This is only a test

Oak Lawn to try out new tornado sirens

By Laura Bollin

If Oak Lawn residents hear tornado alert warnings in the coming weeks, they shouldn't worry: it's only a test.

The village will be testing a new tornado siren system between Feb. 11 and Feb. 22. The system will replace the village's current one, which is 25 years old.

Residents might hear the sirens anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday during the 10-day testing period. Days and times cannot be more specific because installation is weather dependent, said Oak Lawn police Cmdr. Arthur L. Clark, coordinator of the village's emergency management team.

"The installation includes sinking telephone poles and electrical hook ups," Clark said. "Testing will occur as each pole is installed. Testing involves checking the tone and volume at each location."

Along with the sirens, the system will also include programmable microphones for emergency vehicles, Clark said. The microphones will be installed in four police supervisor vehicles and in the village's incident command vehicle, a converted ambulance set up like an office.

"It has multiple computers and radios and allows you to deal with large-scale incidents," Clark said. "Microphones will also be in the 911 center and the emergency operations center, where the village does large-scale events and disaster planning. It's in the basement of the fire station on 93rd Street. It is where village supervisors would come during a large-scale disaster, and they would work from here."

The purchase and installation of the system will cost $120,000. The total includes $114,872 for the purchase of the sirens, poles and software. The remainder covers the cost of the electrical work, programming of the 911 consoles and the purchase of programmable microphones for selected emergency vehicles, Clark said.

The new system will have the ability to relay messages in four languages: English, Spanish, Polish, and Arabic. Ninety percent of Oak Lawn residents speak one of those languages, village manager Larry Deetjen said. Out of all Oak Lawn residents, 15.1 percent are foreign-born, and 26.4 percent speak a language other than English at home.

Test messages will include siren test tones and voice alert messages.

The message during the test will state, "the weather service has issued a tornado warning, take shelter now. The siren is designed to provide warnings for people outdoors, Clark said. Some residents may be able to hear the siren from inside their homes, but that depends on how close they are to the sirens and the construction of their home, he added.

"Weather alert radios are the best means of warning for persons who are inside their home or offices or when they are sleeping," Clark said. "You can get a weather alert radio at a Home Depot or hardware store. It can be battery operated or plug in. It is set up so when the National Weather Service sets off a tornado warning, it sets off an alarm in your house. If you're asleep, you might not hear the tone outside, but you would hear the loud tone and wake up, and it would tell you there is serious weather and to take shelter."

The system will make Oak Lawn be better prepared for tornadoes and other emergencies, village officials said. The system can also be used for situations such as chemical spills or an overturned tanker truck leaking a hazardous substance, Clark said.

"We want to use it in situations where we want to notify people to take shelter and we need to inform them as quickly as possible," Clark said.

Public works employees will be installing and testing sirens in the 5500 block of 111th Street and Frontage Road, 102nd Street and Major Avenue, 103rd Street and Kostner Avenue, 93rd Place and Keeler Avenue, 6451 W. 93rd Place, and 91st Street and 52nd Avenue near Covington School.

Mayor Dave Heilmann at last week's Village Board meeting jokingly told residents the system won't always be used for tornadoes.

"When there is no emergency, we'll play soothing music through the village," Heilmann said.

What do you say?

With Super Bowl parties coming up, what makes a great chili?

(Asked to contestants from all over the country at the Chilly Willie Chili Challenge in Orland Park)

Jim Stoddard,
Coppell, Texas

"Salt. That's the secret. Salt pops up the flavor. That's the single most important ingredient.''

Jose Torres,
Orland Park

"The secret is good meat and good spices. If you use bad meat or a cheap cut of meat, it will be greasy and grisly."

Lauren Ray,
Livonia, Mich.

"You have to make sure the meat is not too mushy. The freshness of the spices, for sure. And you have to have the right amount of salt seems to be a real big kicker."

Loretta Torres,
Orland Park

"It can't be too spicy. Just a little burn on your lips. It has to have a nice flavor - it can't be all about being hot."

Tom Heiser,
Madison, Wis.

"Ohhhhhh…top-notch ingredients. I get my chili powder shipped in from New Mexico. I don't use the cheap, store-bought powder."

Uncontested Heights elections hardly happen

By Jeff Vorva

It could be apathy. It could be a strong satisfaction with how the city is being run.

Either way, it's been a long stretch between 100 percent uncontested races during a mayoralyear election in Palos Heights.

Shortly after Palos Heights was incorporated in 1959, the first municipal election was held. On June 6 of that year, 647 voters showed up and Z Erol Smith was elected as mayor and was unopposed. Legend has it that he told people "No one else wanted the job." That year a clerk, treasurer and eight aldermen were elected and they, too, were unopposed.

Since that time, 53 years have passed and there have been 13 more mayor/aldermen elections with at least two of the positions up for grabs.

The 14th election, however, harkens back to the Z Erol-era. The April 9 election features all seven slots available on the council uncontested.

Incumbent Mayor Bob Straz will run uncontested for his fourth term. Straz also ran uncontested in 2005. He beat challenger James Pasquinelli in 2009 and Julie Corsi and Dean Koldenhoven in his first run in 2001. City Clerk Tom Kantas and Treasurer Frank Oswald are also running unopposed.

In the alderman positions, Jack Clifford (2nd Ward), Dolores Kramarski (3rd Ward) and Gerald McGovern (4th Ward) are incumbents who will run unopposed. Donald J. Bylut will run unopposed for 1st Ward alderman, a post currently held by Jeff Prestinario, who is giving up the seat.

For local politicians, running unopposed brings mixed feelings. Some love the thrill and excitement that an election can bring. But running unopposed can also mean not having to spend campaign money and can spend the coming months concentrating on city business and not having to campaign.

"You would like to think that people think you are doing a good job and they are happy with what is happening," Straz said. "In reality you know that's not always the case. But for the most part, they are happy and don't want to take the time and effort to run.

"On the other side of it, you kind of sit back and say 'why don't more people get involved?' When I first ran, I never ran for anything in my life. It's not like you have to be an experienced politician. Off the top of my head, I think everyone on our council had not been elected to anything before this. It's a downside when people don't want to get involved."

Clifford will be back for his fourth term and has also been involved in contested and uncontested races.

"It's an honor to run unopposed so some people think I'm doing my job and I try to represent them and get back to them in a timely fashion," Clifford said. "I think people appreciate what I do for them."

This is Kramarski's fourth term and the first three times she ran, she faced competition. This time she's in without a fight.

"It never bothered me to face someone else," she said. "I welcome it. If you want to run, that's what you should do."

The three veterans of the election wars agree that there are aspects of running for office that they won't be missing in February and March.


There's no fooling you people, is there, readers? We thought last week's "Whatizit?" was middle-of-the-road, but we apparently underestimated you. Worth residents Theresa and George Rebersky, Celeste Cameron, Robert Solner, Carol and Jerry Janicki, Frank and Donna Hirsch, Sandy Joiner and Mike OShaughnessy; Chicago Ridge residents Chuck and Anna Holstein, Dana Oswald, Dan and Kathy Higgins, The Gabriel family, and Patty Vandenberg; Oak Lawn residents Dan and Laura Heneghan, Steve Rosenbaum, Kristen Gute and Jane Foley; Hickory Hill peep Bella Fruendt; Evergreen Parkers Ellen Reddington and Amanda Callas; Joan Fahey of Crestwood; and Jackie Wilch and Carol Maroney of parts unknown. Great job, ladies and gents!

This week's clue is: Push me pull me. Send responses to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. under the subject Whatizit, and include your first and last names and here you live.

Worth Twp. Electoral Board leaves incumbent candidates on April ballot

By Laura Bollin

Two Worth Township elected officials have withstood objections to their candidacy in the April 9 election and will remain on the ballot, a township electoral board ruled Monday.

Worth Township Democratic Committeeman Jack O'Sullivan, of Oak Lawn, filed objections against incumbent Worth Township Trustee Jack Lind and incumbent Worth Township Assessor John Toscas, claiming that holding two elected positions in the same township is a conflict of interest.

Lind, of Chicago Ridge, is running for his township trustee seat and is a sitting trustee on the Chicago Ridge Village Board, while Toscas is running for township assessor and is a Crestwood village trustee who is running for mayor.

The Worth Township electoral board, consisting of township Clerk Roger Benson, Trustee Mike Mahoney and Supervisor Jack Murphy voted to keep Lind and Toscas on the April 9 election ballot. The board on Monday determined neither Lind nor Toscas were in violation of state election codes by simultaneously holding two elected offices.

O'Sullivan is a supporter of the Worth Township Community First slate, a political opponent of Lind's and Toscas' party. "[O'Sullivan] is trying to make it a big political thing, but it is really not," Lind said. "It's about service. I'm proud to serve [in both elected positions]. I love working with the township, and I was born and raised in Chicago Ridge, so I am really active in my community."

Toscas said an objection was filed against him because of a concern could assess property values in Worth Township' however, that is the sole responsibility of the Cook County assessor's office.

"We don't assess property at all, ever," Toscas said. "Under the [state] revenue code, in all the other 101 counties other than Cook, they do assess property. In Cook County, the code says that the only person that can assess property is the Cook County assessor."

In his role as township assessor, Toscas' main job is to help people find information, he said.

"The most important thing is that we let people know our office exists, because when I took over in 2000, no one even knew it existed," Toscas said. "We help people file appeal with the Cook County assessor's office and the Cook County Board of Review. Some people come in and say, my tax bill is too high, so we look for homeowner or senior exemptions."

A senior citizen in Worth Township might pay $4,000 in property taxes, but his neighbor with a senior exemption may only pay $1,000, Toscas said. His office can help people find exemptions to lower their taxes.

"We have no authority whatsoever to assess any property," Toscas said. "If I was in one of the other 101 counties, and I wanted to run for trustee, I could not. Because I am in Cook County and I don't assess property, there is no conflict whatsoever."

Lind has served as a Worth Township trustee since 2000 and was appointed to his trustee seat on the Chicago Ridge Village Board in 2011. He is the former public works director in Chicago Ridge. Toscas has served as the Worth Township assessor since 2000 and a Crestwood village trustee since 2011.