Palos Hills honors residents who make their property 'beautiful'

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

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Photo by Michael Gilbert

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett (left) and Ald. Marty Kleefisch pose for a photo with resident Linda Kaiser at the council meeting last Thursday. Kaiser was one of the winners of the city’s Beautification Awards contest.



A dozen years ago, Ald. Marty Kleefisch (1st Ward) was the newly appointed chairman of the Palos Hills Beautification Committee and looking for a way to entice residents to take pride in their properties and make the city more aesthetically pleasing.

The alderman created a friendly competition to honor those residences and businesses that go above and beyond the norm when it comes to landscaping and maintaining their property. Kleefisch’s idea was to start the Palos Hills Beautification Awards and 12 years later the contest is as strong as ever.

Last Thursday was the culmination of the contest with a packed house present at the city council meeting for a 20-minute ceremony to recognize the winners. Twenty-nine residences spanning all five wards as well as five businesses were honored at the meeting for having exceptionally landscaped properties. Many of the winners were in attendance at the meeting to receive their prizes – a certificate and a yard sign stating they were a winner in the contest – from Kleefisch and Mayor Gerald Bennett.

“This is one of the nicest events we hold each year because it is resident-centered and we get to honor some of our businesses as well,” Kleefisch said. “I was very pleased with the contest this year and was so happy to see a majority of the winners here.”

Bennett described last Thursday’s city council meeting as a “special night” for Palos Hills.

“We have with us tonight some very special people who did some very special things regarding the maintenance of their property,” Bennett said. “Each year this program continues to grow and as we tour our neighborhoods we can see the corporation and certainly the participation of the residents into the program to make our city beautiful.”

While the goal of the contest has remained the same these past 12 years, Kleefisch said the quality and overall beauty of the landscaping has improved.

“I think that more people are taking more pains to make their property respectable, and I think the fact that the winners put up those yard signs brings attention to the contest and it encourages people to try to get the award themselves the following year,” said Kleefisch.

For the first time in the contest’s history, a city entity was the recipient of an award. That went to the public works department who maintain city hall, the police department, city parks and the community resource building.

“(Public Works Commissioner) Dave (Weakley) and his staff have done a great job,” Kleefisch said. “Just look at how beautiful our city hall is.”

The honor was kept a secret from Weakley, who was visibly surprised when accepting the award.

“I wish I had because I would have asked the crew to come up (for the meeting),” he said. “They are the ones who truly deserve it. We appreciate it.”

The Beautification Contest is open to all single-and-multiple family residences, businesses, churches and schools, Kleefisch said. Residents have the option of nominating their own property or a neighbor’s, he said.

Members of the Palos Hills 39er’s Senior Club and the Community Resource and Recreation Department judge the contest by viewing all entries. Judging is based on the general appearance of buildings, fencing and edging as well as the overall landscaping of lawns, including any shrubs, trees and flower gardens that may be on the property.

Patient reunites with doctor, nurse she credits for saving her life

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

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Submitted photo

Michelle Bruno (right) thanks Dr. Theodore Toerne and nurse Margie Barry-Sheerin that she credits for saving her life for their quick actions when she arrived at Advocate Christ Hospital 10 years ago.


Advocate Christ Medical Center was the scene of a happy and tearful reunion on Aug. 23 as two medical staff members met with a woman whose life was saved by their quick actions at the hospital 10 years ago.

Michelle Bruno, 26, had tears in her eyes when she met Dr. Theodore Toerne and nurse Margie Barry-Sheerin. Bruno, who grew up in Oak Lawn, was 16 at the time and a student at Mother McAuley High School when she was taken to the hospital because she felt very ill. She credits both Toerne and Barry-Sheerin with saving her life when she was brought to the emergency room with a high fever and strange blotches on her body.

Bruno said that it was due to her amazing recovering and the impact Toerne and Barry-Sheerin had that motivated her to become a nurse. She is now working at the same Oak Lawn hospital where she said her life was saved.

“I knew she was really sick and when I saw the blotches I immediately alerted Dr. Toerne,” said Barry-Sheerin. “I knew it wasn’t just the flu and I knew it was bad. I didn’t want to scare her parents, but I knew we had to act. I didn’t send her into the waiting area, which was the normal procedure. If we had done that, she would not have survived.”

It was only one of the many decisions that day that Toerne and Barry-Sheerin said miraculously saved Bruno’s life.

“She was at death’s door,” said Toerne. “She was white as a ghost. The bluish-red blotches on her skin indicated her blood was not coagulating properly. We realized it was meningococcemia, a very severe bacterial infection of the lining of the brain, spinal cord and bloodstream. It is serious and can be fatal. We had to act fast, her condition was rapidly deteriorating. ”

Toerne said he has only seen three cases of it in his 25-year career in emergency medicine. In fatal cases, death can occur in as little as a few hours.

“We don’t know what causes it, but fortunately, there is now a vaccine for it,” said Toerne. “In Michelle’s case, the bacteria was growing so fast we could practically see it growing. She had passed out and we had to intubate her immediately. We pumped nine liters of fluid into her in less than 45 minutes.”

He acknowledged it was a team effort on the part of the emergency crew who was on hand that day. He compared it to a race track where drivers pull into the pit and the pit team all have a specific job to do and they do it and get the driver back on the track.

“That is how it worked that day, everyone was where they were supposed to be and knew what they had to do and they did it,” Toerne said. “Michelle is my most memorable patient. Her case touched my life and all of the nurses and doctors who worked to resuscitate her that day. It was one time in my life I knew we needed help from a higher power and everything just clicked in and worked smoothly. In my 25 years I feel like I have only saved one life…hers.”

Barry-Sheerin, an Oak Lawn resident, has been a nurse for 32 years. She was really touched when she learned that Bruno had become a nurse because of her experience in the hospital 10 years ago.

“I am so proud of you,” she said to Michelle.

Barry-Sheerin also told her that it was divine intervention that day that helped everything work as smoothly as it did.

“Someone was looking out for you that day. It was a team effort in the ER and thanks to your mom (Oak Lawn resident Hilda Litto) for bringing you in when she did. Dr. Toerne and I still talk about that miraculous day.”

Bruno was unconscious for two days and remained in the hospital for two weeks. After returning home, she was able to return to school within a couple of weeks. While meningococcemia can often cause permanent disabilities in non-fatal cases, she had no repercussions and was able to return to a normal life.

“I am so grateful to everyone who was there,” said Bruno, with tears in her eyes. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all of you. I know my care was in very special hands.”

Bruno said that the experience was a turning point in her life.

“I knew I wanted to help people like I had been helped. It truly inspired me to embark on this very rewarding career.”

A lifelong resident of Oak Lawn, she just recently moved to Lincoln Park .She grew up in St. Germaine Parish and attended St. Germaine Elementary School in Oak Lawn. She graduated from Mother McAuley High School in 2008.

She attended Illinois State University and the Mennonite College of Nursing. She worked at Advocate Christ Hospital for two and a half years as a certified nurse’s assistant and is now an RN. She cares for patients in the cardiac surgery unit who have just undergone open heart surgery, including heart transplants.

She said her own experience in the ER a decade ago enables her to encourage her patients.

“I know they are anxious to get well and go home and they get frustrated. I am able to tell them I know how they feel, but I also encourage them to try to maintain a positive attitude. I know it will help make them stronger.”

Hickory Hills OKs two collective bargaining agreements

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Hickory Hills Council Board members moved quickly through a light agenda at the regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 25 giving official approval to two collective bargaining agreements, awarding a contract and paying two invoices.

Unanimous approval was granted officially to previously discussed collective bargaining agreements for both the police department and public works. City Attorney Vince Cainkar presented the agreements for approval.

City Clerk Dee Catizone stated after the meeting that the action was a formality for the records, as both the agreements had been discussed and approved previously.

A contract was awarded to Insituform Technologies USA Inc., in the amount of $111, 615 for sanitary sewer rehab work in the city.

Payment of two invoices, totaling $41,293, was approved for Hasse Construction for work completed in the city in 2015.

Mayor Mike Howley also presented a proclamation for approval, naming Sept. 17 to Sept. 23 as Constitution Week in the City. Sept. 17 marks the 229th anniversary of the drafting of the Constitution.

On another matter, Howley announced that Glen Oaks Elementary School, located in Hickory Hills, was recently named among the top 20 elementary schools in Suburban Cook County.

“We are extremely proud of this achievement. Glen Oaks serves grades two through five, with an enrollment of 680 students with $7,005 being spent per student. This is evidence that our tax dollars are being put to good use for our schools. As a parent with two children in our school system I am very pleased about this report,” Howley said.

Howley also announced that the city would be co-hosting the third annual “Howl Through The Hills 5K Walk/Run” scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. Also co-hosting will be North Palos School District 117. Proceeds of the event will benefit the Hickory Hills Lions Club. The event will begin and end at the Hickory Hills City Hall.

For registration or further information, visit Pre-registered participants will receive a long sleeve cooling performance race shirt.

Townhome development rejected a second time by Worth Village Board

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

A zoning request was denied for a second time during the July 19 Worth Village Board meeting to build a six-unit townhome development at 10959 S. Harlem Ave.

Several months ago, the applicant had presented a plan that called for more than six units, but the request was denied due to the size of the lot and the number of variances requested.

There were six variances requested this time, ranging from rezoning from R-1 single-family residence to a T1 single-family attached residence. The applicant was seeking less than 150 feet of lot frontage required in the T1 District and to provide less than the 25-foot rear yard setback required.

The applicant also was hoping to provide fewer than the 15 required parking spaces on the property and to build accessory structures containing more than 160 feet in area footage.

Jose Madrigal, a resident who lives near the property, asked to address the board and stated that he was protesting changing the zoning to T1.

“I object to either four or five townhomes on this property. Two homes will be acceptable, but if they build townhomes there, my house will be up for sale,” he said.

Trustee Rich Dziedzic said that the village’s Real Estate Development Board (REDB) had recommended four units instead of the proposed six.

“This would reduce the amount of variances needed,” Dziedzic said. “We are hoping to give you something to work with as we would like to see the property developed.”

Trustee Pete Kats agreed. “We want to work with you. We all would like to see something nice on the property.”

During the meeting, village board officials said they are in excellent financial shape for the fiscal year that began May 1, 2016 and ends April 30, 2017.

Following a brief public hearing as required by law, the board approved its Annual Appropriation Ordinance reflecting the sum of $14,020,668 in appropriations for the General Corporate Fund.

Also approved was a certificate of estimated revenues in the amount of $14,020,668 as presented by Village Treasurer Dwayne K. Fox. The document certifies that the estimated revenues presented are anticipated to be received by the village during the 2016-17 Fiscal Year.

Other approvals included an ordinance amending the official zoning map of the village, based on recommendations from the REDB.

Business licenses were approved for five businesses, including Massages Reduces Stress, 11416 S. Harlem Ave.; Computer Outlet Center, 11300 S. Harlem; Sharns Motel, 7240 Southwest Highway; Simsimroo Inc., 7055 W. 111th St., and the Candle Light Shop, 11350 S. Harlem Ave., Unit 1.

Village Clerk Bonnie Price announced that due to the National Night Out scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 2, the village board meeting will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

Palos Hills officials discuss combatting snow on hot summer night

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

The temperature may have soared near 90 degrees last Thursday, but Palos Hills officials had snow, sleet and all things winter on their minds.

The city council voted 9-0 last week to enter into a contract for road salt with the Michigan-based Compass Minerals in an amount not to exceed $51.44 per ton for up to 800 tons of salt. Ald. Joan Knox (1st Ward) was absent.

The Minnesota-based Cargill Inc. submitted the only other bid at 54.74 per ton, Ald. Mark Brachman (2nd Ward) said. The city estimated the price of salt would come in at $65 per ton.

"It was a great price," Dave Weakley, the city's public works commissioner, said of the salt coming in nearly $14 per ton less than expected. "Last year's mild winter created a surplus of salt and we were able to benefit from it."

"It's well below our estimation," Brachman added. "The bid (for all 800 tons) comes in at $41,100 and our engineer's estimate was $52,000."

Palos Hills only used 400 tons of salt last year, Weakley said. The city typically dispenses around 800 tons of salt on streets each year, he said. Palos Hills still has around 300 tons of salt in a storage facility located east of Moraine Valley Community College, Weakley added.

The contract calls for the salt to be delivered as-needed and Weakley noted the city does not need to accept the supply all at once.

"The salt is delivered on demand," Weakley said. "We don't need to take the whole 800 at the same time."

He added should the winter once again be mild Palos Hills is not obligated to purchase all 800 tons and instead the city would simply pay for what it uses.

In other news, Ald. Joe Marrotta (4th Ward) reminded the council and a handful of residents in attendance that the inaugural City of Palos Hills National Night Out will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 2 at Town Square Park, 8455 W. 103rd St.

National Night Out is a nationwide event first held in 1984 to promote crime and drug prevention and strengthen the relationship a community has with its police department. Around 16,000 communities have held a National Night Out but never has one occurred in Palos Hills.

“This event allows our police the opportunity to interact with local agencies and residents to help build community camaraderie,” Marrotta said.

The event, which is sponsored by the City of Palos Hills, Green Hills Public Library, North Palos Fire Protection District and the Palos Hills Police Department, is to feature live music, face painting, free popcorn and the opportunity to meet and interact with first responders, Ald. Dawn Nowak (5th Ward) said.

Representatives of Cook County Clerk David Orr will be on hand to help register residents to vote, and Nowak and Alde.Ricky Moore (4th Ward) will be present to explain various benefits available to veterans of the United States military. Attendees can also make a monetary donation or donate toiletries at the National Night Out that that will be sent to soldiers stationed overseas.

“It’s going to be a nice night to meet your police officers and firefighters and see your neighbors,” Nowak said.

“It’s a good thing,” Ald. Pauline Stratton (2nd Ward) said of the National Night Out. “We’re encouraging our residents to come out and meet our police and see what they do.”

Also at the meeting Palos Hills officials approved issuing a liquor license for Palos Diner, 8052 W. 111th St.

The license will allow the 10-year-old restaurant to sell beer and wine onsite. Palos Diner is open until 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and has a lunch and dinner menu in addition to its breakfast options.