Palos Hills gets charge out of being charged less for electricity

  • Written by Kelly White

  City of Palos Hills officials say they not only provide their residents with one of the lowest property tax rates in the Cook County area but for the past year they have been saving their residents big bucks on their monthly electric bills as well.

  In March 2012, voters in the city of Palos Hills approved a referendum allowing the community to contract with an energy supplier to reduce electricity costs for its residents. Northern Illinois Electrical Collaborative representative, Larry Shover, negotiated electric prices between energy suppliers and received bids from that he then submitted to Mayor Jerry Bennett and the Palos Hills City Council, and upon agreement, the city of Palos Hills chose First Energy Solutions Corporation as their supplier of choice for their municipal aggregation program.
  Residents who participated in the City of Palos Hills Electric Aggregation Savings Program have enjoyed savings on their ComEd bills since the program’s inception in the summer of 2012. Residential and small commercial accounts received a fixed rate of 4.74 cents per kilowatt hour for a two-year term with FirstEnergy. The ComEd rate adjusts monthly for residents who have chosen not to opt into the contract with FirstEnergy, and as of November 2013, ComEd’s rate stood at 6.005 cents per kWh (a 21 percent reduction).
  “Even with the ComEd rates changing and lowering, we are still saving a significant amount of money,” Shover said at last Thursday’s City Council Meeting. “And, the good thing about FirstEnergy is the rates do not change. Our residents are locked into the 4.74 rate until the summer of 2014.”
  In the program’s first 13 months, participating Palos Hills households saved on average, $213 in electric supply costs; a cumulative city-wide savings of almost $1.3 million.
  “The Palos Hills City Council selected a 24-month term with FirstEnergy at what was a very opportune time in the electric market, and prices have since climbed,” Shover said.
  Almost 7,000 Palos Hills residents have chosen to opt in to the electrical aggregation program whereas 220 residents have decided to opt out and stay with ComEd.
  “New residents are not automatically enrolled in the program as they are similar electric aggregation programs in other surrounding towns,” Shover said. “But, all are welcome to join in at any time.”
  These residents must contact FirstEnergy, and give their ComEd account number, service address and specifically request the Palos Hills fixed rate of 4.74 cents. There is no fee to join or to leave the program. Those enrolled with other suppliers should first check with their current supplier to determine if they are subject to any early termination fee before joining FirstEnergy.
  Public Works Commissioner, Dave Weakley, said more than 700 new Palos Hills residents were contacted about joining FirstEnergy over the past couple of months. “The residents that did join the program have reported to be very happy with the savings,” he said.
  City Council members are contemplating the idea of adding a memo to resident’s monthly water bill informing them of the option to switch over to FirstEnergy if they haven’t already or if they are a new resident.
  The ComEd rate is expected to rise in June 2014 from the current 6.005 cents per kWh due to known increased capacity charges, which are included in the ComEd supply rate. Meanwhile, Palos Hills program’s rate will remain fixed at 4.74 through July 2014. Those increased capacity charges will not be passed through to Palos Hills aggregation program participants. At the end of the two-year term, the city may again seek competitive rates to renew the program.
  “We will have a much better picture around March or April for rates,” Shover stated.
  “We are very pleased with our rate and I’ve spoken to residents and they are also very happy with the savings acquired with FirstEnergy,” Bennett said.
  Residents continue to receive one monthly bill generated from ComEd and continue to receive delivery services from ComEd. Any outages are also reported to ComEd.

Retro Reporter 11-28-13

  • Written by Compiled by Jeff Vorva

Mayor accused of adultery refuses to resign
50 years ago
From the Nov. 28 edition
  The story: Vandals broke into the Henry Ford II School in Chicago Ridge and did $5,000 worth of damage most coming after a fire extinguisher was sprayed about in the main corridor and boys washroom.
  The quote: “To resign would be an admission of guilt. I do not intend to resign.” Palos Hills Mayor John Jager, who has hinted a week before that he might resign because of political pressure after he was faced with an adultery charge.
  Fun fact: Oak Lawn’s band was set to perform on State Street in Chicago for the annual Christmas parade.

Big week for Bulldogs in football and hoops
25 years ago
From the Dec. 1 edition
  The story: Richards football team won the Class 4A state championship with a 40-6 win over Peoria Central. The win was the largest margin of victory in Class 4A history and the Bulldogs finished 14-0. Efrem Haymore hit Felix Richardson for a 64-yard pass, Rich Albon had a 68-yard punt return and John Newton had an 85-yard interception return for big-play scores.
  The quote: Yes I do [believe I’m an alcoholic]. I’ve probably known it for years. Maybe 10 years. I guess the trouble I’ve gotten myself into over the years [made me realize I’m an alcoholic],’’ police officer John Mansell, who was discharged by the Worth Police and Fire Commission after an incident in which he found guilty of being under the influence while on duty.
  Fun fact: While Richards’ football team was winning a state football title, the basketball team went 3-0 and won the Chicago Christian Holiday basketball tournament. Six players were missing because they were on the Bulldogs’ football team.

Hickory Hills murder case closed
10 years ago
From the Nov. 27 edition
  The story: Hickory Hills cops held a news conference to close a 1982 murder case of the slaying of a 25-year-old Hickory Hills woman. A dead man, John R. Meier of Burbank, was accused of the crime by Police Chief Al Vodicka after DNA testing and the chief called it “the most brutal murder that has ever taken place in our community.” Meier died of natural causes in 2000.
  The quote: “ ‘Bad Santa’ is a punch line that sticks in your gut,’ ’’ — Reporter film critic Josh Larson.
  Fun fact: Brother Rice’s football team reached the Class 8A semifinals but dropped a 21-14 game to Lockport to deny the Crusaders a shot at the state title. Brother Rice QB Dan Nicholson was named the Reporter’s Player of the Year and Steve Nye was named Coach of the Year.

Worth native Sargis making big impact in hockey

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


  Gehrett Sargis, who grew up in Worth, Page-4-3-col-SargisGehrett Sargis, a Worth native who attended Brother Rice, will play for the U.S. Hockey team at the World University Games in Italy. Submitted making a name for himself in college hockey circles.
  Not only is the senior a top scorer for the Robert Morris University hockey team, the rest of the nation has taken notice of him, too.
  Sargis was named to the United States National University team at the 2013 Winter World University Games Dec. 10-21 in Trentino, Italy.
  The U.S. team is comprised of players from collegiate ice hockey teams affiliated with the American Collegiate Hockey Association. “The core group of players has a lot of hockey experience and we’re expecting to have highly skilled players throughout the lineup.” U.S. team leader Ashley Bevan said. Ryan Bachman of Orland Park and Adrian College and John Olen from Hawthorn Woods and the University of Illinois, are other players from the state on the squad.
FRONT-COLOR-1-col-referer-railCover boy — Gehrett Sargis was on the cover of Robert Morris’s media guide last year. Photo by Jeff Vorva.  The USA squad takes on Sweden, Latvia and Italy in pool play. Sargis attended Worth Grammar School and Brother Rice High School. He’s played in Canada as well as with the NAHL Janesville Jets and Helena Big Horns.
  Sargis said he started playing street hockey when he lived in Florida and changed to the ice when he moved to Worth when he was 6.
  “I’ve been doing it my whole life,” he said. “It’s always nice to compete every day. There are a lot of factors to the sport. Guys on a team — it’s like a family. You are always trying to give it everything you have and trying to improve. It’s a fun sport. Every day is different. You go through your ups and downs. It’s like life — things are always changing.’’
  His college coach, Tom “Chico” Adrahtas, said Sargis deserves the national accolades.
  “He’s a prototypical power forward,” the coach said. “He can beat you a lot of different ways and I think that’s what the powers-that-be who picked the team recognized. He’s been scoring on a national level since his first year with us. He’s the type of kid who is very strong on his skates. He has a very hard shot but it’s also deceptive. He passes the puck extremely well. In four years, he’s worked hard to become an all-around player.
  “He’s not one dimensional. He can play in all three zones.’’
  Robert Morris had a 15-2-1 mark in its first 18 games and Sargis was a big part of it.
  His coach thinks Sargis can play after college.
  “The NHL is somewhere he is not going to get to,” Adrahtas said. “But there are a lot of lower-level professional leagues and I believe he can play in a lot of them. He could be capable of playing in Europe. If he continues to train as he has, I think he can play at the next level.
  “There are some people who want to get on with their professional lives after college. There are some who believe that if you are a viable athlete you should continue to play. Whatever Gehrett decides, we will support him and try to help him get to that next level if that’s something that he wants.’’


Union threatens to sue village after Oak Lawn takes 911 services private

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  A tearful Julie Miller stood outside the Oak Lawn Village Board chambers Tuesday night and talked about the critical role the village’s emergency telecommunicators play in the safety of her husband, an Oak Lawn police officer.
  “They’re part of our family,” said Miller, whose husband, Dan, is a 17-year veteran of the police department. “The 911 dispatchers…are his lifeline. I mean, when he leaves my house, his life is in their hands, literally, and they make sure he comes home to me at night safely.”
  The village board voted 4-2 to privatize 911 call center dispatch services, a move that could save the village $1 million over two years, Village Manager Larry Deetjen said.
  Norcomm Public Safety Communications will assume dispatching services for the village and the other communities it serves. Oak Lawn dispatchers will have the opportunity to apply for their old jobs.
  Ron Cicinelli, an attorney for the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, the union the represents the dispatchers, said the union would sue the village if it replaces dispatchers with an outsourced firm.
  Miller said a private company will be unable to match the overall “professionalism and loyalty” exhibited over the years by the village’s dispatchers. She said Norcomm dispatchers will not be as familiar with the village or its police officers and firefighters.
  “When he gets a call from them, they get as much description as possible before he goes anywhere and for that I am forever grateful. They are wonderful at their jobs. It’s a shame. It is a shame,” Miller said.
  Trustees Bob Streit and Carol Quinlan voted against the proposal.
  “Oak Lawn has always been a place where residents could count on their public servants,” Streit said. “The system has been working for years. We don’t need to make a change.”
  Streit added that the initial savings the village will realize as a result of outsourcing will “evaporate over time.”
  Trustee Terry Vorderer, a former Oak Lawn police officer, said approving the outsourcing was “the toughest vote in his political career.”
  “I agonized over this vote,” said Vorderer, who added that he holds out hope for an agreement between the village and the dispatchers.
  Cicinelli asked Mayor Sandra Bury to delay the vote and form a board committee to meet with union in an attempt to avoid outsourcing.
  “I want all of you to understand that privatizing your public-sector services is not the answer,” Cicinelli said. “Once you vote to privatize, it’s very difficult to come back.”
  He said that as emergency communications technology advances, it would difficult for the village to resume emergency dispatch services at a later time.
  “Once you rely on the private corporation, you will become their hostage,” he said.
  Several dispatchers and their supporters packed the board room and asked the board to reconsider the move, saying that an outsourced company will not provide the same level service as the village dispatchers.
  The Metropolitan Alliance of Police approved a contract with the village in late 2012 after a lengthy negotiation, Cicinelli said. The contract is set to expire in December 2014. The union was hopeful it could extend the contract through at least 2016, he said.
  One month after the current contract was ratified, the village asked the union to consider cost-saving measures, including deferring the 2.5 percent wage increase included in the contract, regular pay for overtime hours, hiring part-time dispatchers and changing the wage scale for new employees, Cicinelli said.
  The union overwhelmingly opposed the cost-saving measures and filed an unfair labor practice grievance with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which was rejected. The union appealed the decision, and the village has responded, Cicinelli said.
  Oak Lawn dispatchers handles fire, police and ambulance calls for Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park, Burbank and Bridgeview. They also handle fire department calls for Bedford Park and a portion of the Central Stickney Fire Protection District.
  Deetjen has said the dispatch center was facing mounting expenses, which could increase if some of its customers left. He added that if any of the towns the village serves choose another dispatch service, Oak Lawn would be forced to lay off dispatchers.

Sound the alarms – Oak Lawn changes tornado siren again

  • Written by Bob Rakow


  Oak Lawn residents will hear a new tornado siren on Tuesday when the system is tested.

  The siren replaces the voice emergency alerts, which were disabled Nov. 18, one day after a severe storm led to numerous complaints about the volume and the various languages in which the warning was broadcast.
  The previous system featured an alarm followed by an emergency warning in English, Spanish, Polish and Arabic.
  Residents complained that the siren was either too loud or too soft while others said the warning should not be broadcast in languages other than English.
  A sample of the new siren can be heard on Mayor Sandra Bury’s blog,
  Bury said at Tuesday’s village board meeting that residents cannot rely solely on emergency sirens to warn them of tornados and other disasters.
  “It is important that everyone realize that sirens are not the answer. You need to be prepared. Be aware of your environment,” Bury said.
  She encouraged residents to obtain a coupon at village hall that allows them to purchase a Midland NOAA radio at Walgreens at 95th and Cicero for $20. The radio costs $40 without the coupon.
  Coupons will be available at village hall from Dec. 2-6 and will be accepted at Walgreens from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31.
  Bury also encouraged residents to register for the Everbridge system, which sends emergency alerts via phone, email or text message. The majority of residents are not signed up for the system, she said.
  Trustee Bob Streit said promoting the weather radio is an admission on the village’s part that the sirens aren’t sufficient.
  “Many people believe that the village’s solution is to get a weather radio. I think what’s happened is that [the village] realizes that the system isn’t working so now we’re going to supplement with a weather radios,” Streit said.
  Streit also criticized the village for sending mixed messages about the siren system.
  “This was serious,” he said. “Our public safety is at risk if [residents] don’t hear the tornado sirens. Many people claim they can’t hear them.”
  Streit said the village should have held a public hearing to allow residents to weigh in on the issue.
  “Ever since these sirens were installed, people have been complaining and the village didn’t do anything about it,” Streit said. “I don’t think we know if the siren is loud enough to be heard in the homes. I don’t think that question has been answered. I think we’ve gotten inconsistent messages.”