Oak Lawn Board ends long-term commitment to Jack's Towing

  • Written by By Dermot Connolly

The owner of a towing company that lost its long-term contract with the village of Oak Lawn last week, after getting a reprieve last month, was succinct in his reply when asked on Monday to comment on the situation.

“I ain’t going to comment on any of this stupidness. Have a good day,” said Ron Queenan, owner of Jack’s Towing, before abruptly hanging up.

Jack’s, which was owned by Queenan’s brother, Michael, until a few weeks ago, has been towing cars off Oak Lawn streets for close to 18 years. Its most recent contract, for 15 years, ended last October. Because the business had no outside contracts other than now it is expected to close.

Village Manager Larry Deetjen asked at the March 22 village board meeting for approval to award the next contract jointly to TechniCraft in Justice and Walsh Towing in Chicago Ridge. He pointed out that Jack’s was operating out of a village-owned site, and had not paid rent or utilities for the length of the 15-year contract. Since the contract ended, it has leased the property on the northeastern edge of the village on a month-to-month basis.

But trustees Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Bob Streit (3rd) objected to taking the contract away from a local company that had no complaints against it. When Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) joined them, saying more information was needed, Mayor Sandra Bury broke the tie, casting her own no vote.

At that time, she said she voted no because there were questions left unanswered.

Jack’s employees went away happy that night, but when Desmond raised the issue again at the April 12 meeting, only Olejniczak and Streit voting against it, the company effectively lost its only contract, and likely the entire business.

However, Desmond and others said the decision should have been left to Deetjen and the Police Department, since the contract does not cost village taxpayers anything. It simply gives the company the right to tow vehicles whenever necessary in the village, and collect the fees.

Desmond also contended that allowing Jack’s to operate on village property without paying rent or utilities for so long could have cost the village as much as $1 million in revenue. But Olejniczak said the land was not worth much before Jack’s moved in and improved it.

Deetjen has said the decision not to offer Jack’s a new contract was just a business decision, and was not a reflection on company performance. He said the board had approved his plan to eventually sell the land that Jack’s is located on, and the company had been warned that a change may be coming.

Ed Forsythe, a longtime driver of Jack’s Towing, said the second vote on the contract had come as a surprise, and would mean the four or five people working for the company, all village residents, would be out of jobs.

Bury said Tuesday that she had nothing to add to the discussion after the second vote was made.

The exact timeframe for when the new companies will be signing a new contract and taking over towing duties was not available earlier this week.

Forsythe, who said after the second vote was taken that it was now just a matter of “waiting for the call” that the job was over. He suggested that having a company based in Justice in charge of towing cars in Oak Lawn could actually cost the village time and money because it will take longer for trucks to come and remove cars, causing police officers to remain on the scene longer than usual.