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Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Double-Duty Dermot is Reporter's new reporter

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

Jeffs Col Impressions

 

Many years ago, a newspaper reporter by the name of Dermot Connolly gave a tour of the Marquette Park area to an up-and-coming politician.

Connelly drove his car and did a lot of the talking. The guy in the passenger’s seat who did a lot of listening was Pat Quinn.

“We were on a first-name basis,” Connolly said.

Well, Quinn went on to bigger and better things. He ended up being the Governor of Illinois.

In a recent encounter, Quinn saw Connolly and gave him a warm greeting and called him “Shamus.”

“We’re still on a first-name basis,” Connolly said. “But he had the wrong name.”

We won’t be calling him Shamus around here. But we may be calling him Double-Duty Dermot.

Connolly takes over as the new reporter for the Reporter, replacing Bob Rakow, who left our little circus on election night and is now working as a content provider for trade publications in Chicago.

When Bob left, we were hoping to steal Dermot away from the Southwest News Herald. We would have gotten away with it, too except for two things. First, The News Herald didn’t want to give him up and second, we are all owned by the same corporation and we just couldn’t pluck him away.

Soooooo…

Not to get biblical here, but I was willing to chop him in half, as long as we got the half that was able to write stories.

The big bosses saw it different. They decided to Wisdom-of-Solomon it up a little bit and give us Dermot for half a work week and them for half a work week. His work will appear in our paper as well as the Regional.

 I sat with News Herald Editor Joe Boyle for an hour or so and we were able to come up with a game plan that in theory seemed to work.

It’s not the ideal situation but half a Dermot is better than nothing.

So starting this week, we will have some shifting around. Some new faces will be covering some beats. Some familiar faces will be covering some other beats.

Aside from taking Pat Quinn around town in his car, Connolly has interviewed a young politician named Barack Obama, a Mayor named Richie Daley and has photographed Rahm Emmanuel, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.

Before joining our little circus, Connolly took a tour of a North American Warehousing Co. in Bedford Park with Gov. Bruce Rauner. His story can be found on page 5.

One of the most dramatic photos to ever appear in the Reporter under my watch was Connolly’s photo of the horrific traffic accident in Oak Lawn that claimed the lives of two nuns last year. He happened to be bowling on that Sunday afternoon not far from the crash and captured a very powerful and dramatic shot.

The Oak Lawn resident, who attended St. Laurence and Western Illinois University, has spent a huge chunk of his 23-year career on the South Side of Chicago and the south suburbs but had a stint in New York for a little while.

So, if you see Dermot, or Shamus or whatever you want to call him at a meeting or assignment, give him a big hello.

We are glad to have him on board.

Oak Lawn board approves 'stale bids'

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

In an effort to live up to its “Shop Oak Lawn” motto, village trustees at the April 14 board meeting unanimously agreed to waive competitive bidding requirements and split a contract for streetlight bulbs and electrical supplies between the winning bidder and a local company, but not without their usual spirited discussion.

Gerald Chickerillo, the street division manager, told the board that the original bids for streetlight bulbs and electrical supplies were opened on Dec. 1, and Helsel-Jepperson Electrical Inc. of Chicago Heights had the lowest bid of $82,814.48. However, at the following board meeting on Dec. 9, trustees discussed the possibility of awarding the bid to a local company.

Chickerillo said that after consulting with village Attorney Patrick Connelly, the bid contract could be split in two, with the contract for streetlights bulbs going to another bidder, C&L Electrical Supply, 9637 Southwest Highway.

Village Manager Larry Deetjen said that C&L bid $1,000 less for the bulbs than Helsel-Jepperson, so the village is saving money overall.

“We asked Helsen-Jepperson if they would be so kind as to allow us to break up the bid, and they understood and agreed,” said Deetjen.

“But did this board give you direction to break it up?” asked Trustee Alex Olejniczak. “It turned out in our favor here, but we can’t pick and choose how to follow the rules.”

Olejniczak also questioned why the matter is being brought to the board in April, when the bids were opened four months ago. “If the bidders knew that they could bid on one part of the contract or another [the results might have been different]. We are basically looking at stale bids.”

Trustee Tim Desmond said he was satisfied when Deetjen assured him that the C&L bid was the original one, and had not been altered since the bids were opened on Dec. 1

“We listened and you basically told us to go and talk to the vendors, and we did,” said Deetjen.

Deetjen and Mayor Sandra Bury both said that the board has agreed to waive the competitive bidding rules in the past, mainly to allow municipal vehicles to be purchased from local dealerships at the state’s discounted rate.

“It is customary to do this. It is not out of the realm of what is done,” said Bury.

Finance director Brian Hanigan added that dividing contracts is commonly done with landscaping contracts as well.

But Olejniczak asserted that in those cases, the board made the decision to waive the bidding rules rather than village administrators.

Connelly said that as long as the board had a two-thirds majority, or four votes for the split contract, the waiving of competitive bidding rules was not a problem. The vote ended up being unanimous. “This whole process has clarified the issue,” said Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th), thanking Olejniczak for asking the necessary questions.

“I would suggest that in future, with these types of bids that we break it out. Let’s just have it above-board,” said Trustee Carol Quinlan (5th), who did not run for re-election and is stepping down from the board in May.  

Although in the end Olejniczak voted for the agreement, he was not completely satisfied that the rules were followed. “I think we should have rebid the contract,” said Olejniczak.

SUBHEAD – Railroad crossing closing

In other business, Deetjen said that Metra plans to close the railroad crossing at Cicero Avenue and 93rd Street between April 29 and May 7 to install a new, sturdier “preformed, precast material” at the crossing that will not need to be repaired as often.  

Because the tracks are located in the heavily trafficked section of Cicero between 87th and 95th Street that the village was told would be resurfaced, Deetjen said he asked IDOT officials to coordinate the road repaving with the railroad crossing repairs but did not get a satisfactory answer.

“My concern is that with the fiscal state of Illinois, and some of the actions taken by the governor [to cut the budget], I don’t feel Oak Lawn is getting the priority it should,” said Deetjen, urging board members bring up the issue when they visit Springfield for a legislative reception and conference with lawmakers on April 28 and 29.

Experience counts for Hickory Hills council

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Residents of Hickory Hills made it very clear on Election Day earlier this month that they were satisfied with the status quo of their elected officials. 

Only two council positions were challenged, with both longtime incumbents easily being returned to office.
All total, the nine voting members of the council -- eight aldermen and one mayor -- have 97 years of experience on the Hickory Hills council. And next year at this time, it will be up to triple digits -- 106 years as city bosses.
So, it was business as usual at Thursday’s council meeting as it will be for a few more years.
In the political arena local politics is often a dog-eat-dog world, but the City of Hickory Hills is a shining example of what a healthy political entity looks like. A chunk of the council members have worked together for more than a decade. Mayor Mike Howley became an alderman in 1997 and was elected to the top spot twelve years ago. Alderman Scott Zimmerman is 16 years deep. Aldeman Joe Stachnik has 14 years under his belt and aldermen, Tom McAvoy, John Szeszycki and Mike McHugh have each served in their position twelve years.
Aldrman Brian Waight, wh has just three years of service, said: “We all like each other and our goal is always what is best for the village.”
Zimmerman, who was born and raised in Hickory Hills, said, “There are no hidden agendas. We all get along. We may disagree on some things, but there are never any hard feelings.”
“We have been together a long time and we get along with each other,” McAvoy said. There are no factions, no political groups, we just work together,” he said.
In the April 7 election Szeszycki, a veteran alderman in Ward 2, won 57 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Joe Mancuso. In Ward 4, Zimmerman, defeated challenger Colleen H. Kelly, winning 62 percent of the vote.

In other news:
• Alderman Deb Ferrero announced the annual Street Fair is scheduled for June 28 at 93rd Street and Roberts Road. The event will kick off on June 27 with a concert, from 7 to 10 p.m.
Nearly 100 food and craft vendors will be on hand for the family-oriented event. Ferrero said there will be a beer garden tent with entertainment throughout the day as well as Bingo from Noon to 7 p.m. on June 28.
“The Street Fair has been a major attraction in Hickory Hills for nearly 40 years,” Ferrero said.
• Two new businesses are scheduled to open in the city. Northwestern Mortgage Company is opening at 9604 So. Roberts Road. The owner is Renata Citrobak-Pyrek. A new Sprint store is opening at 8075 W. 95th Street.
• The council approved a contract with Utility Dynamics Corp., in the amount $133,166 for a street lighting project on 93rd Street, from 85th Court to 80th Court.
• City engineer Mike Spolar said that a bid package is being prepared for a storm sewer project at 83rd Court and 89th street. Bids will go out in late May, with construction projected to start in July. The project is estimated to take six to eight weeks to complete.

Athlete says ‘It’s great to hear people cheering’

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Walk, Run or Rollers ready to rock at Half Marathon

Brad Ramirez has no special plans to train for thepage3 2cols BRadandLoriChesna 040915The picture of athletic confidence, Palos Heights resident Brad “B-Rad” Ramirez wears medals and ribbons he won at past races and mugs for the camera with SWSRA Executive Director Lori Chesna last week at his home, mere blocks from the Walk, Run or Roll starting line near City Hall. Photo by Tim Hadac. Walk, Run or Roll race in four weeks, other than a few sit-ups and pull-ups.

After all, bicycling the mile or so to and from his part-time job as a bagger at the Jewel-Osco in Palos Heights, as well as shagging shopping carts in the parking lot, keeps his size-17 feet moving.
Besides, the half-mile race is for fun, said Ramirez, 29, of Palos Heights.
“There’s not really any competitiveness,” he said. “It’s just fun. Even if you don’t make it to the finish line, it’s great to hear people cheering when they call your name.”
Ramirez—or B-Rad, as he is known to his friends—is one of dozens of athletes with disabilities, physical or developmental, planning to participate in the race, which is part of the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon, set for Sunday, May 3, on a course that starts and ends at Palos Heights City Hall, 7607 W. College Drive. He has participated since the race started in 2009.
B-Rad is a longtime client—since age 5—of South West Special Recreation Association (SWSRA), an Alsip-based not-for-profit that provides recreation programming, leisure activities and services year-round for children and adults with disabilities.
“That’s what’s so cool about the First Midwest Bank Half Marathon,” said SWSRA Executive Director Lori Chesna. “When [Half Marathon founders and directors] Mel Diab and Jeff Prestinario asked SWSRA to actually put this race on, I thought it was just so awesome.
“For two community leaders to come to us and say, ‘We want our race to be all-inclusive’ was something that I was taken aback by,” Chesna added. “[Organizations representing people with disabilities] tend to have to go and knock on doors and ask, ‘Hey, can we be included in your event?’ Really, I was so touched by what Mel and Jeff did. It meant a lot to us, and it says a lot about them.”
SWSRA is also a designated beneficiary of a portion of the funds raised by the half marathon. The American Cancer Society is the other.
Chesna said that Walk, Run or Roll participants—athletes and volunteers alike—get “an adrenaline rush” from the event, and she encouraged everyone to visit swsra.com online to learn more about the race, including registration information for athletes with disabilities (as young as age 8), as well as those who may be interested in volunteering. SWSRA will benefit from a portion of the funds raised by the half marathon.


Big race update
Organizers of the 2015 First Midwest Bank Half Marathon offered a sunny forecast last Thursday at a planning meeting held at the Palos Heights Recreation Center.
Registration numbers are climbing daily and appear to be on pace to exceed last year’s totals, when more than 1,000 runners competed in the 13.1-mile race and more than 200 participated in the event’s 10K race. As many as 1,600 runners are expected to participate this year, organizers said.
The big race starts at 7:30 a.m., with the 10K and Walk, Run or Roll starting minutes after that.
“Everything is looking quite good at this point,” Prestinario said. “We’re a well-oiled machine. We don’t have any blemishes, and we don’t want any blemishes. We are all about safety, safety, safety and ensuring everyone has a good time.”
Volunteers are still needed to help staff the race. Currently, 41 are signed up, but 200 are needed to perform a range of tasks, such as staffing water stations, refreshment booths, gear check tables and more. Opportunities start as early as 5:30 a.m. on race day and run until 1 p.m.
Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to visit firstmidwesthalfmarathon.com for details or stop by the Rec Center, 6601 W. 127th St., Palos Heights, for a volunteer application. Forms are due by Wednesday.
“Without great volunteers, we could not have a successful race,” Diab said. “They are very important, just as our sponsors and other partners are.”

Cats take center stage at Worth meeting again

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Officials will draw up ordinance on how they will handle feral cats in the village

It’s been awhile since the hit play “Cats” was presented in Chicago, but in Worth, cats --the feral variety -- were once again center stage at last Wednesday’s board meeting in Worth.
This time with a plot twist.
Faced with new information, village officials are now looking at drafting an ordinance to deal with managed care of feral cats.
In February, they voted 3-0 against a project proposed by animal rights group, Triple R, which called for capturing feral cats, vaccinating/spaying/neutering them and returning them to their original site. The purpose of the plan was to reduce the spread of rabies and decrease the population of the feral cats. The plan was offered at no cost to the village. Funding for the services is provided to the animal activist group through donations.
Trustee Rich Dziedic said at the time that he was against it. “I understand there may be a problem with feral cats in general, not necessarily in our community, but we have existed this long without spraying and neutering them that we don’t need to do it now.”
He also said, “I would not want a colony of cats living next door to me and coming in my backyard and my garden.”
However, the plot thickens.
Since that vote was taken, it has come to light that Cook County has an ordinance regulating feral cat colonies within the county. In October, 2007, the Cook County Board of Commissioners amended its Animal and Rabies Control Ordinance, adding a section dealing with feral cats, the “Managed Care of Feral Cats.” The ordinance was enacted to further prevent the spread of rabies by reducing and controlling the feral cat population.
Additionally, the ordinance permits individuals living within Cook County, to maintain feral cat colonies provided they participate in trap, neuter, and release (TNR) programs sponsored by approved humane societies.
The new information has officials re-thinking their position.
Mayor Mary Werner said, “We hope to present an ordinance by our next board meeting [Tuesday]. While the Cook County Ordinance is a carte blanche approach, we will strive to make our ordinance as unobtrusive as possible, but it will be more strict than the county ordinance.”
Dziedic said that the village has some options, referring to a memo from the village attorney, Greg Jones, outlining various approaches. Dziedic said he recommended combining two of the options which include adopting a modified version of the Cook County Ordinance and adopting a zoning requirement for feral cat colonies. “Residents having a colony would have to seek a Special Use Permit,” he said.
Also present at the meeting were representatives of the Triple R group, including Pamela Caddick and Collette Walker. Caddick offered the assistance of Triple R to help the village draft its ordinance. “This is a service we offer and it will save attorneys fees. We are currently working with Richton Park in the drafting of its ordinance,” she said.

Park District turns 50
Last year, the village celebrated its 100th birthday. This year, the park district turns 50.
A request from the Worth Park District for a street closing on June 5 was for the celebration was unanimously approved. Depot Street, from 109th Street to 109th Place, will be closed from 7 to 10 p.m. for a kickoff celebration for the anniversary.

Trustee Colleen McElroy, said the park district is celebrating its Golden Jubilee at Gale Moore Park, with live music, a car show and a dinner.
Other bits:
• Trustee Tedd Muersch said that there will be a budget presentation for the Water’s Edge Golf Course on May 5. He also announced that a search is underway for a new superintendent at the golf course, as well as seasonal summer help.
• Public Safety liaison, Trustee Warren Soldan said that two police officers currently in training will be on patrol in two weeks. “Our streets will have an added measure of safety,” he said.

• A cell tower lease amendment for T-Mobile was approved. The amendment, allowing more space for T-Mobile, will bring a $1,000 a month to the village coffers.

• The board unanimously approved Werner’s request for a payment of $4,000 to the Worth Park District for expenses incurred in the Worth Days Parade.