students can say they have gone on a field trip and assisted firefighters in extinguishing a raging “airplane” blaze.

Twenty-three students at Finley Junior High School in Chicago Ridge can boast just that after attending a College and Career Ready event field trip Friday at O’Hare Airport. The trip was planned through the efforts of Laura Grachan, principal at Finley Junior High, and American Airlines.

The eighth grade students filled out a survey earlier this year asking them what careers would interest them. Grachan said that eighth-graders are usually the first selected because they will be attending high school soon and are beginning to think about future careers. Two seventh grade students also took part in the field trip because of how they responded to the survey and the interest they showed in aviation.

“A number of these students showed an interest in flight and jobs at an airport,” said Grachan. “That’s when I began to look into it.”

Grachan contacted officials at the airport and soon was discussing ideas with administrators from American Airlines. She was surprised to learn that not only does American Airlines hold such field trips, but the students would also get an opportunity to visit an air traffic control tower, view and later assist in putting out a fire of a mock plane, and take a tour of a modern American Airlines aircraft.

After a morning bus ride to O’Hare, faculty members and students were greeted by Adam Retzler, senior specialist of tooling for the airlines’ aircraft maintenance division. He fielded a number of questions from the Finley students. Retzler pointed out that some aircraft can fly as long as 16 hours without stopping to locations such as Beijing or Shanghai, China.

The students were led on a tour of the air traffic control North Tower. Students had a panoramic view of all sides of the airport. They had an opportunity to view the control panels the air traffic controllers have to handle every day to allow aircraft to take off and land safely. Air traffic controllers continue to work unless winds reach as high as 88 miles per hour. When that occurs, the air traffic controllers then evacuate the tower.

Retzler said that nearly 500 to 800 flights take off daily for American Airlines at O’Hare. Pilots have a mandatory retirement age of 65. However, Retzler pointed out that the veteran pilots are more experienced and get to choose which flights they want.

American Airlines also has charter flights for the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks. The airlines have also helped deliver supplies to Haiti when it was hit by a devastating earthquake several years ago. Retzler told the Finley students that an average American Airlines aircraft travels about 600 miles per hour.

The students and faculty were then taken to an area near another runway and were met by firefighters from Engines 655 and 659. Students had an opportunity sit in the front seat of the trucks. They were then led off to an area where an iron mock-up plane was located. The mock-up is then lit from underneath with propane gas that ignites a fire. The firefighters took many of the students with them to put out the blaze. Students got an opportunity, with the direction of firefighters, to assist in putting out the blaze.

The firefighters have three minutes to respond to an aircraft fire.

“They are still talking about it,” said a delighted Grachan about the Finley students turn as gunners putting out fires.

The firefighters use this exercise for field trips and to instruct recruits in putting out a fire. Students also had an opportunity to view another mock structure that is designed to instruct firefighters in putting out a fire inside an aircraft. The firefighters also try to save as many lives as possible. After exiting the mock aircraft, a fire was programmed to occur along one of the wings and a tire as the kids looked on with interest.

The students, faculty and other guests then were served lunch and listened as Chip Long, chief pilot and director of flights at O’Hare, talked about his Air Force training that resulted in him later becoming a commercial pilot.

The day concluded with a tour inside and out of one of American Airlines’ new planes, a Boeing 787. The plane features the latest in technology and goes through 600 pounds of fuel an hour, according to Retzler. Students toured the expansive interior and got an opportunity to sit in first class and the cockpit.

Grachan was appreciative of the efforts of Retzler and Long in explaining aspects of the airlines and aviation in general. The Finley Junior High School principal said preparations for the field trip took two months. Evita Garces, who heads the Mid Line, MTC, Central Division, Line Division for American Airlines, helped to make the trip become possible. Nichole Lombardi, an executive assistant to Garces, played a major role as well, said Grachan.

The tour of the North Tower was arranged through the cooperation of Jim Johnson, a coordinator for Air Transit for the North Tower.

With the success of the field trip, Grachan hopes to revisit O’Hare again. This time, she would like to expand the field trip to include some parents. This way they can see what interests their children.

“What happened was what I hoped would happen,” said Grachan as the tour was coming to a close. “When we were coming here kids were saying what colleges they want to go to. This can help get them ready for college. This is hands-on education.”

Fire chief will continue to wear hats in Chicago Ridge and Oak Lawn By Dermot Connolly George Sheets has been fire chief of both Oak Lawn and Chicago Ridge for nearly two years now, and the arrangement has worked out so well that all talk of giving up one

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

Fire chief will continue to wear hats in Chicago Ridge and Oak Lawn

By Dermot Connolly

George Sheets has been fire chief of both Oak Lawn and Chicago Ridge for nearly two years now, and the arrangement has worked out so well that all talk of giving up one of the positions has gone by the wayside.

“This was a concept that had never been done before is done now,” said Sheets, who became Oak Lawn fire chief in 2009, and added Chicago Ridge in July 2014, following discussions between Mayors Sandra Bury of Oak Lawn and Chuck Tokar in Chicago Ridge. His salary is shared by the villages, saving Chicago Ridge about $65,000 annually

“Some people doubted it would work. But it has been a success story,” said Sheets during a wide-ranging interview on Monday, when he discussed the improvements made to the Chicago Ridge department while cutting costs as well.

Last summer he considered going back to Oak Lawn full-time, after he oversaw the opening of the second Chicago Ridge fire station on Lombard Avenue, and the successful implementation of the part-time firefighter program. But now, he said, with the encouragement of Tokar and the village trustees, he has decided to there is no need to change what isn’t broken.

“We’ve been able to increase personnel by 50 percent, while saving the village $350,000 over the past year in the operating budget,” he said. He said the refurbished Lombard Street station is staffed 12 hours a day by both part-time and full-time firefighters, with everyone going through the same training,

“I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished here,” said Sheets.

‘It has worked out better than people thought. We’ve got labor-management harmony too,” he said.

He said putting out monthly reports and keeping everyone informed has worked well too.

“We’re always looking at safety and how can we reduce our costs and be more efficient,” he said.

“I’m not a micromanager. I expect excellence, but I let them do their jobs, and my door is always open for suggestions,” said the chief. This style has led to improved morale, according to many in the department.

There are now 21 full-time firefighter/paramedics, including three lieutenants, and 13 part-timers on staff. The village also has about a dozen paid on-call firefighters.

“It has been a great learning experience. We all work together and all these guys have been very helpful,” said Alec Kowalczyk, a part-time firefighter from Palos Heights, who hopes to become full-time eventually.

The success of the fire department’s advancements actually earned the village of Chicago Ridge the James Baird Leadership Award for 2015 from the Illinois Public Employer Labor Relations Association.

“The central theme of 2015 was transformational change,” said Sheets. He said that with the opening of the new fire station, a second ambulance was put in service, reducing response times by nearly two minutes. By consolidating three outdated apparatus and buying the $650,000 five-unit quint apparatus last year, he said the village actually saved more than $2 million in replacement costs.

“Any time you implement change, there is going to be concerns, But (with Sheets) there is no personal agenda and no political agenda,” said firefighter/paramedic Victor Kiman, explaining the friendly relationship between management and labor.

“Years ago, it was contentious. It seems to be really improved. The communication channels back and forth are always open. That helped a lot,” said Lt. Bob Eggert.

Hickory Hills Council donates funds to assist ill 6-year-old boy

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Based on action taken at the Hickory Hills Council meeting last Thursday, the city could be described as the “city with a heart.”

Two residents came to the council seeking solutions to problems such as neglected properties blighting a neighborhood and an apartment filled with second-hand smoke, causing the tenant health problems. In both cases, after listening to lengthy descriptions of the problems, Mayor Michael Howley sympathized with their complaints, offered possible solutions and stated that he was sorry for what they were going through.

But it was a third request to help a little boy with special needs that truly touched the hearts of the mayor and the council.

Howley’s voice choked with emotion as he read an email received from Hickory Hills resident Kelly Sindowski, mother of Harrison, a 6-year old suffering from epilepsy and recently diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS), a condition leaving him unable to speak or walk.

In her letter, she explained that the Epilepsy Foundation was conducting a 5K run on Saturday in Chicago at Montrose Harbor and that one of the runners was a young man named Michael (we don’t know his last name, she said), who was running for her son, Harrison. She was asking the council if it would consider a sponsorship for the runner.

“We have never met Michael, but he reached out to us last year and informed us that he has been running for Harrison in events across the country in an organization called “Who I Run 4.” It is an organization of young volunteers who select names of people they will represent in the runs and it is done without any personal compensation,” Sindowski said. “More information on Michael, or the organization, is available at Irun4Michael and www.whoirun4.com.

“It is the first time he will be in Chicago and we are very anxious to meet him and introduce him to Harrison. We want to thank him for all he is doing,” Sindowski said.

An emotional Howley recalled meeting Harrison at a number of city events.

“The Sindowski family attends our community events and Harrison is the greatest little guy. I talked with him some time ago and he was so excited to be there,” said Howley, his voice breaking.

The council unanimously approved a donation of $200 for the Epilepsy Foundation 5K run.

In other action, a budget for the Fiscal Year 2016-17 was approved and will be submitted to the village attorney for preparation of an ordinance.

Also approved was a salary increase for non-union employees and a list of appointments to the city’s committees and commissions for 2016.

The council adjourned to executive session to discuss contract updates for Police and Public Works.

Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward) was absent due to illness.

Evergreen Park police recover weapon used in several murders

  • Written by By Sharon L. Filkins

Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton opened the Monday board meeting with a special recognition of the village’s police department and commendations for five individual officers for exemplary service.

“We have recently been flooded with commendations for our police department and while it is not possible time-wise to enumerate all of them, there is often one that deserves our attention and these five young men were part of it,” said Sexton.

Police Chief Michael Saunders introduced Evergreen Park Officers David Sass, Kent Borden, Thomas Ostrowski, Thomas Lehnhardt and Sgt. Anthony Signorelli. Also recognized was Oak Lawn Police Officer Scott Peterson, who participated in the case.

Saunders related that during the midnight shift in April, Sass was on patrol and noticed a car driving in the opposite direction with unusually bright lights. Saunders said Sass’ instinct kicked in and felt that something didn’t seem right. Sass then turned around and went back to pull the car over.

The driver of the suspect car refused to stop and sped off. Sass called for back-up. After a short pursuit, the driver of the car stopped and the occupants jumped out and ran off. Two men were quickly apprehended. In checking out the car, a loaded weapon was found in the front passenger seat. It turns out that the weapon was found to be the one used in a murder the week before in Harvey. Later investigations indicated the weapon had been used in a number of other murders in Chicago.

“This is an example of doing our job,” said Saunders. “Our officers do the job because they are dedicated to their work. We have been fortunate in Evergreen Park that we do not have drive-by shootings and drug violence. We are doing our job, but we also have a lot of support from our residents.”

“Our residents can sleep comfortably at night because these officers are on the street. We owe you a lot,” said Sexton. “You have our back and we have yours. Thank you for all you do.”

Trustee Mary Keane also thanked the officers. Her voice breaking with emotion, she said, “Thank you for all the sacrifices you make to keep our families safe here in our village.”

In other matters, the board approved a request from Mike McGrath, owner of Porter Cullens, at 3541 W. 99th St., to increase his hours of operation to allow for serving breakfast on Saturday and Sundays, beginning at 8:30 a.m., and to increase the hours on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to midnight. McGrath’s third request to add outdoor bistro tables was tabled for further discussion.

Approved with a vote of 5-1 was a payment of $14,455 to H & R Johnson for work completed at the Barn in the Village’s park area. The payment was designated as a payment for the company working in severe winter weather.

Trustee Mark Phelan cast the opposing vote, stating he didn’t think it was necessary.

“I worked in construction for 30 years and I have never heard of being paid for working in inclement weather,” Phelan said. “This is ridiculous.”

Sexton pointed out that the total cost of the project had come in at $100,000 less than the original bid from the company.

Also approved was a request to send out a proposal for sanitary sewer linings.