OL’s 911 dispatch dispute still has political overtones

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Oak Lawn’s 911 dispatch center continues to be the source of political controversy several months after the village board decided to outsource the service.
Trustees Robert Streit and Carol Quinlan last week called for an “independent, fact-finding survey” designed to evaluate the service, a suggestion that failed to receive support from other trustees.
Meanwhile, at least one trustee accused Streit of using the dispatch center as a campaign issue, while a former trustee accused Streit and Quinlan of lying when they said they were unaware of a litany of serious problems that existed with the previous team of emergency dispatchers.
Streit put the issue back in the spotlight at the Aug. 12 village board meeting saying he’s received several complaints from residents about the service since it’s been outsourced to a private company.
“There have been many questions raised about the quality of service our residents receive,” Streit said. “I hear from so many people. I hope you all do.”
Streit conceded that he likely hears more complaints than other trustees because he vocally opposed outsourcing the 911 dispatch service, a move the board approved in November on the recommendation of Village Manager Larry Deetjen. Quinlan also voted against the proposal.
The village entered into a contract with Elmhurst-based Norcomm Public Safety Communications several days after the vote was taken.
Streit had hoped to question Norcomm vice president Michael Tillman about the complaints he’s received. Tillman attended the Aug. 12 board meeting to present the village a certificate thanking Oak Lawn for continued commitment in an effort to achieve excellence in the delivery of 911 services.
But Tillman left the meeting immediately after presenting the certificate, leading Streit to allege that Tillman’s appearance was scripted.
“I was a little disappointed how quickly you whisked out the representative from Norcomm,” Streit told Mayor Sandra Bury.

CR hoping electronic signs end the ‘dodge ball’ games at Metra station

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Chicago Ridge officials are hoping electronic signs will prevent any mishaps as commuters cross Ridgeland Avenue after getting off the Metra trains.
Village board members on Tuesday decided in favor of the signs over the continued use of Emergency Management personnel that has for the past few months guided pedestrians safely across a busy Ridgeland Avenue.
“It was a trial thing,” said Trustee Sally Durkin. “I thought it was very effective.”
Train commuters seemed to favor the EMS personnel, who made sure they got across Ridgeland Avenue safety, Durkin said. Motorists, however, did not enjoy the addition time spent waiting for pedestrians crossed the street, she said.
But the cost to have two EMS personnel at the station exceeded $11,000 annually, leading village officials to once again try signs to prevent pedestrians from crossing Ridgeland Avenue at the wrong time.
The problem is created when pedestrians, eager to cross Ridgeland Avenue, get caught up in Ridgeland Avenue traffic that proceeds the moment the railroad gates go up, Durkin said.
Metra refused the village’s request to leave the gates down longer to hold back traffic until all pedestrians had crossed the street, she said.
Trustee Bruce Quintos, who routinely picks his wife up at the station, said the pedestrians avoiding traffic “was like dodge ball” on some nights. “Traffic is really out of control,” he said.
“I think it’s a reasonable compromise,” Mayor Chuck Tokar said.

A beeping mess

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Neighbors claim EP trustee is harassing them with constant car honking but

lawyer says client is being a good grandpa

PAGE-1-1-col-DanMcKeownTrustee Dan McKeownNeighborhood disputes are commonplace, but a disagreement in Evergreen Park involving a village trustee and his car horn has found its way to court.

And there will be a bench trial scheduled for the dispute in September as well.
This unusual horn o’ plenty conflict involves Trustee Dan McKeown and his neighbors, Barb and Keith Kremmick, both who live in the 9300 block of Sacramento Avenue, in the northeast quadrant of the village.
Neighbors say McKeown is out of line by honking his car horn in the neighborhood.
They call it harassment.
His lawyer says McKeown is just a guy who loves his grandkids.
Breaking it down, McKeown has been charged with disorderly conduct following allegations by the Kremmicks that he repeatedly honks his car horn while passing their house.
The complaint, filed July 25 in Cook County Circuit Court, says McKeown has “knowingly and intentionally honked his car horn” while in front of the Kremmicks’ house, which has “alarmed and disturbed” the block as well as breached the peace.
The Kremmicks were hesitant to sound off on the matter Tuesday following a brief hearing at Bridgeview Court during which Judge John Gallagher scheduled a bench trial for Sept. 25.
Barb Kremmick said McKeown, 60, has sounded his horn far more than the eight times mentioned in the complaint, but she has no idea why he does it.
“For what reason nobody knows,” she said Tuesday afternoon. “The whole block has been dealing with this.”
McKeown’s attorney, Craig Miller, offered an explanation for his client’s habitual honking.
McKeown’s son and grandchildren live next door to the Kremmicks, and McKeown enjoys tooting the horn as he passes their house.
“He doesn’t lay on the horn. He’s just a guy who loves his grandchildren,” said Miller, who added that McKeown stopped honking after the Kremmicks confronted him.
Miller suspects that the Kremmicks have another motivation for filing a formal complaint.
“They’re just upset with him,” Miller said. “They don’t like him for whatever reason.”
A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, supported the Kremmicks’ contentions.

She said McKeown often beeps his car horn while driving from one end of the block to the other. She added that he drives around the block just to sound the horn.
“It’s been going on longer than he’s been a trustee,” she said. “He’s harassing.”
McKeown refused to comment on the matter following Tuesday’s court appearance.
Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton had little to say about the dispute.
“It’s a neighborhood matter,” Sexton said. “We’ll let the courts figure out what’s going on.”
McKeown serves as comptroller of Keyser Industries, located in downtown Evergreen Park, according to biographical information provided on the village website, and has been very active in the community.

He served as president of the Evergreen Park Chamber of Commerce; trustee of the Police Pension Board and president and vice-president of the School District 231 Board. He also is active at St. Bernadette Parish.
He graduated from Marist High School and completed his completed his undergraduate studies in business and earned his MBA from Lewis University in 1982. 
He and his wife, Betty, have lived in the village for more than 35 years and have four adult sons.

To heck with tech

  • Written by Kelly White

New Little Free Library set to bring ‘humanity back into community’

In an era of technology, Hickory Hills is takingpage-1-2-col-Little-Free-LibraryThe Little Free Library in Hickory Hills opened up last Thursday in front of City Hall. Photo by Kelly White. a step back and opening up its first Little Free Library. 

The Little Free Library, displayed outside of the Hickory Hills City Hall at 8652 W 95th Street, debuted at last Thursday’s city council meeting. The little blue schoolhouse-shaped box, decorated with watermelon decals, stands at the doors of city hall building and is filled with books for anyone to enjoy.
It’s a take-a-book-return-a-book gathering place where neighbors can share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book or two and bring back another book of their own to share with the community. They are also referred to as community book exchanges, book trading posts and pop-up libraries.
Described by Annette Armstrong, director of the Green Hills Library, as a do-it-yourself project, the Little Free Library is a tough competitor alongside the digital age.
“It really brings a sense of humanity back into the community,” she said at the city council meeting.
The Little Free Library belongs to everyone and you do not need a library card to have access to the books. Neighbors, friends and even people just passing by may use the library that offers a way to share physical books.
Residents are encouraged to take books, share books and give books. If a resident sees something they would like to read, they may simply take it from the Little Free Library. When finished with the book, the reader is encouraged to leave a special note inside of the paperback book so future readers can see who previously read the same book and what they thought of it.
Sharing books is also encouraged. Donating books to the library is another way local community members can contribute. Any books in your home, including books a reader would like to recommend to other readers, childhood favorites and books that teach and intrigue, can be dropped off daily at the Little Free Library.
This is the first Little Free Library in Hickory Hills, however, Mayor Mike Howley would like to open up more.
“I’ve seen the Little Free Libraries in the Oak Park community after Annette had spoken to me about the concept and I realized it is a really good idea,” he said, “People passing by them were gathering and stopping to take books.”
The Little Free Library idea was popularized in Hudson, Wisconsin in 2009 when Todd Bol mounted a wooden container designed to look like a school house on a post on his lawn as a tribute to his mother, who was a book lover and school teacher.
“These Little Free Libraries promote the love of reading and build a sense of community,” Armstrong said, “We would like to eventually add other informative pieces of information into the Little Library, as well, including newsletters and other local community information that will be beneficial to residents.”
Armstrong and members of the Green Hills Library will be visiting the Little Library outside of city hall monthly to drop off new books.
Palos Heights currently has two Little Free Libraries in their municipality, one stationed at 123rd and Harlem and one at Lake Katherine, 7402 Lake Katherine Drive.

She’s van-tastic

  • Written by Declan Harty


‘Local hero’ from Oak Lawn wins wheelchair-accessible van

For Linda Stearns, the feeling of needing a Page-1-four-col-vanLinda Stearns poses with the door on her van that nearly knocked her over after it fell off when she went for a mammogram over the winter. The Oak Lawn resident, who is a tireless volunteer, won a new van for being a local hero in a National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association contest. Photo by Jeff van has been one that has been in her mind for quite a few years.

But it was when the door fell off her current Dodge Ram Braun Rampvan as she pulled up to a breast cancer mammogram on a snowy day this past winter, she knew she really was in need of one. She said the darn door nearly knocked her over.
In June, the 67-year old Oak Lawn resident’s wishes were finally granted.
Stearns won a brand new Chrysler wheelchair accessible van through the National Mobility Equipment Dealer’s Association’s (NMEDA) Local Heroes Award, which is awarded each year during National Mobility Awareness month.
The van, which is equipped with hand-controls and valued at approximately $70,000, will allow Stearns to not only get around town on her own, but also to have her first ever brand new car.
But despite this, Stearns only views it as an opportunity to help others despite living with Multiple Sclerosis, which has limited Stearns to a motorized scooter, and being a breast cancer survivor.
“I was struck with multiple sclerosis when my daughter was three, and I have had to live with that,” Stearns said. “I am in a motorized scooter, a very expensive and annoying disease (MS) I might add. Then after being struck with MS, if that isn’t bad enough, I was struck with breast cancer, but you have to throw all of those to the side because there are worse people out there than me.”
But it wasn’t her diseases that made Stearns want to give back to the community—she has always done in some fashion or another.
Stearns’ daughter, Gail Ann Stearns-Hussein, wrote an essay on her mother that helped win her the new van.
Stearns-Hussein said that Linda, at the age of 17 was working at Misericordia Chicago and she met Charlie, a baby who was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and was not expected to live past two years old.
But that didn’t stop Stearns.
At the age of 21, Stearns brought Charlie home with her. And in November, Charlie will turn 50 years old, as he currently still resides with Stearns and her family.
Additionally, according to Stearns, she became the unofficial provider of two sets of quadruplets, at the same time, for mothers who needed to work at the time.
For Stearns, the van provides an opportunity to continue to help out Charlie and the hundreds of others she has impacted.
From joining Charlie at Garden Center for the Handicapped located at 8333 Austin Ave. in Burbank to donating her time at her church, Mt. Zion Lutheran Church and Galilee Baptist Church, located at 10957 S. Michigan Ave. in Chicago, Stearns has manage to balance a life full of hundreds of other people in addition with her own family.
“She bakes for PADS, which serves the homeless, attends Honor Flight Chicago to support veterans and rearranges flowers from local funeral homes, which she delivers to patients in hospitals and nursing homes,” Stearns’ daughter wrote in the essay.