Finally, some ice weather for Palos Hills event

  • Written by Kelly White


After three years of weather-related cancellations,PAGE-4-TylerTyler Rafa, 6, of Palos Hills scores a goal during Friday night’s Skate Under the Stars at Glacier Park. The event was canceled the last three years because of weather problems. Photos by Jeff Vorva. Skate Under the Stars in Palos Hills was finally able to take place Friday night.
The outdoor ice-skating event took place at Glacier Park, West 101st Street and South 78th Avenue for the fisrt time in 2011. The 2014 Skate Under the Stars was scheduled to take place but heavy rain on the day of the event called for a last-minute cancellation.
Both the 2012 and 2013 events were cancelled due to unseasonably warm winter weather when Glacier Park was described by one city alderman as more of a lake instead than an ice-skating rink. The 2015 event was finally able to take place with the perfect mix of a cold winter and a mild night although temperatures in the high 30s during the day cast some doubt.
Tyler Rafa, 6, of Palos Hills showed off his ice skating skills while wearing a personalized Blackhawks jersey. An avid hockey player at Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood, Rafa says he loves hockey and plays any chance he gets. His father, Joe, tended to differ on his views of the ice and hockey.
“I like field hockey better,” Joe joked.
Joe had just learned how to ice skate a few months prior to the event, according to Tyler’s uncle, Mark Kleefisch of Mokena.
“Even if you aren’t the best skater, this is a really nice event and it’s beautiful outside,” Kleefisch said.
The family event is sponsored by 4th ward Aldermen Joe Marrotta and Ricky Moore and encouraged local families to come out of winter hibernation. Marrotta watched alongside the rink as his two sons, Sean, 18, and Kyle, 16, played an intense game of hockey.
“My sons are very athletic and competitive but prefer hockey for fun,” Marrotta said.
Marrotta’s older son may not play hockey in college but he will play on the gridiron. Sean was recently Page-4-girlIsabella Stillo, 7, of Palos Hills skates around at the Skate Under the Stars event.offered a full football scholarship and he is planning on attending Benedictine University.
Although boys were dominating the hockey portion of the ice rink, they were not the only ones enjoying the event. Isabella Stillo, 7, of Palos Hills, gracefully made her way across the ice with her dream of one day becoming an Olympic figure skater.
“I really like ice skating a lot,” she said, “I take lessons and I am able to do tricks now too. When I grow up I am going to be a figure skater.”
Stillo also takes ice skating lessons at Southwest Arena.
“She is very good,” her mother, Carol, said, “Her younger sister (Lese) did not take so well to the sport, but Isabella just loves ice skating and she really is one of the top skaters in her class.”
Lese, 6, originally signed up for ice skating with her sister but gave up the sport after only a few weeks.
“She didn’t like it,” her sister explained.
However, the sisters both were having fun Friday night skating hand-in-hand with their mother back and forth across the ice.
Not only is the event is designed to bring everyone together, it encourages and gives children in the community a chance to get outside and get some exercise during the cold weather, while enjoying the winter weather by ice skating, playing hockey and enjoying the heat of a couple of nearby fire pits.


‘Water is gold’

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

But taxpayers have to come up with that gold in Palos Hills

The cost of water for Palos Hills residents has gone up nearly 100 percent in the last five years.
That sobering fact came from Mayor Gerald Bennett at the City Council meeting last Thursday – the same meeting that during which Alderman Frank Williams (5th Ward) confirmed there was another double-digit percent increase coming to residents in 2015.
“When we warned about [the spike in water costs] five years ago, I used the term ‘water is gold’ and it’s certainly moving in that direction,” Bennett said. “In tallying, over the last five years there has been an increase of $1 million in purchasing consumption by residents of the City of Palos Hills.”
The climb in water rates is a trickle-down effect that starts with the City of Chicago. Palos Hills and 12 other nearby municipalities receive water from Oak Lawn via Chicago. Roughly five years ago Chicago announced it was going to increase its cost to Oak Lawn to pay for repairs to its water system. Oak Lawn had to pass along those rate increases to its clients as well as impose its own increase to help pay for a $180 million overhaul to its own water system. Palos Hills then tacks on a small increase to its residents to cover operational and maintenance costs, Bennett said.
The minimum monthly water bill for a Palos Hills resident in 2015 is $55.95, which translates to $34.88 for the first 4,000 gallons used as well as $11.50 for sanitary sewer service and $9.57 for general capital improvement, Williams said. The cost of a minimum water bill in Palos Hills is $3.18 more than last year, Williams noted.
The overall percent increase from last year is around 10 percent, which is actually less than the 15 percent to 17 percent city officials were expecting back in the fall. Oak Lawn decided to use a new rate model that basis the increase on the proximity of its clients, Williams said. Communities further south of Oak Lawn will see a larger increase, he said.
Palos Hills residents are charged for a minimum of 4,000 gallons whether used or not. Bennett said this is done to cover the operational costs of the water system.
“People sometimes think all they pay for is when they turn it on and water is coming out, but there are water lines that need to be maintained,” Bennett said. “When you turn on the water it has to go somewhere so we charge a minimum to cover our operational costs.”
The good news is that after this year residents aren’t expected to see a double-digit increase for the foreseeable future. Bennett said Chicago has already stated its increase will be based on the consumer price index and then Oak Lawn will pass along a minor charge making the increase around 4 percent for 2016.
In other news, Alderman Ricky Moore (4th Ward) warned residents of a phone scam in which the caller identities himself as a ComEd employee and claims the residents’ electric service will be disconnected unless the payment is made.
“These impersonators instruct customers to buy a prepaid credit card and call back to a different phone number with the personal identification number or other personal information,” Moore said. “Remember that ComEd representatives will never call you to ask you for cash or request that you purchase a prepaid credit card to make a payment on your bill.”
Moore said scammers are even using a tactic called “Caller ID spoofing” to manipulate the displayed phone number so that it appears as a different number.
“Your display can say Bank of America or Internal Revenue Service but don’t believe it,” Moore said. “The display [number] is not hard to change.”
Bennett said the city puts information on the latest scams on its website, but often that is not enough to thwart con artists.
“We will continue providing the information as best we can but people have got to be aware,” Bennett said.
“These scams are just crazy – they are off the chart,” Moore added. “Whether it be email or phone the key term is ‘be aware.’ No valid institution will call you to ask your personal or sensitive information over the phone. If you get a phone and they do then that is your first red flag that it is a scam.”
Moore said anyone who believes they received a phone call matching that description should visit Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s website at for more information.

A lot of barking about parking

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Truckers hope for  answers in Hickory

Hickory Hills truck owners can weigh in next Thursday night on stricter enforcement of truck-parking restrictions when the city council debates the issue.

The discussion will be part of the council’s committee meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 8652 W. 95th St.
Truck owners are concerned that if the city begins to strictly enforce an existing ordinance governing weight limits for trucks, they no longer will be able to park their vehicles at home.
That’s a major inconvenience for many truck owners because they would have to park the vehicles elsewhere. Also, many truck owners keep expensive equipment in their vehicles and prefer the security of having them parked at home.
A handful of truck owners attended last Thursday’s meeting but were told to hold off until the committee meeting to voice their concerns.
The issue gained traction in November when the police issued tickets to several overweight trucks. The citations caught owners by surprise, as they had not previously received them.
The police department has placed a moratorium on ticketing truck owners for weight violations until the city council makes a decision on the matter, Police Chief Alan Vodicka said.
However, some of the truck owners who attended last Thursday’s meeting did so after receiving a letter from a truck owner saying the tickets for overweight trucks would be written beginning in January.
“A lot of the people (at the meeting) were thinking, ‘Hey, we’re going to get tickets,’” Howley said.
Currently, the city has an 8,000-pound limit for trucks parked on residential streets. The weight limit for trucks bearing “B” plates is 8,000 pounds. Trucks over that weight carry a “D” license.
While many larger pickups, including dually trucks (pickups with dual wheels on the rear axle), do not exceed the weight limit, box trucks typically do.
Box trucks often are used by companies that haul appliances or furniture. They also are used as moving trucks.

Palos Hills residents need prior permission to park overnight on the streets

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

By Michael Gilbert

Palos Hills has changed the way residents can obtain permission for overnight parking on city streets, and those not in compliance risk receiving an $80 ticket.
Budget cuts approximately five years ago prompted the Palos Hills Police Department to scale back from being open at all times to 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but since that time residents have been able to dial 911 after business hours to notify authorities they will have a car parked on the street overnight. The 911 calls were answered by operators from the Palos Heights-based Southwest Central Dispatch who would then send a log sheet over to Palos Hills police officers on duty overnight.
But just a few weeks ago, Palos Hills Police Chief Paul Madigan was notified by Southwest Central Dispatch that the task of fielding calls pertaining to overnight parking had become “too cumbersome” and was taking away from their other job duties.
“Since we don’t have the station open 24 hours anymore, Southwest Central Dispatch was doing us a courtesy and taking those calls,” Madigan said following the City Council meeting last Thursday. “But they told us it had become too cumbersome and they had to stop it. Southwest Central was just doing us a favor for a while but you can’t be taking them away from their 911 calls.”
Residents who do not notify the police department by the end of business hours that they intend to park a car on the street overnight are subject to an $80 ticket, Alderman AJ Pasek (3rd Ward) said. Pasek brought the issue of overnight parking up for discussion because in this month’s Palos Hills newsletter he wrote in his column space that residents should still dial 911 after hours. Unbeknownst to him - and just a few pages over from his column – Madigan wrote about the change in procedure and that 911 operators were no longer fielding calls for overnight parking.
“I’m writing one thing and the chief is writing another thing in the same newsletter,” Pasek said. “When I read that I was saying to myself ‘what the heck is going on here?’ It turns out the change had just happened so I just wanted to clarify the situation.”
Pasek said the overnight parking ban in Palos Hills dates back to at least the 1970s.
“The main reason for the ban is safety for emergency vehicles getting down the street,” Pasek said. “If there was a fire and a lot of fire trucks had to get into an area it could be tough. This way we know who is parking on the street and if there is a problem we can call and say ‘you’re going to have to move your car because we have an emergency situation.’”
Both Pasek and Alderman Joan Knox (1st Ward) brought up the idea of allowing people to leave a message of an answering machine if they intend to park a vehicle on the street overnight.
“If there name is on the answering machine and a ticket is issued then the police department just sends them a letter saying to disregard the ticket that was issued,” Pasek said.
The council did not make an official decision on whether or not to utilize an answering machine in the future.

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.