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CR fire negotiations wrapping up soon?

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Members of the union that represents Chicago Ridge firefighters were pleased that a proposal to cut two lieutenant positions from the department was discarded last week by the village board.

The union and Mayor Chuck Tokar also believe that negotiations on a new firefighters’ contract are making significant progress and a deal could be finalized within a month.
“I think things are going well,” Tokar said Monday.
He added that contract between the village and the fire department union could be approved as soon as the next village board meeting.
Negotiators are working on a four-year deal that includes a cost-of-living increase in the final year, the mayor said.
The current contract expired in January, and the union and village have negotiated the terms of a new deal since October 2013, union president Chris Schmelzer said.
“I think we’ll be able to get (a contract) done,” he said.
The village’s plan to remove from the village budget two of the department’s lieutenant spots died for lack of a second at the July 15 village board meeting.
“That was a pleasant surprise,” Schmelzer said. “I did not expect it coming. It was great news.”
Schmelzer said the appearance at last week’s board meeting by two former village trustees coupled with complaints from residents likely led to the board’s decision to continue to fund the lieutenant positions.
Former trustees Don Pratl and Juanita Babcock both spoke on the matter at the meeting. Babcock’s son is a member of the village’s fire department.
Other residents who attended the meeting urged the board not to eliminate the lieutenant spots, citing their importance to the fire department, especially as shift leaders.
Schmelzer said other residents emailed and called village officials to protest the proposal.
“We always have faith in the public,” Schmelzer said.
Village trustees last Tuesday also approved an intergovernmental agreement with Oak Lawn that calls on Oak Lawn Chief George Sheets to head the Chicago Ridge Fire Department.
The agreement says Sheets will serve as Chicago Ridge chief through 2016 while maintaining his duties in Oak Lawn.
Trustees Sally Durkin and Daniel Bandon voted against the agreement, which Oak Lawn officials unanimously approved July 8.
Durkin said she opposed the agreement because it was put forth without board input.
Tokar said he’s met with other mayors and fire protection district officials to discuss the village’s options for the future of the fire department.
Schmelzer said he met with Sheets and anticipates a “good working relationship” with the man who has led the Oak Lawn Fire Department since 2009.
“I’m optimistic,” he said.
Sheets will dedicate about 15 hours a week to the Chicago Ridge Fire Department. His first task, he said, is to examine the department in an effort to improve services and cost efficiencies.
Sheets replaces Fire Chief Robert Muszynski, who resigned recently at the request of Mayor Chuck Tokar.
Muszynski, who took over as chief in early 2011, supported the hiring of an additional seven or eight firefighters/paramedics who would be based at fire station at 107th Street and Lombard Avenue, Tokar said.
But Tokar has said the village cannot absorb the costs of staffing a second station.
That Lombard Avenue station currently is used for training and to store equipment, the mayor said.
However, many residents have asked the village to consider having a second ambulance and possibility a fire truck at the station, which would reduce the response time to a large number of homes in the village.
The village’s other fire station is located in the industrial park and is not located near some of the village’s residential areas.

Climbing up the charts, er, ladder

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Legendary disc jockey Dick Biondi, page-1-3-col-biondi-2R83, was a guest celebrity at the second Battle in the Burbs event Sunday at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood. But before the softball action between area mayors and police/fire chiefs took place, Biondi decided to climb a 60-foot Crestwood Fire Department ladder, which was visible beyond the left field fence. Biondi said his father was a fireman, and the DJ said he always liked heights. He said he once sat on top of the Sears Tower.
Meanwhile the game, which was a benefit for the Illinois Special Olympic, also had its share of high-flying thrills as the chiefs beat the mayors for the second straight year, 19-8. Photos by Jeff Vorva.PAGE-1-2-col-biondi

From running with the devil to... Walking with Jesus

  • Written by Tim Hadac

Harvest Bible pastor admits he was a ‘long

haired, drug using, deceitful drummer’ 

Filled with faith in Jesus Christchurchpage 3cols PastorHall 071714Former “Stoner” Ryan Hall (photo below, with his future wife, Lauren) is now the pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel. Top photo by Tim Hadac. Bottom photo submitted.churchpage 2cols longhairedguyandblonde 071714 and pastoring a vibrant, growing church is not something Ryan Hall—or probably anyone who knew him—would have predicted for his future, back when he was a scruffy Palos Hills kid attending Stagg High School.
“I was a stoner--a long-haired, drug using, deceitful drummer in a heavy metal band,” he recalled in a conversation last Sunday morning before services at the new home of Harvest Bible Chapel, 6600 W. 127th St., Palos Heights. “I made trouble, I stole things.”
Raised Roman Catholic, Hall attended religious education classes and received the sacraments at St. Patricia Church in Hickory Hills.
“They did their job in giving me the facts, but my heart was not filled with faith,” Hall remembered about his boyhood. “I didn’t believe what I heard, so to me it was a joke. Even in high school, I viewed religion as a joke. God was a joke, Christians were a joke.
“It wasn’t until I was a freshman at Moraine [Valley Community College] that I was struck to the heart with the reality that I was a sinful man who needs a savior,” he added. “I had known about Jesus, but I had not known what he needed to do for me.”
Shortly after he had found Jesus, Hall met his future wife, Lauren.
“She grew up in Palos Heights,” he said. “As children, we had the same pediatrician, swam at the same pool, but we never actually met until college, when the bass player in my heavy metal Wax Illusions told her about me and got her phone number. He just knew her as a waitress at Country House Restaurant.”
Though their first phone convesation went well and lasted a few hours, others may have seen them as a bit of an odd couple.

Sunday sorrow

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Traffic accident near Quincy and drowning
in a Michigan lake claim two area lives

  Two weekend tragedies within an hour and a half of each other claimed the lives of an Evergreen Park man and a Chicago Ridge woman and left a Chicago Ridge man seriously injured, according to police.

  The first accident occurred Sunday morning on U.S. Hwy. 24 in Camp Point, Ill., a small town outside of Quincy.
  Karin M. Kirchman, 53, of Chicago Ridge, was killed and her husband, Ronald L. Kirchman Jr., also 53, was seriously injured when the Harley-Davidson motorcycle on which they were riding was struck by a car that crossed into the path of the bike, police said.
  Karin Kirchman was a passenger on the motorcycle, driven by her husband, police said.
  The accident occurred shortly after 9 a.m. when a 76-year-old Camp Point woman driving a Chevrolet SUV ran off the road and crossed into the path of the motorcycle, according to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. The woman was charged with improper lane use, according to reports.
  The Kirchman’s were transported to Blessing Hospital in Quincy where Karin Kirchman was pronounced dead at 10:08 a.m., according to the sheriff’s office. Ronald Kirchman remains in serious condition. The driver of the SUV was not seriously injured, police said.
  The accident remains under investigation.
  The second tragedy also occurred Sunday morning when an Evergreen Park man drowned while paddle boarding in a lake in southwestern Michigan, according to reports.
  Vincent Churak, 67, reportedly fell off a paddleboard while on Donnell Lake in Cass County, Mich., at about 10:30 a.m., according to reports.
  Witnesses said Churak appeared to be struggling in the water and called for help. He went under the water by the time people trying to help were able to reach him in the lake, the report added.
  The Cass County Sheriff’s marine division and dive team responded.A dive team eventually found him in the water at 1 p.m., according to reports.
  An autopsy is scheduled to determine the cause of death.

Cass County Undersheriff Richard Behnke said Churak drowned in a section of the lake that is 27-feet deep.
He maintained a house near the lake and was familiar with the water. Family members told authorities that Behnke is a former Naval officer. A life vest later was found on the board, he said.
“Nobody saw exactly how he got off the board,” Behnke said.
Churak’s nephew, Jason Murphy, told WNDU.com that Churak called Donnell Lake his “second home” and members of their group would go off in the water on their own.
“Sometimes he’ll go out on a canoe or on a paddleboard,” Murphy said. “We don’t keep tabs on Vince. He did his own thing and and went under the radar. That’s why no one was worried when he was out for two hours because it was a frequent occurance.
“We’re still waiting to see what happened and if it was a medical condition or what.”

Ramones produced fun music through all the turmoil

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col ImpressionsThe final pinhead has passed.
Erdelyi Tamas, more famously known as Tommy Ramone, died of cancer at age 65 Friday and was the last surviving original member of my favorite rock group – the Ramones.
(For the record, the group was called Ramones and not “the Ramones’ but it’s easier to just call them the Ramones).
I’ve loved this New Yawk group for close to 40 years when I first heard the song “Judy Is a Punk” in the late 1970s on something called Triad radio, which was located somewhere on the right on the FM dial in Chicago. At the time, Triad played artists no one else on radio was playing and that included this struggling, rarely heard dude named Jimmy Buffett.
The Ramones were like nothing I had ever heard before. They came up with fast and melodic assaults that were so brilliant that their first three albums were clones of each other but each one got progressively better. “Rocket to Russia” contains my favorite song of all-time, “Rockaway Beach’’ but also had gems such as covers “Do Ya Wanna Dance” and “Surfin Bird” plus original classics “Cretin Hop,” “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,’’ and “Teenage Lobotomy.”
The Sex Pistols were called the Beatles of punk rock and I thought the Ramones were the Beach Boys of that genre.
On stage, the group was pretty basic. Joey Ramone was the human totem pole rarely moving from the mic stand with his long hair spilling into his sunglasses. To his left (and our right) was bass player Dee Dee Ramone, who was jumping up and down like he stuck his finger in a light socket. To Joey’s right (and our left) was Johnny Ramone who also jumped around but was mostly content to pose and look cool while playing music on his guitar at a million miles an hour.
About the only change came toward the end of each show when they performed “Pinhead” and some roadie would come dancing on stage with a sign that said “Gabba Gabba Hey” that Joey would raise over his head.
And in the background was Tommy who was later replaced by a few others including Marky Ramone, who served the longest term as the group’s drummer.
To me, their first three albums, “Ramones,” “Leave Home,” “Rocket to Russia” and their fifth, “End of the Century” (produced by the insane Phil Spector) are masterpieces. The fourth, “Road to Ruin” is OK. The sixth album, “Pleasant Dream” is also pretty cool, but I didn’t appreciate it until decades later. The rest of the albums are hit-and-miss with some flashes of brilliance here and there. Heck, even an average Ramones song is still pretty good.
The group had a cult following and had no big charting hits for many of its years.
Then the boys started dying off and their legend started to grow. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. The first song off their first album, “Blitzkrieg Bop,” never cracked the top 100 but is now used in commercials and sports arenas and is considered a classic.
I never met of talked to any of the fellas. One time I got to meet Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and we talked a lot about the Ramones and he took my business card and said he would have Johnny call me. That never happened.
When I covered the Cubs, I would attend parts of spring training and one year I missed out on meeting Johnny attending a game in Arizona by a week. The other writers razzed me about that.
That said, I’m kind of glad I never did get to meet these guys.
I’ve done a lot of reading on them and I liked them less and less as people.
Dee Dee was just flat out crazy and had way too many drug problems and didn’t always treat people very nicely.
Joey had drug issues of his own and in so many interviews I tired of his whining about how underappreciated the group was. At times he complained about not having a breakthrough single or album. Other times he said he was glad the group never made it big because they kept their integrity. Can’t have it both ways, big fella.
Johnny? There are plenty of stories about how he was ultra conservative and had a fascination with Hitler, the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. When Johnny stole Joey’s girlfriend and married her, the two Ramones rarely talked. Legend has it that Joey wrote the song “The KKK Took My Baby Away” in dishonor of the incident.
If that’s true, how dumb is Johnny to play that song thousands of times live not realizing that it is a direct slap at him?
Anyway, there are plenty of ugly and dysfunctional stories about these dudes to be found (heck, a book about them is called “The Complete Twisted History”) but it never seemed to affect the magic on stage or in the studio.
So as the final original Ramone has been laid to rest I was grimacing at the stories I remembered about their lives but grinning at the great music they made.