Hickory Hills alderman opposes limits on Committee of Whole meetings

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Two seemingly routine agenda items at the May 26 meeting of the Hickory Hills Council erupted into a lively response from council members resulting in a non-unanimous vote to approve a summer meeting schedule and the tabling of a request to prohibit the placement of fences in front yards.

When Mayor Mike Howley introduced a recommendation to cancel Committee of the Whole meetings for the months of June, July, August and September, Ald. John Szeszycki (2nd Ward) protested.

“I have said this before, and I will say it again,” he said. “I am opposed to canceling these meetings for four months. I think we should meet every month, even if it is just for 10 minutes, to review everything going on so we are all informed. And what if something important or urgent comes up? We can’t wait four months to discuss it.”

The Committee of the Whole meets prior to the regular council meeting on the fourth Thursday of the month.

Ald. Debbie Ferrero (2nd Ward) replied that if an urgent matter came up, the council would be notified and a special meeting would be called.

“Why should we have to go through all that? Just keep the meeting schedule and be here prior to our regular council meeting, as we do now,” responded Szeszycki.

However, the recommendation was approved, with seven “yes” votes and Szeszycki voting “present.”

In the Committee of the Whole meeting prior to the council meeting, Szeszycki had also protested a suggestion from City Clerk Dee Catizone to change the hours of operation for the City Hall, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Szeszycki said he thought the City Hall should remain open until 5 p.m., in case people needed to stop by on the way home from work, to pay bills or had questions. Catizone replied that the most activity from residents occurs in the earlier part of the day and that there is a drop box available for the payment of bills.

Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward) suggested that the new hours be tried for a period of three months to see if it worked. “If it is not working, we can always change the hours back to the original time.”

Howley supported Catizone’s suggestion. “I trust her observation on this, as she is here every day and sees what the traffic flow is like.” No date was given for the start of the change in hours.

On the matter of fences, City Attorney Vince Cainkar requested approval of an ordinance amending the city building code to prevent the placement of fences in front yards in the city, sparking an instant reaction and flurry of questions from the council.

Ald. Scott Zimmerman (4th Ward), spoke up immediately. “What about corner properties where the front of the house does not necessarily face the street? I live on a corner and I have a fence on the side of my house near my driveway. Is that considered a front yard fence as it faces the other street?

“Basically, you have two front yards. Anyone living on a corner has that situation,” said Building Commissioner Joe Moirano. “I have this discussion all the time with residents. It is a problem.”

Ferrero asked about front fences she has observed on properties around the city, such as elaborately designed brick fences and statuary work serving as fences. “Will this ordinance apply to those?”

Cainkar finally suggested tabling the motion until the next meeting. “I will rework the ordinance and provide drawings to answer some of these questions,” he said.

In other business, the council approved an updated Employee Benefit Handbook and approved revisions to the Police Supervisor’s Policy, effective July 1.

The meeting was adjourned to executive session to discuss police chief merit pay.