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‘Shared sacrifice’ still on ice as Oak Lawn trustees mull their health benefits

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Mike CarberryMike CarberryOak Lawn trustees took a pass Tuesday night on a discussion of eliminating health care benefits for elected officials, deciding instead that additional information is needed first.

  “There’s going to be a lot of discussion that’s going to take place between all of us,” Trustee Mike Carberry said. “It’s an overall compensation package. Health benefits are a major cost. We need to get everybody’s input. We’re going to try to come up with something that makes sense. There’s not a big rush on this.”

Part of that discussion will focus on a proposal to allow trustees to purchase health insurance from the village if it is no longer offered as a benefit.

“That wasn’t really discussed at the last meeting and I think that’s important to talk about before we start drafting an ordinance,” Village Attorney Patrick Connelly said. “I would like to hear some direction on what you guys [on the board] think.”

Connelly added that he is exploring whether or not the repeal of health care benefits would take place after a board member’s term. He said there was “some gray area” in the law that might allow benefits to be repealed at the end of the fiscal year instead.

The health insurance issue was first raised at the Oct. 22 board meeting by Trustee Tim Desmond, who called for “shared sacrifice” at a time when the board is considering several significant cuts to balance the village budget.

Several trustees and Mayor Sandra Bury currently take full or partial health benefits.

Palos Hills construction projects wrapping up in time for winter

  • Written by Kelly White, Correspondent

Photo by Jeff Vorva  Road construction on 111th Street continues in Palos Hills.

Photo by Jeff Vorva. Road construction on 111th Street continues in Palos Hills.

Palos Hills Public Works crews are wrapping up this year’s construction season, but before shifting into winter work mode the city is guaranteeing several current projects will be completed.

The Illinois Department of Transportation performed an unscheduled asphalt overlay to repair all four lanes of traffic on 111th Street from Southwest Highway to Harlem Ave. recently.

“The overlay was necessary due to potholes and delamination of the road surface along 111th Street,” Commissioner, Dave Weakley, stated at Thursday’s city council meeting.

There was another problem on Kean Ave. stretching from 111th Street to 95th Street, where the Illinois Department of Transportation completed an edge of road patching program due to the slippary surface course of asphalt. This is the second time in three years the city has patched and replaced the asphalt on that section of Kean Ave., Weakley said. Mayor Jerry Bennett noted the city is using asphalt approved by IDOT; however, officials are hoping to eventually see a better product come along after having to replace Kean Avenue so soon after the previous repair.

“The problem is, unless it is an IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) approved product, we cannot use it,” Bennett said.

Retro Reporter 11-7-13

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Retro Reporter ArtReavis racer just out for a drive
50 years ago
From the Nov. 7, 1963 edition
  The story: Palos Hills cops finally pulled over a Reavis High School student after a seven-mile chase and they issued her nine tickets after she stopped in Oak Lawn.
  The quote: “(I was) just out for a ride,” — the unidentified 16 girl told the Palos Hills police after the chase.
  Fun fact: Cubs pitcher Don Ellston was the guest speaker at the Worth Little League banquet.

The gipper comes to Moraine
25 years ago
From the Nov. 10, 1988 edition
  The story: President Ronald Reagan, in his closing days holding office, gave a speech at Moraine Valley Community College for a George H.W. Bush rally exactly eight years after Reagan was first elected president. The Stagg High School band entertained the crowd. Reagan was protected by nearly 160 police officers and several secret service men.
  The quote: “This was the first time I’ve ever seen the President in person and I had a seat right in front! I’ll never forget it.” — Worth resident Victoria Lykasiewcz
  Fun fact: OK, it’s not as important as a seated president coming to down, but the Commons of Chicago Ridge was excited for the coming appearance of Bears defensive tackle Dan Hampton.

Scooting the issues in Palos Hills
10 years ago
From the Nov. 6, 2003 edition
  The story: Palos Hills debated banning motorized scooters from public ways in the city. First-ward Alderman Martin Kleefisch said they posed a safety hazard to pedestrians.
  The quote: “The children are sharing the streets with drunks. Pleased wait [to drink] until the children are off the streets.” — Jerry Elsner, exectutive director of the Illinois State Crime Commission at a pre-Halloween speech at Worth Junior High.
  Fun fact: The finishing touches were put on the construction of Applebee’s in Evergreen Park and was scheduled to open in December.

Worth to get a higher octane BP gas station

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  Shuttered gas stations are becoming a more common sight across the suburban landscape, but one in Worth is expected to reopen before the end of the year.
  The BP station at Harlem Avenue and Southwest Highway will reopen its doors by Dec. 1, Mayor Mary Werner announced at Tuesday’s village board meeting.
  The new management team is currently installing new pumps that the Environmental Protection Agency will mandate in January, Werner said.
  She said the station has been upgraded and will look similar to the BP station on 95th Street in Hickory Hills.
  The station/convenience store is owned by Atlas Oil, a Michigan firm that partnered in 2009 with BP Products North America to acquire and supply 90 BP retail outlets in the Chicago area.
  The Worth location has been closed for more than one year.
  Tuesday’s 30-minute meeting featured several other business items, including:
  • A brief overview of the 2013 Worth Days financial statement.
  The fest had a $7,857 profit, with increases in beverage sales, donations and carnival proceeds. Expenses were down approximately $3,000 from the previous year. The Worth Park District has agreed to take over operation of the fest, and will soon sign along with the village an agreement formalizing the transition that will begin in 2014.
  • Approval of a 2.7 percent salary increase for the village’s non-union employees. The increase is identical to the one received by the village’s union employees.
  • The swearing in of police sergeant Cristiano Fernandez, an eight-year member of the force.
  • Water’s Edge Golf Course will hold a customer appreciation week Nov. 18-22. Patrons can play a round of golf with a cart and enjoy lunch for $24.99.

Almost halfway there

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Oak Lawn shooting for 100 percent transparency

  Oak Lawn will receive a progress report Tuesday on its goal to improve governmental transparency.

  The Illinois Policy Institute will release its online transparency audit for the largest 25 communities in the state by population. Oak Lawn is No. 23 on the population list.
  Mayor Sandra Bury said that in October, the village’s score was a 41.5.
  “This is what we inherited,” Bury said Tuesday afternoon. “We’re just starting the process. It’s not going to come overnight.”
  Orland Park in 2011 became the first governmental entity to receive a perfect score on the institute’s Local Transparency Project. The village maintained that score on the upcoming audit, Village Clerk Joe La Margo said.
  “That’s our goal, too,” Oak Lawn Village Clerk Jane Quinlan said.
  The village expects to have a redesigned website up and running before the end of the year, Quinlan said. The new, easier-to-navigate site will give residents access to the information recommended by the IPI, she said.
  “We’ll then have the capabilities for all this. It will be easier to follow,” Quinlan said.
  The village already posts on its website much of the information recommended by the IPI, but the site is difficult to navigate, Quinlan said.
  Garnering a respectable score on the audit is not especially difficult, but getting a top score takes some time and effort, said Brian Costin, the IPI’s the director of government reform.
  For example, posting annual documents such as budgets and audits as well the contact information for municipal officials can secure an 80-percent figure on the survey, Costin said.
  “You can get a pretty decent score without expending a whole lot of effort,” Costin said. “The categories that are a little harder are meeting minutes and board packets.”
  LeMargo said achieving the perfect score was a time-consuming process, but he praised the IPI for its assistance.
  “They gave us a lot of guidance,” LeMargo said.
  Organizing and posting archival information was the most difficult part of the process, he said, adding that the village spent five months gathering and organizing the information for the website required on the IPI’s checklist.
  Transparency has been at the center of political debate in Oak Lawn, as critics of Bury repeatedly chastise her for talking about the issue but failing to take action.
  Trustee Robert Streit recently proposed his own ordinance calling for website transparency.
  “My ordinance would codify the need for transparency and what our website, at the minimum, should contain,” said Streit, who proposed the ordinance at the Oct. 22 village board meeting.
  But the village’s legislative, license and ethics committee on Aug. 20 discussed implementation of the transparency checklist, which includes many of the same points listed in Streit’s proposed ordinance.
  Although the committee has discussed a transparency checklist, Streit said no action has been taken.
  “I have not seen any proposal from the mayor regarding transparency,” he said. “I also never saw any campaign literature that set forth a comprehensive transparency plan for the website. That is why I proposed my own ordinance.”
  Streit’s proposed ordinance, which was not discussed at the board meeting, calls for the village website to include:
  • Contact information for elected and administrative officials;
  • Meeting information, including village board meeting packets and videos of meetings;
  • Public records, including information regarding the submission of freedom of information requests;
  • Village budgets and audits as well as fund expenditures for the past five years;
  • TIF expenditures;
  • Salary and benefits for village employees and officials;
  • Contract bids and proposals;
  • The names of lobbying associations that village funded within the past five years;
  • Information on tax rates;
  • The names of contractors who do business with the village as well as information regarding building and zoning applications.
  Streit said his ordinance calls on the village to do than required by the IPI’s checklist.
  “For instance, I placed a provision on the ordinance that requires (a recording of) the board meetings placed on the website. I also placed a provision on the ordinance that requires the site to have a language conversion button for Spanish and Polish,” Streit said.
  The Illinois Policy Institute in October issued a transparency report for the state’s 102 counties. The report found that 22 counties do not have websites. The 81 counties with websites had an average score of 32.8 on the audit.
  Additionally, 90 counties failed the institute’s 10-point transparency check list, and only three scored 90 percent or higher.