Expecting blunt opinions

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Public to have its say at Friday’s meeting to

discuss a medical marijuana clinic in Worth

Worth trustees will decide if a medical marijuana dispensary can locate on Harlem Avenue at a rare Friday night meeting and members of the public will have a chance to have their say.
Trustees will meet at 7:30 p.m. to consider changes to the village code that would allow a medical marijuana dispensary to locate in the village’s business district. The meeting could get lively if opposition is heavy. At least one resident publically said he is going to the meeting to protest the dispensary.
Mayor Mary Werner is ready.
She said she expects residents who both favor and oppose the potential marijuana dispensary in town to attend Friday’s meeting.
She said nurses from Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn attended the Aug. 19 board meeting, and two spoke in favor of the use of medical marijuana.
“On Friday, obviously, everybody will have the opportunity to speak,” she said.
She added, however, that it’s important to be informed about medical marijuana.
“Medical cannabis comes in a variety of forms. I think it’s an education process for a lot of people,” she said.
After the public’s comments, the board plans to get down to business to consider a special-use permit submitted by the Windy City Cannabis Club, the group proposing to open the dispensary at 11425 S. Harlem Ave., next to Enterprise Car Sales.
The board agreed to meet on Friday so that WCCC can submit its application to the state on Monday.
None of the six trustees voiced opposition to the plan when WCCC president Steve Weisman appeared at the Aug. 19 board meeting, Werner said.
“My direction to the board was to plan to do their homework,” Werner said Tuesday.
The Harlem Avenue location is one of the few in Worth that meets the state’s zoning requirements that prohibits clinics from locating within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center.
Weisman’s group had considered locations in Chicago Ridge, but had difficulty finding one that met the zoning requirements.
Chicago Ridge does not allow the clinics within 1,000 feet of parks or recreation facilities, which made the finding a location in that community even more difficult, Weisman said.
Chicago Ridge officials had few reservations about having a dispensary at a village board meeting attended by Weisman. But Trustee Bruce Quintos later expressed his opposition to a clinic, saying a public hearing should be held to gauge residents’ feelings on the plan.
If approved, however, WCCC’s Worth clinic would be the sole dispensary for a region of the state that includes Worth, Calumet and Stickney townships.
The state’s medical cannabis act took effect on January 1. The law allows the use of marijuana by individuals who have a medical need and a permit. Qualifying patients must be diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition. A qualifying patient can obtain up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana every two weeks.
Illinois is expected to begin taking applications for 60 medical marijuana businesses in September. Those who want to want to apply must have “an application pinned down,” said Weisman, an attorney for Kirkland and Ellis.
In the end, however, only one dispensary will locate in the area because only 60 dispensaries are permitted statewide with regions of the state divided into dispensary districts.
Clinics are expected to open in spring 2015, which does not give selected clinics much time to prepare their sites for business and prepare a security plan.
Clients must possess a state ID card to purchase marijuana and can only obtain 2.5 ounces every two weeks, Weisman said.

An alarming hike

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Chicago Ridge to raise fines
300 percent for false alarms

New Chicago Ridge Fire Chief George Sheets’ review of department records revealed an alarming number of responses to false alarms, many of them at Chicago Ridge Mall.
In fact, firefighters responded to 86 such calls in 2013—a considerable waste of time and manpower, Sheets said, especially if another call came in at the same time.
So he is calling for stiffer penalties and increasing fines 300 percent. He made his recommendations at Tuesday night’s village board meeting.
Sheets said that a village ordinance lacked the teeth to reduce false alarms. The ordinance required business owners to pay $25 for each false alarm beginning with the seventh call.
For many business owners or managers, incurring the minimal fee was easier than driving to back to the mall to reset the alarm, Sheets said.
The fee is now $100 beginning with the second false alarm, Sheets said.
Sheets also has recommended an increase in the ambulance rate after realizing that the village’s rate was one of the lowest in the region.
“(The increase) does not affect the residents of Chicago Ridge,” Sheets said.
Instead, ambulance fees are paid by insurance or Medicare, and the village writes off any amount it cannot collect, Sheets said.
The fee has not been increased in six years.
“We’ve been quite a bit lower for quite a while,” Mayor Chuck Tokar said. “We’re behind the times. There should be a rate increase.”
Sheets also is recommending a new billing company to collect ambulance call fees, a decision the board delayed until ironing out some contract details.
Sheets described the higher fees for false alarms and the increase in ambulance fees as “major issues” that required his immediate attention.
Two months ago when he was hired, Sheets said that evaluating the department would be the first priority of his new job.
“Based on my mandate from the board, you wanted me to do an evaluation and I’ve done that,” said Sheets, who also serves as Oak Lawn fire chief.
“There will be some more things coming along,”

Park Lawn volunteer event a Sox-cess

  White Sox employees, including mascot Southpaw,Page-1-2-col-southpaw were on hand Aug. 23 to do some volunteer work at Park Lawn in Oak Lawn. Park Lawn is a non-profit organization serving individuals with developmental disabilities since 1955. For more of Emily Smas’s photos from the event, see page 4.

Photo by Emily Smas.

Oak Lawn woman contracts West Nile virus

  • Written by Tim Hadac

The first human case of the potentially deadly West Nile Virus in suburban Cook County had been found in Oak Lawn.
  Cook County Department of Public Health officials confirmed last week the first human case of the virus was identified in a woman in her 40s from Oak Lawn who became ill earlier this month.
  Because of privacy laws her name is not being released but county health officials said she was not hospitalized and is recovering at home. The virus continues to circulate throughout all of suburban Cook County. Recently there were positive mosquito pools in 61 communities and three dead birds having tested positive for the virus.
  “I can’t stress enough the importance of prevention during West Nile virus season,” Cook County Department of Public Health COO Dr. Terry Mason said in a news release. “Every year, the virus circulates throughout suburban Cook County and while we can’t eliminate those mosquitoes, we all have the ability to take basic prevention measures to protect against human transmission.”
  This information was released shortly after Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park and Chicago Ridge were added to the list of suburban communities where mosquitoes infected with the West Nile Virus have been detected this year.
  A Cook County Department of Public Health surveillance report showed that the number of communities jumped from 18 to 33 in just one week. Other communities newly added to the list include Palos Heights, Palos Park, Orland Park and Lemont.
  Evergreen Park made West Nile-related headlines in recent years. Mayor James Sexton’s 2012 infection and recovery from a near-fatal case of West Nile disease was known to many and chronicled in a 2013 profile in The Reporter.
  Health officials say the most effective way to prevent against becoming infected with WNV is to follow the three R’s:
  • Remove standing water around your home in pet bowls, flower pots, old tires, baby pools and toys. Water that is allowed to stagnate for three or four days become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
  • Repel mosquitoes when outdoors between dusk and dawn by applying insect repellent with DEET and wear light, lose fitting clothing.
  • Repair or replace torn screens on doors and windows
  Health officials say that people infected with WNV have no symptoms of illness and never become ill. But illness can occur three-to-15 days after an infected mosquito bite and cause symptoms of fever, headache and body aches.
  The disease can affect all ages, but people over the age of 50 and those with a chronic disease, such as heart disease or cancer may be at-risk for serious complications from encephalitis or meningitis. For that reason, people who experience high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, severe headaches, or a stiff neck should see a doctor immediately.
  The Northern House mosquito, Culex pipiens, is the primary carrier of West Nile virus. This mosquito species thrives in water with high organic content, such as that found in catch basins (storm sewers). Consequently, a hot, dry summer increases the risk of West Nile virus infection, exactly the opposite of what many people believe.
  In contrast, the swarms of "floodwater" mosquitoes that appear after heavy rains may be a nuisance, but they rarely are infected with West Nile virus.
  Northern House mosquitoes are not aggressive, and people rarely notice when being bitten.
  In 2013, some 2,469 human cases (119 of them fatal) of West Nile-related illness were reported nationally. In Illinois, there were 117 reported cases and 11 deaths. Statewide, cases ranged in age from 14 to 92 years, with a median age of 59. In suburban Cook County, there were 16 known cases and at least one death.

Canada or Switzerland?

  • Written by Claudia Parker

page-1-4-col-hockey They are wearing red, white and blue as Chicago Ridge’s Eileen Meslar (left) Worth’s Lorissa Sernus (center) and Alsip’s Denielle Strohmier (right) will represent the United State in international ball hockey tournaments in 2015.. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Area star ball hockey players to soon find out their fate for USA team play in 2015
 Three women from the South Suburbs will be anxiously waiting to find out if they will be heading to Canada or Switzerland next year.

  Eileen Meslar of Chicago Ridge, Lorissa Sernus of Worth and Danielle Strohmier of Alsip have been selected to represent the United States Women’s Team at The International Street and Ball Hockey Federation’s (ISBF) 2015 World Championship. They’ll go through a final round of drills in Dracut, Mass., Saturday to determine which team they will end up on.
  Team A will compete in Zug, Switzerland in June and Team B, in Barrie Ontario, Canada in September.
  Not a bad deal for a trio playing in a sport that not many people are familiar with.
  “Ball hockey is my favorite sport,” Meslar said. “I hadn’t played since I was 15. I was happy I found a women’s tournament where I could play again. I didn’t think it would lead to this!”
  This trio of childhood athletes-turned-adult competitors said they welcome the placement on either team but hope to remain together.
  They were elementary school students when they were introduced to the sport at the Southwest Ball Hockey facility located at 5801 W. 115th Street in Alsip.
  Meslar started playing at age eight while self-proclaimed best friends, Sernus and Strohmier, met when they became teammates at age five.
  “Southwest Ball Hockey is one of very few places to learn the sport,” Meslar said. “We each played there until we aged out at 15.”
  Some may ask, what exactly is ball hockey anyway?
  The American Street Hockey Institute (ASHI) describes Dek/ball hockey as being similar to ice hockey, played on smaller rinks, without ice. A small, rubber ball is used in lieu of a hockey puck.
  “You don’t get to glide like you do on skates, it’s all sprinting down the court,” Meslar said.
  The rink is equipped with boards, glass/fencing/netting, and an asphalt or sport court surface made of a modified polypropylene substance impervious to weather. The ISBF is the governing body of the sport that Meslar, Sernus and Strohmier said they felt was a distant memory until a carpool conversation changed their future.
  Sernus said: “Danielle and I joined a women’s ice hockey team in Kankakee that Eileen was already a part of called, The Kankakee Novas. Since Kankakee is such a long commute, our coach encouraged us to carpool. During our rides, we bonded over different things; one being our mutual love for ball hockey.”
  The sequence of events that followed plays like a movie.
  It was a Google search of ‘’ball hockey” that lured them to a solicitation for an adult women’s Ball Hockey tournament in Leominster, Mass.
  “We were so excited for an opportunity to play again — I recruited a team of 15 women and headed to the East Coast.” Meslar said.
  During that tournament, like a moth to a flame Sernus said she, Meslar, and Strohmier were drawn to recruiters rallying players to try out for the USA Women’s National Team.
  Of their group of 15, only these three were enticed enough to try out. Eight months later they found themselves in Dracut, Massachusetts for the first round of tryouts.
  “There were about 200 other women. Most were from the East Coast, where ball hockey is huge,” Meslar said.
  Unlike the previous ball hockey tournament, where the ladies competed as a team, the USA Women’s National Team tryouts were individually based.

  “Those tryouts were the longest days of my life,” Sernus said. “It was four to five hours of grueling endurance and fun at the same time.”
  Strohmier said, “Getting the call that all three of us made it through was amazing.”
  Several weeks later, they each got through a second round of tryouts making them officially a part of the USA Women’s National Team.
  “It all happened so fast.” Sernus said.
  Apparently dreams coming true don’t knock upon arrival — they barge in the door.
  “Recently I found a little note my mom kept from my second grade memorabilia where I said I wanted to represent the USA playing Hockey in the Olympics.
  “This is pretty close.”

  “During tryouts, we saw some fierce athletes,” Strohmier said. “There were Division I college players and Olympic ice hockey player, Hilary Knight was on my line!”
  While Ball Hockey isn’t considered an Olympic sport today, in January, the ISBHF made a presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). In addition, they also met with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) to register the sport to be in compliance with its regulations and requirements.
  Sernus said, “Playing on the USA Women’s Team is going to help us spread the word about ball hockey. We really want a larger presence in the Midwest.”
  The travel to the East Coast has been costly.
  In addition, each of them are having to balance the lives they were living prior to this exciting voyage. Sernus is a student at Moraine Valley College. Once her prerequisites are met, she plans to transfer to UIC and major in sports nutrition.

  Strohmier just completed an Associate of Arts and Science Degree at Moraine Valley. She’s now pursuing a degree from Trinity Christian College in Business Communication and Graphic Design.
  Meslar is a graduate of Western Michigan University. She doesn’t have to juggle homework in the airport and on the plane like Sernus and Strohmier during all those trips out east. Though, she does manage working fulltime at BARBRI as a proofreader. The women said they’re grateful the training is on the weekends.
  In spite of the rigor involved to keep them at play, they all said it’s worth it.

  “Being able to represent our country playing a sport we learned as children is an amazing opportunity for us all,” Meslar said.