Worth cracking down on parked vehicles during snowfall

  • Written by Kelly White

ng conditions, not only for cars on the road but for parked vehicles as well.
The Village of Worth has a snow emergency ordinance in effect pertaining to parked vehicles but officials are saying it is being ignored.
“All in all, there are some roads where people take advantage of street parking,” Public Works Superintendent Wayne Demonbreun said at the Jan. 6 board meeting. “It is scary for a driver to drive down a street after a storm and it is also dangerous for the cars parked along the road. The driver may only be going 15 miles per hour and still accidentally clip a car when conditions are unsafe.”
The Village’s ordinance states that when two or more inches of snow has accumulated, it is unlawful for any person to stop, stand, park, or leave an unattended motor vehicle on the streets, highways and roadways within corporate limits of the Village until such snow has been removed. Any person not complying with this ordinance is subject to a fine.
The Village received 2.8 inches of accumulated snow during a snowstorm the night before the meeting.
“This is really something that we need to start enforcing for the benefit of everyone,” Trustee Pete Kats said. “There are a lot of cars parked outside with snow on them that has not been cleaned off. It is becoming a real problem.”
Kats noted particularly problematic areas on 110th Street and 76th Avenue where cars lining streets are resulting in almost impossible driving conditions.
“Cars need to be off of the street when there is snow on the ground,” he said.
Although the village’s snow emergency ordinance is specific, residents are not consistently following the code.
“This ordinance has not been strongly enforced in the past,” Mayor Mary Werner said and added that is why some residents do not tend to take the ordinance too seriously.
A notice was sent out to all Worth residents in the fall water bill, reminding them when there is two inches or more of snow on the ground to park their vehicles in their garage or driveway and not on village property; however, village officials contend this was also ignored.
Residents were given a harsh reality check during the 2013-14 winter season when tickets were issued by the Worth Police Department to vehicle owners who chose to ignore the ordinance during the rough winter months. With the heavy continuous snowfall last year, Werner said it was necessary at that time to enforce the ordinance more strictly.
“Last year, we had no choice, and we had to enforce it,” Werner said.
Vehicle-lined streets need to be addressed again this winter as well, according to Kats, who said the combination of the public works and police department will easily be able to enforce and resolve the issue quickly. Demonbreun agrees but said street parking is not the only problem in the Village during snowstorms.
“Our job here at public works is to clean the streets during snowstorms and we would like to keep a clean street,” he said, “People are shoveling their driveways and sidewalks and putting the snow right back into the streets that have just been plowed by the public works department making it appear as if the plows never came.”
Demonbreun reports calls from residents complaining of snowy streets after they had already been cleaned by the village’s snowplows.
“We go down streets once, twice and sometimes even three times, but when they are piled back up with snow again it is difficult to tell,” he said.

Half marathon organizers want to be back in black

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Like a long-distance runner returning to a course after a long layoff, the first meeting of the 2015 First Midwest Bank Half Marathon organizing committee sputtered and wheezed at first.
The meeting room at the Palos Heights Recreation Center was about half empty.
Co-organizer Jeff Prestinario announced that the race lost money in 2014, despite the addition of a 10K race that was designed to put it in the black.
He acknowledged that just 1,100 runners competed in the half marathon last year, about half of the event’s peak participation—2,100 runners—several years ago. The drop was mostly chalked up to an extremely harsh winter that hampered runners’ training efforts, as well as a proliferation of new races in the Chicago area.
He announced that the Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens has been dropped from the roster of charities that benefit from the event, due to lack of funds to go around—leaving the American Cancer Society and the South West Special Recreation Association as this year’s designated charity beneficiaries.
He noted that a new half marathon in Frankfort, eight days before the First Midwest Half Marathon, may possibly cut into participation in Palos Heights.
Prestinario also complained about what he said was a lack of downtown news media interest in the race.
“I’m tired of looking at the news and seeing all this crap about killings and this and that,” he told committee members. “They need to start putting good things on the news…for example, our event, I don’t know if it’s ever been on TV. It was maybe mentioned one time or whatever.”
He even admitted that for the second year in a row, he and co-founder Mel Diab, owner of the Running For Kicks store in Palos Heights, had toyed with idea of letting the race die a quiet death.
But as the meeting hit its stride, good news came forward to overtake the bad regarding this year’s half marathon, set for Sunday, May 3 on a course that starts and ends at Palos Heights City Hall, 7607 W. College Drive, running west along and through the scenic forest preserves of the Palos area.
Prestinario announced that the event has received a $5,000 grant from the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau, a needed shot in the arm for an event that last year struggled financially. He credited communications executive Tom Barcelona, who serves as race sponsorship co-coordinator, for obtaining the grant.
Prestinario also hailed the news that 922 runners have already registered for this year’s half marathon, the successful result of an aggressive, discount-driven push for runners last month. He beamed when discussing the numbers, calling them an “amazing” start.
He also announced that the Palos Area Chamber of Commerce will again host a community and business exposition at Moraine Valley Church, a popular event designed to encourage runners and their families and friends—who typically come from throughout the Chicago area and even beyond--and to discover and enjoy the shopping, dining and other pleasures of the Palos area.
In addition to the half marathon, the event will again include a 10K race and a Walk, Run or Roll race for people with disabilities. Registration details and more information on the event may be obtained at
Despite the bumps in the road, Prestinario predicted that this year’s event—the eighth annual—will in the end gel and be successful.
“It’s just absolutely amazing that this is our eighth year, he said, noting that he and Diab had worked on getting the race up and running two years before that. “To me, it’s one of the exciting things that I do in my life, although my life’s not that exciting to begin with,” he said, drawing laughs from the dozen or so committee members in attendance. “But I do enjoy this. It’s a positive event, a good thing for the community, but it’s also a pleasure meeting and working with so many good people.
“All things considered, we should all be very proud because we put on a great race, year after year. Most of the people who have worked for the race have stayed on with the race, and we have heard great feedback from the runners, volunteers and others.”

'The best basketball on the South Side'

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Pep squad member Casey O’Connell and Eagles basketball player Jimmy O’Keefe will take part in Saturday’s Special Olympics Basketball Day at Mother McAuley.

OK, Todd Mallo is running the event, so he’s going to hand out a high heaping of hype.

That’s understandable.

When asked what a possible crowd of 2,000 people will see when the sixth annual Special Olympics Basketball Day at 2 p.m. Saturday at Mother McAuley High School, the Oak Lawn special recreation supervisor  was not bashful about boasting.

“You’re going to see the best basketball on the South Side,’’ Mallo said. “These players will come and play their hearts out. We hope to have a full, packed house. These kids are just amazing athletes and this is a big deal for them. It’s the biggest game of the year for them. They love to play it.

“It’s a big, great atmosphere. The crowd is into every basket.’’

Neutral observers who have been a past games say there is plenty of fun, thrills and “goosebump moments” when the Special Olympic players mix it up on the court. So Mallo might not be far off in his praise.

The event started with 30 athletes in a game at St. Linus then grew enough to have it played at Brother Rice and now Mother McAuley.  There are 60 athletes expected to take part on Saturday.

Oak Lawn’s Junior Jordans and Eagles will compete and Special Olympic athletes from Oak Lawn,  Chicago Ridge, Evergreen Park,  Orland Park, Burbank and other communities will be hooping it up.

The doors open at 1 p.m. with opening ceremonies taking place at 1:30 p.m. There will be a halftime performance by the Oak Lawn Pep Squad. Admission is free but donations will be accepted at the door. The school is located at 3737 West 99th Street in Chicago.

Some of the players will be making their debuts in the game while others are old hands at it.

“A lot of players have played in all of the games,” Mallo said. “They have been playing in it for years when they were younger and love it so much.’’

Mallo, a 13-year veteran of the park district who is an Evergreen Park native and Orland Park resident, is usually busy running the show and doesn’t get to take in the whole game. But when he has a spare minute or two he said he enjoys observing.

“I’m just in awe of these guys,” he said. “It’s always a great game.’’

For more information, contact Mallo at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 708-857-2200.


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Pep squad member Casey O’Connell and Eagles basketball player Jimmy O’Keefe will take part in Saturday’s Special Olympics Basketball Day at Mother McAuley.

Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Half marathon flying high with more than 900 early birds

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Jeffs Col Impressions

Jeff Prestinario probably wanted to turn a couple of cartwheels and execute a backflip or two but he’s not as spry as he used to be.

The co-founder of the annual half marathon that runs mainly through Palos Heights and features runners from all over the area, was trying to keep a happy face last Friday when the race’s committee members got together for their first meeting at the Recreation Center in Palos Heights.

But there was a lot to be glum about.

Before the meeting, he admitted that for the second year in a row, there existed a possibility that the race would be shut down.

During the meeting, he told the committee heads that last year’s race lost money and drew less than 1,500 runners despite hosting two races – the half marathon and a 10K race – for the first time. At its peak, Prestinario said, the half marathon on its own drew 2,100. In 2014, he said the half marathon portion drew about 1,100 runners, which was the lowest in the history of the event.

Oh, and to make life a little tougher for Prestinario and co-founder Mel Diab, the town of Frankfort decided to get into the half marathon game. 

The first half-marathon in that community will take place April 25 and run through the historic downtown area and Old Plank Trail – eight days before the eighth running of the First Midwest Bank event in Palos in May 3.

That news was bound to take away a chunk of runners from Frankfort, New Lenox and Mokena from the Palos event. It was also going to threaten to grab away runners from Orland Park and Tinley Park as well.

On paper, things were not looking all that great.

But he had 922 reasons to brighten his day.

Jennifer Griffin, a member of the Chicago Special Events Management group that runs the half marathon on race day, gave the committee the report that 922 people had already signed up for the 2015 races – many taking advantage of an online early bird sign-up special.

It was met with applause and a few hoots.

“I was excited to hear that!” an obviously excited Prestinario after the meeting. “When I heard that number, I was extremely excited. Last year, we had less than 1,500 for both races. Now we’re at [922]? And it’s January? That’s amazing.’’

And 23 of the early entrants are from Frankfort.

There are also runners who signed up from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and New Jersey.

A few months ago, Diab, who was in Florida running in a race and not at Friday’s meeting, and Prestinario mulled shutting down the race because of the setbacks. But all is well, now.

“There’s always that question mark but when you get everyone on board, things can work out and things fall into place,” Prestinario said. “Everybody is excited about the race. Good things are happening and we need more good things. There are a lot of bad things going on in the world and we need more good things.’’

Interestingly, people like Prestinario and Diab are goodwill ambassadors for running and the previous success of the half marathon in Palos has had other communities – including Frankfort – trying to take runners away for their own races.

While I would suggest something outlandish and goofy as having people run in Santa suits in the spring or even their birthday suits to drum up interest as a novelty, that’s not going to happen. Prestinario said he is hoping that the open roads on the course and thousands of fans who come out and cheer the runners will make athletes want to come back to the Palos race.

“More and more races are popping up all the time,” Prestinario said. “You have to do something to promote and market the race. We will have to work a little harder to bring the runners to our race. I think we’re going to be all right. We’re back to shooting for 2,000 again.’’



Sexton wants to be on winning end of Plaza deal

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton doesn’t like to lose—not even when he plays board games with his grandchildren, he joked recently.

“I don’t like to lose,” Sexton said. “I typically win.”

That’s the approach the mayor is taking as he aggressively negotiates some sort of development deal for the Plaza.

“I’m right in the middle of the game. I’m right in the midst of things,” he said.

The game clock is ticking in the Plaza negotiations, as the village’s memorandum of understanding regarding a redevelopment plan with UP Development, a real estate firm based in Nashville, expires at the end of January.

Under the terms of the memo, the village said it would consider providing UP with around $10 million in funds raised through a new bonding district on the property, provide a sale-tax reimbursement to the firm and issue other incentives, Crain’s reported.

If the memo expires, the village could agree to another one with UP Development or putting the project out to bid again, Sexton said.

The mayor said he’s involved almost daily in efforts to get a deal for the shuttered mall accomplished before the memo of understanding expires on Jan. 31.

“It’s a daily fight,” Sexton said. “I’ve been working on it. I’m still very confident that something will happen.”

He added that all of the players involved must understand that nothing gets accomplished without a partnership with the village.

The battle to breath new life into the iconic shopping center at 95th Street and Western Avenue has been a prolonged one.

As recently as November, Sexton hinted that plans for a lifestyle center at the site of the Plaza were “inching closer” to reality. He brought it up at the State of the Village Address at the village’s Community Center.

But news hit the mayor and the village hard as Crains Chicago business reported a few days later that a potential deal with the Tampa-based DeBartelo group collapsed and the foreclosure process has restarted.

That news didn’t deter Sexton, who insisted a deal is still in the works.

“The story is not factual. You can’t believe everything you read,” Sexton told the Reporter in November.

He also chided Crain’s for not speaking to him before publishing the story.

“They didn’t really want to hear the truth so they wrote what they wanted,” he said. “It’s not dead. That’s from me,” Sexton said at the time.

The Plaza closed the doors on the interior mall in May 2013 after 60 of years of business in the community. It fell into foreclosure in 2011.