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Hickory Hills public works director stuns board with retirement announcement

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Business was conducted as usual at the Hickory Hills City Council meeting last Thursday until near the end of the session when it was revealed that Public Works Director Larry Boettcher was retiring after 25 years of service to the village.

Boettcher, who routinely reports at every council meeting, caught council members by surprise when he started his report by saying, “Tonight, with a heavy heart, I must announce that I will be retiring on July 20 after 25 years of service as director of Public Works. On that date, I will begin the pursuit of the fantasies of retirement.”

He added that it was a pleasure working for a city that allowed the Public Works Department to pursue and advance many projects that brought improvements to the city.

Upon completion of his report, he was honored with a lengthy standing ovation.

Mayor Mike Howley responded with many compliments stating that under Boettcher’s leadership the department had made dramatic strides in improving its operations.

“It has been a wonderful privilege having you heading our department,” he said.

In a later conversation, Howley said there will be a discussion on plans to honor Boettcher at the July council meeting.

 “I will speak with him about that to see if he is in agreement,” Howley said. “Traditionally, for some reason, our public works staff shy away from public acknowledgements, but we will see what we can do as he is going to really be missed.”

In other business, two ordinances were approved regarding water rates and sanitary sewer rates. In compliance with rate increases from Cook County, minimum charge water rates for residents will be $97.80 per quarterly billing. Commercial users minimal charge will be $40.75 per monthly billing. Rate increases became effective June 1.

According to the water rate ordinance, any single-family residential user who qualifies as a senior citizen will not be subject to the minimum billing amount and minimum charge.

Wastewater service charges for residential, commercial and industrial users will be a basic charge of $4.20 per month, plus $1.50 per thousand gallons or fraction thereof.

Other action included a brief public hearing conducted by city attorney Vince Cainkar regarding a change to the Hickory Hills Zoning Ordinance. Cainkar was seeking approval to update the zoning ordinance to include requirements for drive-through facilities and windows.

Cainkar said that when the original ordinance was approved many years ago, drive-through facilities and windows did not exist in businesses in the city.

“We need to add regulations and guidance for these facilities as they will continue to increase,” he said.

Ald. Brian Waight (1st) asked if the new ordinance would affect the proposed plans for a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through on the property located just east of the City Hall.

 “What is already in won’t be affected, but in the future some things could be changed, if the city decided it was necessary,” Cainkar replied.

The proposed ordinance was approved unanimously.

 “This will help us with the safety of our residents and future development,” Howley said.

On another matter, Police Sergeant Glenn Tienstra, who was sitting in for Chief Al Vodicka at the meeting, issued an alert to residents that there has been a recent increase in car burglaries in the city.

 “Residents need to be sure their cars are locked at all times, whether in the driveway or on the street,” he said

  He also added that cars should be locked at gas stations when the driver enters the station. Don’t leave them unattended or unlocked. It just takes a second for someone to steal your belongings.”

He also warned residents about scamming phone calls saying that they are from the IRS.

 “This is also an increasing event. A scammer calls and tells the victim they owe the IRS money and they will be arrested if they don’t pay. They then tell the victim to purchase a $500 gift card from a large store such as Target or Best Buy and to give the caller the ID number,” he said.

Tienstra urged any resident who received such a call to ignore the instructions but to try and get the name or number and report it immediately to the police department.

 “We work with the FBI to try to trace these calls, so please call us,” he said.  He also added that the IRS does not ever call people. “That is how you can know it is a scam.”

Local contingent carry torch for fallen officer and Special Olympics

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

 carries torch photo 6-21                                                                                                            

                                                                                    Photo by Dermot Connolly

Chicago Ridge Sgt. Dave Mitchell carries the torch on Harlem Avenue in Palos Heights, completing the 2.8-mile journey from Chicago Ridge during the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics on June 13.

The local leg of the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics began bright and early on June 13 outside Chicago Ridge Village Hall, where dozens gathered at 7 a.m. for a ceremony before the 2.8 mile run/walk to Palos Heights.

For the past five years, this leg of the event, from the Chicago Ridge Village Hall at 10455 S.  Ridgeland Ave. has been done in honor of Illinois State Trooper James Sauter, a Chicago Ridge native who was killed in the line of duty on March 29, 2013, when a truckdriver crashed into his police car on Interstate 294 in Northbrook.

In honor of the fifth anniversary, the U.S. flag outside Village Hall at 10455 S. Ridgeland Ave., was solemnly lowered and folded, and presented to Sauter’s parents, Donald and Eileen, by members of Boy Scout Troop 665.

“We thank you for your sacrifice,” said Trustee Deb Pyznarski, one of the organizers of the event.

Then, following a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of the Star-Spangled Banner, the group set out for Palos Heights, with Deputy Chief Jim Jarolimek carrying the torch at first. He then passed it to Sgt. Dave Mitchell, who carried it into Palos Heights, where he handed it off to Officer Brent Dreger at Route 83 and Harlem Avenue.

From there, a contingent of Palos Heights officers, family members and residents picked up the torch and ran for 14 miles to LaGrange Road and Interstate 80 in Mokena. The final destination for the torch was Normal, where the Illinois Special Olympics were to start on Friday.

Approximately 3,000 officers were expected to carry the Flame of Hope nearly 1,500 miles on 23 legs around the state between June 10 and 15.

Because of Sauter’s anniversary, there was a larger than usual contingent of participants from the Illinois State Police, who either ran themselves or accompanied the runners in police vehicles and motorcycles to provide traffic control.

“We’re here to support the Sauter family,” said Capt. Bob Meeter, of Illinois Police District 15. “I want to make sure his family knows he will never be forgotten.”

A handful of runners from the Worth Police Department also joined the Chicago Ridge police, residents and officials who ran or walked to Palos Heights. Chicago Ridge Village Clerk Barb Harrison, an avid runner, was among those who completed the trek to Harlem Avenue and Route 83, while other officials, including Mayor Chuck Tokar, and trustees Jack Lind, Ed Kowalski and Bill McFarland ran or walked at least part of the distance along Ridgeland Avenue to 111th Street, and then to Harlem Avenue over the Cal-Sag Channel bridge into Palos Heights.

“I’m walking. I haven’t run since third grade,” said Tokar, who donned shorts and gym shoes for the occasion.

“Special Olympics is more than a worthy cause, and this is its 50th anniversary” said Tokar. “Everyone knows someone (who benefits from Special Olympics).”

He also said the amount of people who also come out to support the police is important too, “when it seems like the blue family is under attack.”

“I’ll admit, I walked up the bridge. The humidity was very bad,” said Harrison.

At the meeting point, the Chicago Ridge contingent were greeted by Palos Heights police officials, including Chief George L. “Larry” Yot, Deputy Chief Bill Czajkowski and Officer Kevin Apostal, one of the main organizers.

Chicago Ridge Police Chief Rob Pyznarski, who led the group in his police vehicle, brought a cooler full of water bottles for everyone.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run has raised more than $47 million over 32 years while increasing awareness of Special Olympics athletes and their accomplishments.

The Chicago Ridge police chief said the department raised $5,400 for Special Olympics this year, the first time the department participated in the Cop on Top event with Dunkin’ Donuts.

Czajkowski said $19,000 was raised in Palos Heights last year, and Apostal said about the same was raised this year, through the Cop on Top program as well as the torch run.

“That is a lot for a relatively small community. Our goal is to get our name on the commemorative shirts as one of the top donors in the state. But it is hard to compete with Chicago,” said Apostal.

He was among those who made it all the way to Mokena, carrying the American flag for much of the trip.

“This is really a great event. And it never seems to rain when we are doing it,” said Apostal.

Homeless advocates say new regulations will reduce shelters in Oak Lawn

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

     Homeless advocates have raised concerns that the new Oak Lawn village code requiring churches used as overnight shelters to have sprinkler systems will result in a shortage of shelters next fall.

     The code requirements pertain to the six churches in the village that offer temporary overnight shelter to homeless people on alternating nights between October and April. The shelter program is coordinated with Beds Plus, a LaGrange-based agency that offers shelters and other services to the homeless population.

     When the new ordinance was passed, it was understood by Beds Plus officials that the existing shelters would be “grandfathered in.” and given time to comply. But Flo Breitbarth, shelter operations manager for Beds Plus, said this week that two of the six churches that offer shelters have opted out of the program for the current year due to the requirements for sprinklers and fire alarms.

    She said these include Mt. Zion Lutheran Church at 10400 S. Kostner Ave., and Calvin Christian Reformed Church, 10056 S. Central Ave. She said a third church, Wesleyan Community Church, 8844 S. Austin Ave., also will likely not be offering a shelter this year because of work being done there.

    “We’re hoping there might be some concession,” said Breitbarth, otherwise, there will be several nights during the week when no shelters will be available locally.

   Village Manager Larry Deetjen said that the board addressed “life safety” issues in 2014 when the code was adopted, and all churches were given a three-year “grace period to comply.”

    He noted that the village originally had four churches offering shelters in the 1990s, when the economy was worse.

“Oak Lawn’s population has not changed and our economy is quite better today so having four churches participate while ensuring the safety of both our volunteers and participants would be an appropriate and fundamental goal,” he said.

   Our Lady of the Ridge church in Chicago Ridge also offers a shelter, and there is one each in Worth and Palos Hills. But Breitbarth said that with three churches closing shelters, there will be gaps in service.

The original shelter program began in Oak Lawn in 1997, after a homeless person died outside in 1997. On the nights that shelters are offered, the churches open their doors for 12 hours. Mattresses are provided and volunteers prepare meals for the clients and provide them with a bag lunch each morning that they can take with them for lunch.

“The village is going to work with existing shelters. It is a process and we recognize that any charitable organization does not have the funds available to make the changes. But if we have lesser standards for homeless shelters than for daycare facilities or schools, we would be criticized also,” said Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury.

“We don’t want any homeless shelters to close. We appreciate the necessary work they do. What we do want to see is a safe operation. Anyone who calls it something else has another agenda,” said the mayor.

“It is a big commitment for these churches. But, again, if something, God forbid, were to happen, we would be blamed if we didn’t have the regulations in place,” she added.

     When the issue came up in November, some Oak Lawn residents said the village was already shouldering too much of the burden and churches in other communities should step in.

Responding to that argument, Breitbarth agreed that Oak Lawn has the most shelters. But she pointed out that Oak Lawn also has the biggest population and the most churches, compared with surrounding communities.

    “I have been reaching out to churches in Evergreen Park, Alsip and elsewhere. But it is difficult. We desperately need more shelters. But the problem I am running into is that many communities don’t have good bus service either, so people can’t easily get there. The good thing about Oak Lawn is that it does have excellent bus service and excellent transit lines.”

An EP institution celebrates 125 years

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

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                                             Photo by Joe Boyle

A celebration will be held at First United Methodist Church in Evergreen Park this month to mark the 125th anniversary of the church.

When members or visitors walk through First United Methodist Church in Evergreen Park, they can’t help but to feel a sense of nostalgia.

Jan Paris, who is the wife of the pastor, Lawrence Paris, said she heard her share of stories about the history of the church, 9358 S. Homan Ave., that dates back 125 years.

“I have heard a lot of stories since we have been here,” Paris said Monday as her husband was out attending to some church business. “Some of the older members told me that people would sometimes roller skate on the roof, because it was a flat roof.”

The church, along with the Village of Evergreen Park, came into existence in 1893. A celebration will be held to mark the anniversary of the village this summer. A dinner celebration will be held Sunday, June 24 at the church. Reservations are required by Sunday, June 17 and can be made by calling the church office, (708) 422-8451. The fee is $10 per person for the dinner and the celebration.

Paris and her husband have been at the church for five years but feel as though they are right at home.

“We really like it here,” she said. “We feel very comfortable and the people here are very friendly.”

Paris said that the church was nothing more than a basement cellar originally. It was no larger than a small home. It then grew from a small residence to the church that can be seen today.

While the church expanded along with Evergreen Park, Paris pointed out that First United Methodist is more than a link to the past.

“We have all ages who come to this church,” Paris said. “We have people coming here with babies to someone who is 100 years old. “

Paris said that the church has an active youth group that takes part in a variety of activities. The church also has a men’s group that meets on Saturday mornings. Like the youth group, many of the members of the men’s group volunteer to assist at church functions. The men usually hold Bible study sessions on Saturday mornings.

Nursery care sessions are held at the church and include a storytime hour on Saturday mornings, Paris said.

The musical director at First United Methodist is Amy Kazin, who also serves as the musical director at Evergreen Park Community High School. Ken Kazin, her husband, serves at the church and is the band director at Evergreen Park High School.

The longtime organist at the church is Ray Paschke, who is a retired elementary school teacher. Paschke has been a loyal addition to the church, Paris said.

The First United Methodist Women also holds dinners and special luncheons. Church activities also include a fish boil and a Christmas party. They also hold cookie sales. Church members also made prayer shawls to provide comfort to those in need or who are ill.

Volunteers at the church also make and provide food for Beds Plus, which cares for the homeless and those in need. The volunteers bring the food to a church in Oak Lawn under the guidance of Beds Plus.

Paris again expressed her admiration for the youth group that reaches out to adults and children who are in need.

“Just this past Sunday they were at the Ronald McDonald House (in Oak Lawn),” Paris said. “They were reaching out to kids who are ill.”

Members of the congregation not only remain active at the church, but in the community as well.

“We will have a float in the Fourth of July Parade (the parade will be held along 95th Street beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 3),” Paris said. “We are looking for people to come on the float. Of course, we would like them to call the church first.”

Paris said that many members of the church become involved in spiritual side. Two members have become lay persons at First United Methodist.

Paris and her husband have several children and four grandchildren. Paris said she even met her future husband at church and enjoys living next door to First United. While she would like to see more members, she is pleased with the spirit of those who come to Evergreen Park’s oldest church.

“We don’t have a lot of members, but they still pray for us,” Paris said. “But we have younger people coming here. That is good for the future.”

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Groundbreaking held for major project at Marist

  • Written by Staff reports

marist groundbreaking photo  6-14

 

Storms forced Marist’s groundbreaking ceremony on May 14 inside the monastery. Pictured are (from left) Marist Principal Larry Tucker, donors Gerald and Jennifer Beeson, Coordinator of Science Curriculum Carrie Spano, donors John and Laura Potocsnak, Student Council President Kaleb Weisenfluh, Marist President Br. Hank Hammer, and School Board Chair Brian Dolan.

 

A groundbreaking ceremony was held last month to kick-off the Faith in the Future Campaign to upgrade the current monastery building into a science wing at Marist High School, 4200 W. 115th St., Chicago.

The goal of the campaign is $15 million, including the addition of 10 science labs and an astronomy dome.

Br. Hank Hammer, president of Marist High School, welcomed board members, donors, parents, faculty, alumni, and friends of the school to the event on May 14 and shared how appropriate it is that the monastery (the former residence for the Marist Brothers) will become a science center since the Brothers lived in the science labs when the school was first built in 1963.

The converted building will give the school 20 percent additional learning space including labs dedicated to physics, biology, chemistry, environmental science, anatomy, and forensics. Physics labs will have direct outdoor access for experiments, while the forensics lab will have a protected crime scene and the anatomy lab will have a patient diagnostic area with computerized medical mannequins.

“Health sciences is the second highest area of focus for our graduates in college,” Principal Larry Tucker, Class of 1979, explained. “This science center will give them hands-on learning opportunities that reflect real world situations. Students will have the opportunity for personal research projects as well.”

Carrie Spano, coordinator of curriculum for science, noted that current science classes share lab time. The new wing will put students in labs every day with the flexibility to move from lecture to group work to experimentation seamlessly.

“It’s a game changer for teachers and students,” Spano said.

Spano also noted that the astronomy dome will offer curriculum and learning opportunities that few other high schools can offer.

The long-planned project was spurred to action by major gifts from John and Laura Potocsnak, and Gerald, Class of ’90, and Jennifer Beeson. Their early investments set the wheels in motion to move forward with the campaign that will continue to transform Marist’s campus for the 21st century.

Assuming all fundraising goals are met, the approximately $12 million science center will open for the 2019-20 school year. The additional $3 million set to be raised will go towards the refurbishment of the school’s library, art center, and band room, among other areas. The current labs will also be converted into additional classrooms and student spaces.

For more information on the Faith in the Future Campaign, including online donations and major gifts, visit www.marist.net or call (773) 881-5379.