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Worth, planning agency to partner on economic development study

By Laura Bollin

Worth village officials and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning are working together on a six-month study to determine what types of developments would most benefit residents.

Worth Trustee Colleen McElroy, chairman of the Village Board's economic development committee, said the focus of the study is to find an attainable development plan for the village's business district.

"We need a good, workable guide," McElroy said. "The business plan we have for the town is a little bit unattainable. It suggests moving the Village Hall to a non-business location because the location is perfect for business, but that would cost way too much money. It did give some good recommendations, like making the community more walkable. We are going to focus on the hub where Metra is, the area around Village Hall [the 11000 block of Depot Avenue]."

The six-month study will conclude with a priorities report, which will help Worth officials determine on what projects to focus. The planning agency might suggest ways the village could create mixed-use housing near the Metra station, with stores on the first floor and living space on upper floors, or putting affordable senior housing in town, McElroy said. Possibilities include making public transit more readily available or creating a transit-oriented development.

The agency will look at Worth's previous long-range plan developed in 2005; interview the mayor, trustees and village staff; create a report; and help Worth decide on a follow-up project.

"We want to draw people in, and have them want to live here because they can use our public transportation," McElroy said.

The village has qualified for participation in CMAP's local technical assistance program, which will have agency staff analyze the needs of the community, said CMAP principal planner Erin Aleman. The program is provided at no cost to the village. The study will include a budget analysis, reviews of project ideas and the possibility of bringing on a town planner to hunt for businesses that want to come to Worth, McElroy said.

"Typically, we will create a comprehensive plan for the village," Aleman said. "We don't do any direct development. We look at land use and transit access and housing recommendations. Potentially, this could be a transit oriented development plan."

The local technical assistance program is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development through the sustainable communities initiative. The program began in 2010, and CMAP received $4.2 million to provide direct assistance to communities.

"After six months, we will come up with recommendations for the village," Aleman said. "That could focus on the business corridor or a transit oriented development, or maybe something else will come out after six months. We don't really know what the worth plan is going to look like."

CMAP is working on similar studies in Palos Park and Palos Heights, and plans to hold public meetings after the study is completed to get residents' input on what they would like to see in Worth. The study will help guide the village into the next step of development, Aleman said.

"The plans we develop are guides or blueprints for redevelopments," she said. "We set the stage for planning."

RidgeFest 2012 yielded $27K for area nonprofits

By Kelly White
Correspondent

Last year's incarnation of the area's largest summer festival, despite being a financial failure for only the third time in its history, raised more than $27,000 for local nonprofit organizations.

Chicago Ridge's annual RidgeFest, which last summer was titled "RidgeFest: Reloaded" and featured headlining acts Brett Michaels and James Durbin, distributed $27,268 to groups including the Glenn Maker American Legion Post 1160, the Chicago Ridge Athletic Association, the Our Lady of the Ridge Men's Club, and Chicago Ridge Boy Scout Troop 665.

"We are well around the $1 million mark since 1989 that we have given back to the community," said Chicago Ridge village Clerk Chuck Tokar. "Without all of the volunteers and different organizations that participated, the fest would not have been as successful as it was."

Other recipients of RidgeFest funds included the Chicago Ridge Cubs Scouts, the Chicago Ridge Friendship Club, the Chicago Ridge Park District, the Chicago Ridge Public Library, the Knights of Columbus, Chicago Ridge Village Seniors, the Chicago Ridge Girl Scouts, the Chicago Ridge Brownies, Southwest Ball Hockey and the St. Vincent DePaul Society.

Last year marked the third time in 23 years Chicago Ridge has lost money on the fest. An estimated 26,000 people attended the four-day festival, but village officials anticipated a better turnout. Last year was also the first time the village offered online ticket sales.

"We really thought that selling tickets online would increase ticket sales, and we would sell a lot more," Tokar said. "Unfortunately, the bigger bands did not bring in larger crowds."

Securing contracts with Michaels, front-man and lead singer of the rock band Poison, and Durbin, a former "American Idol contestant," prompted the village to raise ticket prices for "RidgeFest: Reloaded" but did not draw the crowds officials thought they would.

Trustees on Tuesday suggested the possibility of bringing back bands such as Infinity and Ted Nugent for upcoming fests instead of acts that would demand more money. They also talked about lowering ticket prices for the 2013 fest, with the hope the reduced cost would lead to better attendance than the past three years. The village still plans to sell tickets online.

Oak Lawn trustees talk 'gaming cafes'

Liquor licenses would allow delis, etc., to apply for gambling permits

By Laura Bollin

The Oak Lawn Village Board is considering granting liquor licenses to delis, cafes and other such businesses in order to make those establishments eligible for video gambling permits.

The board on Tuesday discussed the possibility of what members called "video gaming cafes." The concept is possible because any business that holds a liquor license can apply for a video gambling license that permits it to have as many as five gaming machines such as video poker and slots.

Trustees are divided on the issue: some argued it would bring new revenue into the village, while others are concerned it would lead to neighborhoods overrun with video gaming establishments, and possibly gambling addictions. Oak Lawn garners 5 cents per every dollar wagered and lost on gaming machines in the village.

Trustee Cynthia Trautsch is worried more and more businesses would apply for gambling licenses.

"Way back when the Illinois department of whatever decided to approve gambling, we had many, many bar owners come and beg us to please allow video gaming, because it was an opportunity t to make a couple extra bucks," Trautsch said. "Now we are becoming inundated with cafes and bistros that want to have not only food but gambling.

"I think we as a board need to decide, do we cap these at a certain amount? Do we look at a different type of license for them? For example, if over 51 percent of their income isn't food, they have a different classification?"

Trustee Carol Quinlan agreed that a different classification is a good idea, but believes video gaming could be a source of revenue for the village. Restaurants and cafes that offer video gaming could help "dilapidated" areas town, Quinlan said. "The problem is, for instance, at 103rd and Central, it is so blighted over there, Quinlan said. "In feedback from residents, when I've asked how do you feel about it, they say, 'I would rather see businesses coming in and generating money for Oak Lawn than how it looks right now.'"

Quinlan has reviewed at a report from the Illinois Gaming Board that showed the amounts of money video gaming machines in Oak Law earned in October, November and December, she said. One establishment collected $335 in gaming revenues in October, more than $1,000 in November and in excess of $2,000 in December, she said.

"There are 21 [businesses] right now that [have applied for] licenses," Quinlan said. "Twentyone places at $2,000, we're talking about over $500,000 for the village every year."

Villa Park resident Kathy Gilroy, who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, and Trustee Tom Phelan cautioned against gambling addiction.

"The more accessible gambling is, the more likely those who try it will become addicted to it," Gilroy said. "At a 1-percent addiction rate, which 570 Oak Lawn neighbors are you willing to sacrifice on the altar of profit? Slots could arrive in Oak Lawn grocery stores and gas stations. The state could increase their stake and hurt local businesses."

Phelan is worried about the amount of money people may spend on video gaming.

"For every dollar wagered and lost, we get five cents," Phelan said. "God forbid we ever get $500,000, that means $10 million was lost in Oak Lawn. I have firsthand experience, I managed a bar in Champaign. People call you and say, 'If you let this person play again I'm gonna sue you.' That's not a joke, people do have addictions.

"I don't want this to be wildly successful. I think we should allow it for current establishments and people can be reasonable

Whatizit?


It was a banner week for "Whatizit?" as a gaggle of you fine readers knew the answer. Now, it wasn't that difficult, but we must give credit where credit is due. So pat yourselves on the back, have a celebrator beer or glass of wine, or whatever you drink if you abstain from alcohol, and get ready for this week's challenge. Those who knew last week's was an avocado are Amanda Callas, Bernadette Pratl, Robert Solner, Gene Sikora, Dan and Laura Heneghan, Dana Oswald, Kathy Higgins, Michelle Sabatini, Niack and Gaby No Last Name, Kristen Gute, Steve Schneider, Janice Mastro, Al Kasper, Rick and Lara Groll, Jan Merchantz, Shirley Ivers, Bill Ivers, Jane Foley, Pat Woltman, Alfredo Hardin, Dana Hirsch, Jake Pudo, Truman Debre, Bella Fruendt, Donna Perisin, Patricia Evers, Patty Vandenberg, Judy Gallagher, Carol Janicki, Linda Martin, Theresa and George Rebersky, Lois Faragher, Jack and Griffin Burke Faddis, and Jackie Wilch. Wow! My fingers are tired!

This week's clue is: Not dessert. 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 where you live. Take care!

Focus on Seniors

Rules of Road

The Worth Township Seniors will hold a free Rules of the Road class from 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. April 3, June 5, Aug. 7 and Oct. 2. Appointment must be made to attend; call the Worth Township Senior Room at 371-2900, Ext. 28. Worth Township Center is at 11601 Pulaski Road in Alsip.

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The Evergreen Park Office of Citizens' Services will visit Amelia Island, St. Augustine and Jacksonville next Feb. 23 to March 3. Cost is $645 for triple room, $665 for double and $905 for single and includes motorcoach transportation, eight nights lodging, 14 meals, visits to the Fountain of Youth and historic Kingsley Plantation, narrated cruise on St. John's River, and visit to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Final payment due Dec. 29. Call 422-8776 for more information

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The Evergreen Park Office of Citizens' Services offers a Meals on Wheels program for village residents 60 years and older who are unable to prepare their own meals. Meals are delivered Monday through Friday. For more information call 422-8776.

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Palos Hills residents 55 years and older meet from noon to 2 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at the Palos Hills Community Center, 8455 W. 103rd St. Tickets for events must be purchased one week in advance. Entertainment includes musicians, singers, luncheons, movies, plays and bingo.

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The Worth Senior Pinochle club is seeking new members. Membership is free. Visit the group at the Worth Park District Terrace Centre, 11500 Beloit Ave., every Monday and Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Games begin at noon. Call 448-1181 for information.