Jeff Vorva's ImPRESSions: Moving on up – area property transfers are back


Jeffs Col ImpressionsThey are back.
They are not flashy.
They are not what you would call eye candy.
On the printed page, they are just there – a bit dull, to tell you the truth. They are words and numbers.
But it appears that our readers love them.
And they are back.
The popular property transfers page-3-2-col-right-right-jv-colMichael Weeks of Mokena presents Orland Park’s Kristen Sandberg, a child life specialist for the hematology and oncology clinic at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn with some bowling pins, top photo, as a part of a toy fundraiser. Weeks and his family brought in about $3,000 worth of toys to the hospital, bottom photo. Photos by Jeff Vorva.PAGE-3-2-col-left-with-JVCOLwill return to the pages of the Reporter for the first time since…well folks around the office aren’t quite sure. But rest assured, it’s been awhile. And we heard about it from people.
I would love to slam my meaty fist on the desk and tell you that because you wanted them back, by God we are giving them back to you! Nothing was going to stop us!
But that wasn’t really the case.
The transfers returned to the Regional News last week and the Reporter will start running them this week and it’s been a taffy pull to get them back.
Ever since I’ve been working as a reporter for the Regional in September, 2012 and editor at the Reporter since last August, I’ve heard about the importance of getting these bad boys back in print for the two papers.
We won’t go into all the how-the-sausage-is-made gory details on how we got them back from the Cook County offices, but the tag-team efforts of Regional Editor Jack Murray and reporter Tim Hadac paid off big dividends while I sat back and watched like a dummy without understanding why all of this is a big deal. To me, the most interesting transfers are which athlete is leaving what high school and college.
But it is a big deal.
People like to see what the property in their neighborhood is selling for. They like to see what property in the rest of the community is selling for. And they may want to take a peek at the going rates for other communities as well in case they have an itch to move.
Our goal at the Reporter is to try to keep it anchored on page 11 and jazz it up a little with a graphic so you can easily find it.
It took some work to get it back and we hope you enjoy it.

Not playing around
Mike Weeks of Mokena brought some toys to the hospital last Thursday, but he wasn’t playing around.
Weeks and his family brought in a couple of carloads of toys to Advocate Children’s Hospital to help stock up a toy closet at the Oak Lawn hospital that overnight patients can go to make their stay a little more bearable.
It’s the fourth year the Weeks family brought toys to the hospital. The toys – about $3,000 worth — came from friends and neighbors via a late June block party fundraiser called Michael Weeks’ Stock the Closet fundraiser.
Weeks had leukemia and spent more than his fair share of nights at the Oak Lawn facility and in spring of 2011 he had his final treatment there and noticed the closet was getting bare. So the family came up with the idea of providing toys for the closet. Weeks is in sixth grade now and said he said he likes the fact so many friends contribute.
“It helps make kids with cancer feel better,” he said. “When I was here, I remember playing with a basketball hoop. It was fun.”


Double duty

  • Written by Bob Rakow

OL fire chief will also head up Chicago Ridge’s department

Oak Lawn Fire Chief George Sheets’ duties are expanding to include leading the department in neighboring Chicago Ridge.

The Oak Lawn Village Board on Tuesday night approved an agreement that calls on Sheets to head the Chicago Ridge Fire Department through 2016.
The Chicago Ridge Village Board is expected to approve the agreement at its July 15 meeting, Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen said. Sheets would take over for Robert Muszynski, who submitted his resignation in June after a firestorm and letter-writing campaign between the department and the village board members in Chicago Ridge regarding the future of the department.
“They reached out to us. We had a discussion with them and met with the mayor.” Deetjen said.
The agreement, which was unanimously approved by Oak Lawn trustees, does not include consolidating the departments.
“It’s just the chief at this time,” said Deetjen, who said that it was “premature” to talk consolidation.
Earlier this year, Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar explored several cost-saving measures, including joining a fire protection district or hiring a private ambulance service.
Tokar has said he does not plan to disband the fire department.
The union that represents Chicago Ridge fire fighters opposes those ideas and expressed their differences with village officials in a letter distributed to the community.
Sheets’ priority is to “get in and get a better focus managerially,” Deetjen said.
“He’ll come back to both bodies, and he’ll make recommendations for the future. ” Deetjen said.
“We’re looking to achieve some cost efficiencies,” Tokar said Wednesday morning. “We think it’s a good deal for both towns.”
He added that he spoke with several mayors, fire chiefs and fire protection districts as he explored ways to improve cost efficiencies.
“We’re looking to improve services while at the same time save dollars,” he said.
He described Sheets as well respected fire chief, who has “a wealth of knowledge and experience” and agreed with Deetjen that Sheets will make recommendations on how to better operate the Chicago Ridge department.
Deetjen said he does not expect Sheets to meet any resistance from the Chicago Ridge firefighters.
“George is a firefighter’s man,” Deetjen said. “I think he’s a good public safety manager. I think they’re going to like George very much.”
The decision to bring Sheets to the helm in Chicago Ridge comes amidst a dispute between firefighters and village officials over the department’s future, which heightened after Muszynski’s resignation.
Tokar confirmed that he asked for Muszynski’s resignation.
Muszynski, who took over as chief in early 2011, supported the hiring of an additional 7 or 8 firefighters/paramedics who would be based at fire station at 107th Street and Lombard Avenue, Tokar said.
That station currently is used for training and to store equipment, the mayor said.
However, residents have asked the village to consider having a second ambulance and possibility a fire truck at the Lombard Avenue station, which would reduce the response time to a large number of homes in the village.
The village’s other fire station is located in the industrial park and is not located near much of the village’s residential area.
But Tokar said the village cannot absorb the costs of staffing a second station.
The union’s letter expressed concern over the village’s decision to seek alternative methods for fire protection and emergency medical services.
“Why then is the village of Chicago Ridge contemplating taking a step backwards when the rest of the world is moving on to what works better,” the letter asked.
The village’s response said the union’s letter “contains misrepresentations of fact in an attempt to cause fear.”
It said Tokar was directed by trustees to “investigate and report to the board cost-saving measures that might save our taxpayers money while increasing the level of fire and ambulance service.”
Dissolving the fire department and contracting with a private ambulance service are not under consideration, the letter said.
The village’s letter also pointed out that village and the union are in the midst of contract negotiations and noted that none of the Chicago Ridge firefighters live in Chicago Ridge.
“By looking into how other towns operate, where our firefighters themselves live, we may discover better, more cost-effective ways to operate,” the letter said.

Fresh perspective

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

New McAuley principal uses her young age to her advantage

  OK, let’s get this out of the way right now.Page-1-2-col-principalEileen Boyce is the new principal at Mother McAuley and it has been brought to her attention how young she looks. Submitted photo.

  Yes, new Mother McAuley High School Principal Eileen Boyce looks young. That’s because she is young. She is 29 and looks even more youthful.
  There are likely still some people out there who think an all-Catholic girls school principal should be ancient and cranky and ready to break knuckles with rulers. There are some people out there who realize that men and women of various ages can handle the job of principal quite well.
  But even the most liberal of folks can’t help but notice how young Boyce looks. Heck, the Oak Lawn native and Orland Park resident could pass for one of the students.
  “I am fully aware of people’s reaction,” Boyce said on Monday. “From my end, people have been positive about it. For me, it’s an advantage. It’s a benefit. And I’m lucky that people around me to strengthen me in ways in certain experiences that I haven’t had.
  “For those who have concerns about my age, once people see the direction McAuley is taking, they will see I have a lot of experience in what we are doing to move forward, I think all of their concerns would be faded away. At least that’s the goal.’’
  Boyce earned the spot after nationwide search and interview process. She graduated from the Chicago school in 2003 and is the first alumna to be named principal of the school, which is the largest all-girls high school in the country with 1,200 students.
  Little did she know when she was sitting in the classroom, playing basketball or managing the volleyball team back in the early 2000s that she would be running the school a decade later.
  “It’s funny because we had these senior Academy Awards at the end of my senior year,” she said. “I think I was voted most likely to return as a teacher at Mother McAuley. Once that was said, it was always in my mind that I wanted to be a teacher.’’
  She never got that chance. But she taught at St. John Fischer and said that working with Principal Jean McGrath helped her develop and itch for the administrative side of education.
  Boyce joined Mother McAuley in 2012 as assistant principal. Her achievements during her tenure include directing the AdvancED accreditation process, co-chairing the Academic Council, directing the implementation of the Strategic Academic Plan and creating and implementing a 1:1 iPad® program.
  In an era when enrollments are dwindling at Catholic schools in the Chicago area — Mt. Assisi in Lemont just closed shop in June — Boyce has confidence in McAuley’s numbers.
  “Our numbers are strong,” she said. “Certainly it’s a sacrifice for parents to make financially for their children to attend Catholic schools. I know they see the benefit at Mother McAuley. We will remain strong and I am confident in the future.’’
  While there were some whispers in the past about the school possibly merging with Brother Rice, Boyce said she’s not aware of those talks and even though McAuley has a strong relationship with Brother Rice, the plans are to keep McAuley as a single-gender school.


  • Written by Kelly White

Palos Hills mayor outraged with ComEd response to power outage

“Unacceptable’’ was one of the choice words used by Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett in describing ComEd’s reaction to thousands of power outages caused by two powerful storms that raged into the area on June 30.

“In all my years as mayor, I have never seen such a dysfunctional company as ComEd,” Bennett said at last Thursday’s board meeting following four days of dealing with headaches caused by the storm. “It’s unacceptable. And, I hate to apologize because I have absolutely no control over the situation, but I am sorry for what our residents have gone through.”
The majority of the city sat without power from June 30 until last Thursday morning. More than 50 percent, totaling 3,500 homes in the Palos Hills community, were without power after the storm, along with five of the city’s eight sanitary sewer stations, Bennett said.
Public works crews responded immediately and concentrated on re-establishing power to their pumping station and opening streets and blocked storm inlets. The crews were able to get two pumping stations back on line and use portable generators to provide emergency use to three pumping stations until power was re-established at 10 a.m. last Thursday.
“Certain areas of our city have not been recovered until about an hour ago,” Bennett said at the meeting.
Southwest Highway and the area surrounding 82nd and Eleanor avenues in Palos Hills – 185 homes -- were without power for at least four days.
“Southwest Highway is a major road even though ComEd may not be aware of it,” Bennett said. “And, that road sat for almost 48 hours. It does not only affect our residents, it has affected all citizens throughout the southwest area that use Southwest Highway on a regular basis. And, I want to find out why it has taken so long for them to restore power.”
ComEd officials said that the process of the repairs in that area took extra time.
There were eight poles down along Southwest Highway, running from 107th Street to 111th Street, according to Com Ed representative Elizabeth Keating.
“These poles take some time to repair,” she said, “Some of the poles needed to be de-energized before all of them could be taken out then put back up in a row again and restrung.”
The poles were double-circuit poles containing 12,000 voltages of energy running along the first string and 4,000 voltages running along the second string, she said.
“It was a safety concern why Southwest Highway remained closed during the replacement and restringing of these poles,” Keating said, “Our crews considered possibly keeping only one lane open during the repair, however, decided against it due to the heavy traffic and safety concerns.”
The delayed power outage in the area surrounding 82nd Avenue and Eleanor Avenue was more bad luck than anything else, Com Ed officials said. Keating said the area experienced a nested outage once the power was resumed to Palos Hills with a circuit down. ComEd crews went out and worked through the night last Thursday night to have the power up and running by the following Friday morning.
The storms left a reported 2.56 inches of rain within the city, with wind gusts ranging between 60 to 80 mph. Plaos Hills wasn’t along with its power miseries. In its wake, 400,000 homes in the Chicago area were left without power.
“[Public Works Commissioner] Dave Weakley has been working nonstop,” Bennett said, “Both our public works and police department immediately began clearing the streets from any tree branches and debris from the storm, along with helping residents.”
“Throughout the community, hundreds of trees were damaged or blown over and dozens of streets were blocked with trees or broken tree branches,” Alderman Frank Williams (5th Ward) said on behalf of the public works department.
On July 2, crews started the process of clearing the city roadways of debris with chipper crews moving through the entire community chipping storm damaged branches that residents had placed along the roadways.
At approximately 2 a.m., the ComEd substation located at 103rd Street and 78th Avenue failed, sending a large portion of the community into darkness again and causing the upper system water pumping station to fail. The power was re-established later that evening; however, the pressure fluctuations caused a water main break on 88th Avenue and 104th Street, rupturing an eight-inch water main. Public works crews were called to clean up and repair the water leak.
“The water main was so badly damaged that crews had to replace eight feet of water main to complete the entire repair,” Williams said.

Open heart

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Former OL resident has half a heart but he leads a full life

Page-1-3-col-Keaton-Scoles-2Former Oak Lawn resident Keaton Scoles, 4, just finished a preschool program and is living a full life despite having three open heart surgeries before he turned three. Photo courtesy of Diana Scoles.

To put it bluntly, the odds were good that Keaton Scoles would be dead by now.

There is no way to sugarcoat it. This former Oak Lawn resident was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and that’s something that Advocate Children’s Hospital officials say that until recently it “was tantamount to a death sentence.’’
He’s a kid with a half of a heart and he’s had three open heart surgeries before he turned three.
Some area friends and neighbors may remember in 2011 when Scoles was just one-year-old, his family hosted a yard sale to help raise money for his medical bills and people rallied around the family, raising $2,000 for the cause.
Not only is Scoles still alive, he “is full of life and brings us joy daily,” his mother, Diana, told Children’s Hospital officials.
The family moved from Oak Lawn to Plainfield and is now living in Arbor Vitae, Wis., where he completed a term of preschool, which Children’s Hospital officials call “probably nothing short of a small miracle.’’
Pediatric surgeons have perfected palliation of the disorder through a trilogy of surgeries. In his young life, Scoles already has undergone all three major heart operations – the first when he was only six days old – at Children’s Hospital.
Officials say the hospital treats 20 to 30 HLHS patients annually, making it a high-volume HLHS center nationally. Dr. Michel Ilbawi, chief of pediatric heart surgery at Children’s Hospital, has developed innovative treatment strategies for HLHS.
Diana says Keaton’s recovery has been smooth since completing his third surgery, called the Fontan procedure, more than a year-and-a-half ago. Although his corrective surgeries are completed, Keaton will continue to be seen about every six months at the Children’s Hospital HLHS clinic.
A multidisciplinary team will monitor Scoles for any growth or other developmental problems, central nervous system complications and issues related to such basic functions as hearing and eating, says Dr. Tarek Husayni, pediatric cardiologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital.
“Not only has our focus been on decreasing mortality from HLHS, but improving a patient’s overall quality of life,” Husayni said in a news release. “Twenty-five years ago, children did not survive this disorder. Now, patients are surviving. We established this [HLHS] clinic to address the specialized needs of this patient population.”
After trying for eight years to have a baby, being told she would never be able to carry term, and then experiencing the joy of reaching 20 weeks of pregnancy, Diana, then 42, was at first devastated and “depressed,” when an ultrasound showed her unborn child had a life-threatening heart defect.
Then she met with surgeon Ilbawi, and his team.
“Everyone sounded so positive and certain of our baby’s outcome, that we were put at ease,” she said in a news release.
The next months became what Diana calls “extremely overwhelming, especially after being told our baby would need heart surgery days after he was born. All of the normal thoughts of having a baby – what diapers to use, what bottles to buy, breastfeeding -- gone. Only one thing became a priority and that was living. I just wanted our baby to live.”
She said she would stand next to Keaton’s bed, “praying that his nurses were doing everything they could possibly do and being compassionate towards my son. And, they were. I was able to concentrate on remaining positive, believing in miracles, the power of prayer and angels of healing.”
Scoles will be return to a preschool program in the fall and then kindergarten next year.
He will be back in Oak Lawn in August for a visit to the clinic and he and his family plan to participate in the Advocate Children’s Hospital 27th Annual Pediatric Cardiology picnic in September.
“What is important to me in telling Keaton’s story is describing the emotions that we felt,” Diana said. “New moms and dads [in similar situations] need to know that what they are feeling is normal – and expected.”