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Retiring Worth police officer is honored for 22 years of service

  • Written by Michelle Zalesny

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Submitted photo

The Worth Village Board honored police officer Jim Kaczmark (fourth from left) during the Jan. 3 board meeting on his retirement. Congratulating and joining Kaczmark were (from left) trustees Rich Dziedzic, Pete Kats, Colleen McElroy, Mayor Mary Werner, Village Clerk Bonnie Price, and trustees Warren Soldan and Kevin Ryan.


Worth Police Officer Jim Kaczmark, also known as “Officer Kaz,” was feted during the Jan. 3 village board meeting on his retirement. A large smile crossed his face when he received a watch as a token of the administration’s appreciation.

“This is kind of bittersweet,” said Mark Micetich, Worth police chief. “He’s been with us for over 22 years. During that time he became full-time in the year 2000 and promoted to squad leader last year. During his time though here, he’s had two stints in the detective division, was part of the South Suburban Major Crimes Task Force, also Southwest Major Case Unit, and was also a member of the Fifth District SWAT Team.”

On behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police, Sgt. Robert Petersen also presented Kaczmark, who began working as a Worth police officer in 1994, with a shadow box of his patches and badges commemorating his accomplishments throughout his entire career.

“There’s not a police officer in this building that doesn’t have skin in the game here,” said Kaczmark to a room that was filled with officers in and out of uniform as well as his family. “And I just want to commend all my brothers and sisters in blue for all they’ve done for me. They’ve had my back, they made sure I went home every night to my family, and I can’t thank them enough.”

Kaczmark personally thanked the village board for the opportunity and honor of being an officer representing the Village of Worth. He individually thanked Mayor Mary Werner. “She has been 100 percent behind the police department as well as this entire board,” said Kaczmark.

“Bonnie Price will do anything for anybody. She is the unofficial member of everyone’s family and I thank you for everything you’ve done for me,” said Kaczmark, offering his gratitude to the village clerk.

The meeting wrapped up with a business owner’s public comment on parking restrictions. He expressed the need for 90-minute parking as stated in the parking ordinance that was adopted in 2005. The signs that are located near his business on 111th Street state 60-minute parking and motorcycle parking only.

Werner said that she understands that the situation is confusing and has plans to contact the Illinois Department of Transportation to look into the state road restrictions in order to amend the ordinance to 90-minute parking.

Evergreen Park District 124 has healthy outlook on generosity

  • Written by Claudia Parker

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Photo by Claudia Parker

Students at Central Middle School in Evergreen Park hosted a Holiday Movie Night and collected goods for the annual food drive to help those in need.

 

The Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124 provided plenty of cheers this past holiday season.

Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest that being generous will actually make you happier. A study by the University of Pennsylvania states that generous people are healthier as well.

“The district office staff used to do a holiday gift exchange, but we changed it to focus on the kids,” said Deb Wlodarski, administrative assistant to the director of curriculum. “I’ve been here for 25 years. We’ve been doing this at least 15.”

What began as an office grab-bag quickly transitioned to charitable donations given to families most in need.

“The social workers from each school provide names of families they feel could benefit from receiving assistance granting their children a gift from their holiday wish list,” said Jean Hector, administrative assistant to the director of student support services. “With the parent or guardian's consent, district office employees are then able to select an item to purchase specific to that child’s request.”

“The families are always so appreciative, it just warms our hearts watching them pick up their gifts,” said Jan Stanton, community outreach coordinator for District 124.

Southeast School has adopted the administrative office’s concept. The staff decorated a giving tree with wish list items anonymously provided for staff to select and purchase for students most in need.

Central Middle School was hoping to restock the Evergreen Park food pantry, which often gets depleted after Thanksgiving.

“On Friday, Dec. 2, we hosted a holiday movie night for students with popcorn and other concessions, the cost of admission was a nonperishable food item,” said Holly Trojanowski, CMS administrative assistant. The Movie Night was a huge success, as students covered the gymnasium floor like wall-to-wall carpet. They collected more food -- over 200 cans -- from just this one night than their previous year’s annual food drive.”

Southeast School had a head start on this mission, as their Southeast Eagle Spirit (SEES) Booster club collected a full banquet table of food donations just prior to Thanksgiving break.

While toys bring smiles to faces and food warms the soul, Southwest School was hoping to warm extremities. Their Bulldog Booster Club sponsored a mitten drive and their Daisy Troop collected socks.

“There’s going to be a healthy competition between the classrooms to see who can collect the most,” said Therese O’Toole, Southwest School secretary.

The recipients of these donations may never get the privilege of knowing the joy experienced by the givers involved. And, until now, they may not have known the backstory of how they came to receive what was given.

Over the previous five years, Laura Frey, a universal banker at Evergreen Bank Group, has been dropping off large quantities of school supplies to the District 124 administrative office. The supplies have always been appreciated and put to great use, but this year there was an unusually large donation.

“This is not from me,” said Frey. “These donations are coming from the entire community. We advertise this school supply drive in our branch, the local newspaper, our bank website and on our social media. People from the community, including bank employees, bank patrons, and the bank itself provide donations.”

Frey said she’s a lifelong resident of Evergreen Park with children who have attended Northwest School, Central Middle School and Evergreen Park High School.

“When my kids were in school, I always had extra school supplies to donate,” she said. “The principal would put them aside and, when he saw a student in need, he’d pass them along. Once I started working for the bank, I suggested that we collectively offer school supplies to District 124 and everyone willingly jumped on board.”

“Learning the origin of the school supply drive sponsored by the Evergreen Bank Group has given District 124 an even greater appreciation for the generosity they’ve provided,” said Dr. Robert Machak, the district superintendent.

Carson's neighbors are arriving soon

  • Written by Joe Boyle

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Photo by Joe Boyle

The new Carson’s building at 9700 S. Western Ave., Evergreen Park, will be sharing the parking lot with a series of retail businesses that are scheduled to be built by the end of the summer.

 


The new Carson’s has been attracting large crowds since it opened in September in Evergreen Park. By the end of the summer, the store will share the location with several other retail shops and restaurants in the area that was once the Evergreen Plaza.

As of New Year’s Eve, several brick structures were standing alongside the new Carson’s at 9700 S. Western Ave. Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton is delighted with the progress so far, acknowledging that construction will slow down during the winter months.

“They are running on time,” said Sexton. “I think most of these buildings will be built by the end of the summer. I can’t wait to see it. “

Sexton and the village administration are pleased with how well the New Carson’s has done in the four months it has been open. Ironically, the old Carson’s building currently shares the same parking lot with the new facility. The old Carson’s is the last remaining shell from the Evergreen Plaza, which was demolished in the fall of 2015.

Demolition of the old Carson’s was due to take place this month, Sexton said. The mayor mentioned that someone has purchased the old Plaza office tower office next to the old Carson’s. He is not sure what, if any, impact it will have on the demolition plans for the old Carson’s building.

The Lorimax Stern Development Company, of Bloomfield Hills. Mich.., is overseeing the project for the new retail shops and restaurants that are being built.

While the old Carson’s is the last retail store that dates back to glory years of The Plaza, Planet Fitness along 95th Street had been in operation since the later years of the iconic shopping center. Applebee’s, an outlet restaurant located near where the old Plaza sign was erected, has also been in operation. The lone traffic that goes into the parking lot along 95th Street is for Planet Fitness and Applebee’s.

The new Carson’s is going to be joined by DSW, Petco, TJ Maxx, Ulta, Rally House, Carter’s Oshkosh, Dressbarn and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“Dick’s Sporting Goods is scheduled to be built by the end of the summer,” said Sexton. “That would be great. “It’s hard for me to visualize this until it is finished.”

Ample parking is available. Sexton added that a series of restaurants will be built along Western Avenue and they will be sharing the back of the parking lot.

I hope everything is in place this fall,” added Sexton. “I can’t wait to see the paved parking lots, the landscaping, the stores and the restaurants. I want everyone to see the artistry.”

The Evergreen Plaza opened in 1952 as an open-air shopping center developed by Arthur Rubloff.  The shopping center grew in popularity and became one of the first enclosed malls in the country in 1966. The mall at its peak in the 1970s had Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward’s, Woolworth’s, Lytton’s and Walgreens. 

While still profitable in the 1980s, the opening of the Chicago Ridge Mall in 1981 and to a degree the expansion of the Orland Park Mall led to the Plaza’s demise. After Montgomery Ward closed in 2001, the Plaza suffered through numerous more vacancies escalated by the recession in 2008. By 2013, The Plaza was virtually closed with the exception of Carson’s and a couple of other businesses.

Dashboard cameras get green light for Chicago Ridge police cars

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The Chicago Ridge Village Board recently gave Police Chief Rob Pyznarski the “go-ahead” to start pricing dashboard cameras to be installed in village patrol cars.

Pyznarski made the request during the board’s Dec. 20 meeting. He estimated that the cost of the cameras could end up being anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000. However, he said that none of the cost would be borne by local taxpayers.

The chief said that the camera program, which would include audio equipment as well, qualifies for the cost to be paid for out of the funds the department receives from other sources.

“Because it involves equipment improvements, we can use the funds we are allocated from asset forfeiture programs involving crimes connected to narcotics and money laundering,” he explained.

Illinois state police cars are required to have dashboard cameras with audio capabilities installed, but municipalities are not required to do so. However, the board agreed with Pyznarski that they are beneficial.

“Overall, it is for the protection of the police and the citizenry,” said Pyznarski.

“They will be there for the benefit of the police as much as the public,” added Mayor Chuck Tokar. He pointed out that a lot of accusations are made against the police, and having video footage can solve a lot of disputes.

Pyznarski said that it has not been decided yet whether all 14 squad cars should be equipped with the cameras. Cost may be a deciding factor. He also pointed out that once a camera has been installed in a car, the vehicle cannot be taken out on patrol unless the equipment is operational because having non-working cameras would be problematic.

“With your permission, we will start the process of comparing the options available and soliciting for bids. We will then come back to you with the top three choices for your final approval. We will get it done as soon as possible, but it could be closer to February,” he said.

Pyznarski noted that the camera program will take up some work by staff, who will have to review the footage recorded. The recordings will also have to be stored for a certain period of time.

At previous meetings, the police chief has also discussed the pros and cons of body cameras, which are also being used by some departments. But he said on Dec. 20 that their use is more complicated than dash cams, and the department is waiting for various legal issues to be ironed out at the state level before seriously considering them.

Evergreen Park seeks funding for capital improvements

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

The Evergreen Park Village Board welcomed the new year with a balanced budget and calls for an appropriation ordinance and liquor license requests during the Tuesday night meeting.

A proposed appropriation ordinance for fiscal year beginning Nov. 1, 2016 and ending Oct. 31, 2017 for Evergreen Park was presented at a public hearing prior to the regularly scheduled board meeting on Tuesday. The meeting was brief, with no questions or comments from the public.

Presenting the proposed ordinance was Village Treasurer John Sawyers, who stated that the village is operating with a balanced budget.

“In the general fund, we are requesting an appropriation of $26, 419,574 as we have a surplus of nearly $11,000,” said Sawyers.

He added that there have been significant capital expenditures such as six new squad cars, totaling $159,000; a new prisoner transport van at $87,000; a new ambulance at $153,000; and a body camera system for police officers at $115,000.

Other large expenditures included a HVAC system upgrade at the firing range, a backstop at Duffy Park, a new roof at the storage garage and a truck upgrade.

As for the sewer and water fund, Sawyers said an appropriation of $7,075,340 is requested because there is a surplus of $41,660 in the fund.

Trustee Mark Mazullo commented that public safety was the number one concern for the board as the budget was discussed.

“All the department heads were very reasonable in their requests as we met in our budget meetings and we were able to meet their requests,” said Mazullo.

According to Sawyers, approval of the appropriation ordinance is anticipated at the Jan.17 board meeting.

In the board meeting following the public hearing, an ordinance was approved to amend the village municipal code to add a Class H Liquor License.

The approval was based on a request from Chicago Famous Seafood, The Crazy Crab, located at 9204 S. Western Ave., to change from a Class E to Class H liquor license. The change will allow them to serve specified drinks such as margaritas or daiquiris in addition to the beer and wine allowed under their Class E liquor license. The Class H license limits the consumption of the alcohol to the premises only.

The board also approved a business certificate for the new owners of a Brown’s Chicken restaurant at 3414 W. 95th St., now a Brown’s Chicken J.J. Fish & Shrimp, but only after several questions were raised by the board.

Mayor James Sexton told the new owners, Steve Matariyeh and Samer Alsalibi, that the restaurant has been a solid business in the community for many years and he hoped that it would continue in the same manner.

“What kind of changes are you planning for the site?” Sexton asked.

The owners stated that the primary change was adding additional seafood items to the menu. They were also planning painting and general clean-up of the facility.

Trustee James McQuillan said he would be more comfortable if the new owners would meet with the village building commissioner and go over their plans for any changes or additions they were planning.

Sexton agreed. “I think it is a good idea to meet and make sure your mechanicals with the new additions are good and up to par.”

The mayor also announced that the next board meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 17 due to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance on Monday, Jan. 16.