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Community Briefs

 

Evergreen Park
Installing LEDs

  Evergreen Park’s streetlights will all be outfitted with light-emitting diode bulbs by the end of April, an upgrade expected to save the village 40 percent per year on the cost of electricity, according to Public Works director Bill Lorenz.
  Village trustees on March 4 voted unanimously to award Meade Electric a contract worth $11,340 to replace the existing bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The existing lights were installed 15 years ago, Lorenz said.
  “The LED lights are very bright, and they last a little bit longer, but the biggest thing is the energy cost savings,” he added.
  The village will be changing the lights along 95th Street from Western Avenue to Pulaski Road, along Kedzie Avenue from 87th Street to 103rd Street, along Western Avenue from 91st to 99th Street, and on Pulaski Road at its intersections with 93rd, 95th, 99th and 103rd streets.
—Laura Bollin
 

SXU plans annual health fair

Free screenings offered
  Free health screenings, assessments, and information are available at Saint Xavier University’s 10th annual Health Fair on Friday, March 22.
  The fair, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Shannon Center at the University’s Chicago campus, 3700 W. 103rd St.

  The fair, which drew more than 500 attendees last year, is a “one-stop shop” of free health services. It includes free screenings and assessments for the following: blood pressure, blood glucose, bone density, hearing and vision, feet, spinal cord, injuries, cholesterol, stress, body mass index and more.

  The fair also includes a wide variety of other activities, including free chair massages; healthy cooking demonstrations at 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m.; 15-Minute exercise classes featuring Chair Yoga (9 a.m. and 10 a.m.), Beginner Strength Training (11 a.m.), and Zumba (noon and 1 p.m.); and comprehensive kidney screening (which includes analysis of blood pressure, sodium, calcium, glucose, liver, and more) for $25 per person. Call (773) 298-3592 for more information and to pre-register.
  A blood drive will be held by Heartland Blood Centers. To donate blood, register by calling (773) 298-3592. Receive a $5 Dunkin Donuts gift card when you donate.
  Neighborhood vendors will be at the fair to share health information with the community, including health-care providers and retailers.
  Free samples and refreshments will be served by 5 Hour Energy; Chartwells; Gatorade; Great American Bagel; Honest Tea; Muscle Milk; Starbucks; and Subway.
  For more information, call (773) 298-3592 or visit sxu.edu, keyword: health fair.
 

Oak Lawn trustee demands ComEd provide answers about power surge

By Laura Bollin

A raccoon caused a power outage last weekend in Oak Lawn, and thus ComEd is not responsible for any monetary losses residents may have incurred because of refrigerators that stopped working and electronics that were fried.

At least that’s what the electric company claims. Oak Lawn village officials have a different take, and believe ComEd may be using the outage as a cop-out to avoid responsibility for a power surge that left more than 1,000 residences without electricity. Some trustees want an engineering report from ComEd, and a reimbursement for residents who were affected if it can be proved the power company is at fault.

Trustee Alex Olejniczak (District 2) said the outage and subsequent surge early Sunday morning occurred in an area bounded by 87th and 99th streets and Cicero to Central avenues.

“There was a power outage and a power surge, and a lot of people were asleep,” Olejniczak said. “Those that were up reported seeing a blue flash.”

The Oak Lawn police and fire departments received calls from residents about the smell of smoke in their homes. Oak Lawn village manager Larry Deetjen said the blue flash and smell of smoke occurred after power had initially been restored. The surge caused electronics and other appliances to stop working, he said.

“People woke up and their clocks were blinking, and their computer is not working, and their fridge is not working,” Olejniczak said.

ComEd reported 1,044 customers were affected, and said the cause of the power outage was a raccoon. According to ComEd’s reimbursement policy, the company does not reimburse for situations it does not control, such as outages caused by wildlife or damage from storms or ice. A representative from ComEd was expected to meet Wednesday with residents who wanted to file claims. Claims can be filed at support.comed.com.

“This is an absolute shame and a tragedy,” Olejniczak said. “We need to investigate this. This is the second time in six years there has been a power outage in District 2. Six years ago, a resident lost an expensive computer and bought a power surge protector, and [Sunday’s] surge fried through that. If the raccoon truly did cause the power surge, I am concerned for the summer because raccoons are everywhere.”

Olejniczak said the village must hold ComEd accountable. “It is not reasonable in this day and age to worry about power surges,” he said.

Olejniczak wants to meet with ComEd officials to find out why there were multiple power outages in Oak Lawn. Residents have reported incidents in which power is repeatedly lost for short periods of time.

“ComEd regulates, rules and judges — they’re in control,” Olejniczak said. “If the power was returned, why were the surge protectors in individual homes compromised? They need to give us some answers. I have lived in other towns and have never heard of the power issues we have here.”

Olejniczak asked Deetjen to schedule a meeting with ComEd in early April. Olejniczak said the village has tried to schedule meetings with ComEd in the past, but that the company has avoided the issue.

 

'Beloved' St. Catherine priest dies suddenly

Father Patrick Henry served Oak Lawn parish for nearly a decade

By Laura Bollin

A priest who served at an Oak Lawn parish for nearly 10 years and was beloved by everyone, according to one Oak Lawn trustee, died suddenly Monday.

The Rev. Patrick Henry, of St. Catherine of Alexandria Church came to Oak Lawn at roughly the same time Trustee Tom Phelan moved to the village, Phelan said at the Village Board’s meeting Tuesday. Village officials who knew Henry took time to express their thoughts about the man Mayor Dave Heilmann called “a terrific soul.”

Phelan, a member of the men's club at St. Catherine, said there was initially concern among members that Henry was going to change things at the church.

"We said we were newbies together," Phelan said of himself and Henry. "He came to a big gathering of ours, and someone asked if he was going to change things, and he said, ‘Are you guys crazy? Why change any of this? He was beloved by everybody.”

Oak Lawn village Clerk Jane Quinlan learned of Henry's death early Monday morning.

"This is devastating for St. Catherine's and for the village," Quinlan said. "Father Pat brought a lot to the village of Oak Lawn."

St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, 10621 S. Kedvale Ave., was open for private prayer in Father Henry's memory Tuesday evening. Visitation will be from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 15 at St. Catherine. Funeral services will be held at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 16.

Baker v. Barker in Ridge clerk race

By Laura Bollin

A baker and a legal administrative assistant are squaring off in the race for Chicago Ridge village clerk.

The winner of the election on April 9 will be Chicago Ridge’s first village clerk not named Chuck Tokar since 1989. Tokar is giving up his clerk seat to run unopposed for mayor. He will replace Eugene Siegel, who was first elected in 1976 and is not seeking reelection.

Upon Tokar entering the mayor’s office, the village clerk seat will be restructured as a part-time position, Tokar said. Tokar as clerk serves essentially as the village’s chief financial officer, and this year is earning roughly $120,000; however, the next clerk will serve a less demanding role.

In the clerk’s race, George Schleyer, 51, is running as an independent against Lynn Barker, 47, who is running on Tokar’s Village Action Party ticket. Schleyer, a union baker at Kirschbaum’s Bakery in Western Springs, has lived in Chicago Ridge for 19 years. Barker, a legal administrative assistant for a law firm in Chicago, has lived in Chicago Ridge for 38 years.

George Schleyer
Schleyer has served as the president of the Ashburn Civic Association in Chicago, and was the executive director of the Southwest Chamber of Commerce. He went to trade school to learn to be a baker.

“I don’t like what’s going on in this town,” Schleyer said. “There is no transparency in the village government.

“For years, the village government has been telling us the village is financially sound. On a day-to-day basis, we are financially sound. The problem is the village is sitting on $33 million in unfunded pension liabilities, and that has to be paid.”

Chicago Ridge, like all municipalities, is powerless over how much money it owes to the Illinois public employees’ pension fund. The state General Assembly decides how much taxing bodies must allocate toward pensions.

Schleyer is also concerned with inflated pensions of Chicago Ridge employees, including what he referred to as the “wild” pension of former village Police Chief Tim Baldermann received.

Baldermann was placed on disability leave in April 2010 after sustaining a back injury while carrying a corpse down a flight of stairs earlier that year. On his last day as Chicago Ridge’s police chief, village trustees voted to increase his salary by 20 percent.

Per a work agreement between Chicago Ridge and its police department employees, Baldermann opted out of the village’s insurance coverage and applied to add unused vacation pay amounting to more than $56,000 to his salary for the final two months of his law enforcement career. Instead of his disability pay being based on a percentage of his annual salary of $128,000 for his roles as chief and police department employee liaison, his pension was calculated using his salary plus the 20 percent raise and his $56,000 in vacation pay. Together, those raised his disability payment to $129,192 per year, and that amount is scheduled to increase to more than $191,000 after he reaches 60 years old.

“The village is padding people’s pensions when they are retiring, and that is not fair to the taxpayers,” Schleyer said. “Over the long-term, we are going to have to pay for the pensions. In a nutshell, I want to give the taxpayer the best bang for their buck and I don’t see that happening.”

Schleyer, if elected, is looking forward to working with Tokar.

“As long as both of our goals are the same – transparency and giving back to the taxpayers, we’re not going to have a problem,” Schleyer said. “I love living in Chicago Ridge. I would like to live here until the end of my life. But I see spiraling tax bills, and I would like to retire someday. If I am paying $6,000 or $7,000 in property taxes, I can’t afford to retire and I can’t afford to live here.”

Schleyer said he paid $2,000 in property taxes when he came to Chicago Ridge in 1994, and today pays $6,400.

“I’m almost being taxes right out of my home,” Schleyer said. “It concerns me. If I am having a difficult time, how are senior citizens and people on fixed incomes able to do this? I find that worrisome.”

Schleyer said if he was elected village clerk, he could be a “watchdog” for the residents.

“Everything financially run through this town would go through my office, and I could stand up and say, hey, we need to think about what we’re doing,” Schleyer said. “I want to be the conscience for the village board.”

Schleyer said his experience running bakeries for the last 20 years and “extremely organized” nature will make him a good village clerk.

“I can’t imagine running the clerk’s office is much different than running a small business. I would be able to manage the staff of three or four people who work in the clerk’s office.”

Schleyer also wants to do more to help out businesses in the village, and bring new businesses to town. He wants to advertise on the radio the benefits of shopping in Chicago Ridge.

“I want that to be part of my responsibility as village clerk,” Schleyer said. “I know what it takes to run and survive as a small business, and I would be an asset to the business community. People can trust me because I have no political ties to this town. I am in this because I truly care about the community. The benefit for me is having a great place to live.”

Schleyer said despite the clerk’s seat being a non-voting position, he still plans to make an impact.

“I think I have the latitude to make suggestions,” he said, adding that he hopes to use the position to help bring in more businesses to town, possibly by overseeing a business committee. “As clerk, one of your responsibilities is to oversee the revenue that comes into town, like vehicle stickers and business licenses. It wouldn’t be too far off to be charged with bringing in businesses. I would not so much do it myself, but if the board saw a fit for it, I could oversee a committee of residents, like a business renewal committee.”
 

Lynn Barker
Barker has served as the secretary, vice president and president of the Chicago Ridge School District 127½ board of education, and believes her experience on the board would help her in the role of clerk. She earned her administrative certificate from the Southwest School of Business in Chicago.

“As our clerk, you are the administrator of the records,” Barker said. “You compile the agenda, you get the minutes together; it’s all the administrative behind-the-scenes duties in town.

“Having served on a board, I know what board members are looking for. I have an edge there, and will be able to give them the information that they need. My career has seasoned me to step into the administrative part of [the job].”

Barker said she is running for clerk to stay involved in the community.

“I want to see our village grow, and I want to be able to give back to the community,” Barker said. “I like the way our town has been thriving, and I want to continue down that same part. I want to be a part of it.”

The biggest issue facing Chicago Ridge is the village’s finances, Barker said.

“We are faced with a recession, like everyone else,” Barker said. “We want to maintain a healthy fund balance and stay afloat. Safety is also on everyone’s mind. We want to keep our streets safe in Chicago Ridge.”

Barker said her school board experience will give her a different perspective on the village’s finances.

“Being on the school board, we faced the regular challenges and financial restraints that ll districts face,” Barker said. “While I was on the board, I am very proud of all the decisions we made and the services we offered. We were able to keep our school safe and do facility and technology upgrades. I was part of three negotiating teams for contracts, and I developed a good rapport with the teachers.”

The village clerk in Chicago Ridge is a unique position, Barker said.

“I am not a voting body, but I will be sitting side by side with the board and will be able to offer suggestions and ideas,” Barker said. “I feel that I will be a voice that is heard.”

The Village Action Party ticket is being endorsed by current Mayor Siegel, which Barker said is “an honor.”

“He is saying, ‘I leave this town is these people’s confident hands,’” Barker said. “I am excited to work with Chuck Tokar. I will be able to pop into his office and ask questions and have him mentor me. He has run things smoothly for more than 20 years. Who could better train me?”