More info, please

  • Written by Bob Rakow

 Mayor’s critics claim plans for Oak Lawn’s

new Senior Center have not been shared

   Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury strongly supports

FRONT-COLOR-3-COL-CARDSIs it in the cards that the Oak Lawn Senior Center is moving? Oak Lawn’s Josephine Voldrich, playing cards Tuesday at the current site, said she hopes so. Photos by Jeff Vorva. transitioning the village’s senior services to the park district, but two of her political opponents are asking her to lay her cards on the table before proceeding with the plan.
  Trustee Carol Quinlan said seniors queried her at a recent event about the proposal but she was unable to offer specifics because she said Bury has not shared them with the village board.
  “It’s inconceivable that the mayor has some sort of plan and has not shared it,” Quinlan said.
  Trustee Robert Streit also is opposed to the plan and wants to know why there are no records associated with the proposal.
  Bury said Streit has made no effort to learn more about the plan or offer other ideas.
  “Not once has Trustee Streit called me or contacted me to inquire as to the nature of what was being developed,” Bury said.
  She added that she has been forthcoming with information regarding the plan.
  “Everything that is ready for public disclosure has been said by me at various board meetings in my senior updates. They are readily available. As the concept develops into something viable, it will be discussed in more detail,” she said.
  Bury reiterated that the concept is a good one for the cash-strapped village.
  “The village is facing at minimum and $8.7 million dollar deficit. It is going to be a challenge to give seniors what they want and deserve while still being financially responsible. I believe it is possible to do this with creative partnerships,” she said.
  An Aug. 29 memo written by Bury and distributed at the senior center did offer some insights into the mayor’s proposal.
JUMP-2-col-cards1Carole Gutsch (above) and Carol Hopp (below, right) enjoy a game of cards Wednesday at the current Senior Center on West 105th Street. The center could be moving. Photos by Jeff Vorva.

  The memo informed seniors that the village board in August authorized Village Manager Larry Deetjen to explore the feasibility of transitioning the Oak Lawn Senior Center to the park district.
  The document added that the village is exploring in partnership with the park district the renovation of the shuttered bath house at Memorial Pool, 102nd Street and Major Avenue, into a 4,000-square-foot, free-standing senior center.
  The pool was a closed a few years ago. Memorial Park, meanwhile, is being renovated to include a splash pad, new paths and landscaping around the pond.
  Park district JUMP-2-col-cards-2officials have said they support the mayor’s plan.
  Bury has made clear the park district is better equipped than the village to provide services for seniors.
  “We’re not really good at programs for seniors, we’re just not,” Bury has said. “It really does not fall into the domain of the village.”
  Currently, the senior center is located in a portion of the old McGugan School, 5220 W. 105th St. The facilities were moved from the longtime location on 95th Street after the building was sold to make way for a bank.
  Quinlan said the mayor has never explained why the Memorial Pool bathhouse was chosen as a preliminary site for the senior center or discussed how the renovations would be funded.
  “This idea is terrible,” said Quinlan, adding that the village board should meet with seniors before the proposal moves forward.
  “I believe their input would be invaluable,” she said.
  The village’s response to Streit’s Freedom of Information request provided no information. Streit sought:
  • Emails between the park district and village regarding outsourcing senior services;
  • Studies or documents regarding a partnership between the village, the park district and/or a local business to provide seniors with a senior center at Memorial Park;
  • Intergovernmental agreements between the village and park district regarding senior services or a senior center;
  • Documents, including memos or findings from focus groups, conducted to learn what seniors desire from a new senior center;
  • Documents, including memos, regarding field research performed to determine where the new senior center should be located and what services should be provided, and;
  • Emails or other correspondence between the mayor and other village or park district officials relating to the senior center or senior services.
  “The mayor claimed that they do exist,” Streit said. “If they do exist, (the village) has to provide them.”
  Streit added that Bury has “totally disregarded the Senior Citizens Commission” by not seeking its input on her proposal.
  Park District Director Maddie Kelly said she met with Bury, Deetjen, Trustee Alex Olejniczak and park board president Sue Murphy a few months ago to discuss the village’s proposal.
  The village hired an architect to study the renovation of the bath house, but park district and village officials have not met again to talk about the plan, Kelly said.
  “The ball is in their court,” Kelly said. “We have not heard back from them. It’s just been talk. It hasn’t been anything definitive.”


Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: Retro Reporter will look at the weird and the wonderful from back in the day

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


COLOR--1-colJeffV  A clown talks about why it’s not a good idea to give the finger to someone while in costume.
  Local kids try to sneak into an adult movie.
  A mayor mulls leaving office after his neighbor accuses him of adultery.
  What is this? The National Enquirer?
  Nope, just the good ol’ Reporter newspaper from bygone eras.
  Who says history has to be dull? In this case, it won’t be.
  After a month of absence, the archives return to our little paper. Only they won’t be known as the archives. That’s such a snoozer of a word.
  We’re dusting off the archives and polishing them up and hopefully making them shiny and bright — and fun.
  The new feature is called Retro Reporter and it debuts today on page 4. We hope to keep it on page 4 but if there are too many ads or photos on that page, we may move it from time to time.
  With designer extraordinaire Kari Nelson’s magic touch and my warped sense of news judgment, we hope to put together a package that is fun to look at and read.
  We will still break it up into three eras — 50 years ago, 25 years ago and 10 years ago. That won’t change.
  But within those eras, we will have three components. RETRO-reporter-1-col-blood-feastThis movie caused a stir in Chicago Ridge 50 years ago and will be a topic in the new Retro Reporter feature found on page 4.One will be one of the top stories of that timeframe. Another will be a quote either from that story or another story. The third will be a fun fact such as the price of beer 50 years ago or a celebrity coming to the area.
  I’ve seen archive sections of other papers and sometimes they have stories about annexations and TIFs and who won first place in the petunia division of a garden club. We won’t have much of that here.
  This will feature items such as the aforementioned clown’s philosophy about his middle digit, the kids who tried to get into the adult movie (a movie called “Blood Feast” which, to this day I can’t figure out how it didn’t win an Academy Award) and the mayor and his problems with the neighbor in the coming weeks and months.
  We may re-open a few wounds — especially with some of the items from a decade and quarter century ago. That’s not the intent. The intent is to show that way back when — in the so called good ol’ days — there were tragic stories, stories of triumph and funny stories just like there are today.
  So take a look at page 4 and enjoy the sometimes wonderful sometimes weird trip down memory lane with us.

Hello Dolly winners
  Let’s try this again. Last week we tried to run these names but they were accidentally omitted.
  Some new subscribers from Oak Lawn from a recent Reporter subscription drive were presented with tickets to the play “Hello Dolly.”
  The list includes Linda Steiner, Gordon Hartmann, Marianne VonAsten, John Fox, Ray Klimes, Rosemary Passananti, Louis D’Amore and Donald Perreault.


Advocate Christ honors Heights comeback kid for super rehab

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

  Four-year-old Alex Muller, of Palos Heights, had just enjoyed a few days at Disney World with his family back in early May.
  He met Mickey Mouse.
  He loved Splash Mountain.
  On the plane ride home, his dad, Robert, mother, Lisa, sister, Amanda, and brother, Anthony, were all looking forward to getting back to their normal routine.
  That didn’t happen.
  As the plane started its descent, Alex wasn’t looking, or feeling, too good. And that started a night, and months, of hell for the family.
  “We gave him some Starburst candy on the way down,” Robert said. “He started drooling. He did walk off the plane and when we were walking todoulbe-run-color-2-col-AlexAlex Muller. photo by Jeff Vorva. the car he said his legs were tired. We got him in the car and on the way home he threw up. He walked from the car back to the house but fell right by the door and started screaming that he couldn’t get up. That’s when Lisa picked him up and he had that smile where you could see the droop on the left side. So we rushed him to the hospital.”
  Alex suffered a stroke and went through five weeks of rehab at the Advocate Children’s Center in Oak Lawn. The family hopes the worst is over, and now Alex is attending preschool at Indian Hill School.
  Alex was one of five people honored at the 25th annual Advocate Christ Medical Center and Children’s Hospital’s Rehabilitation Achievement Awards Ceremony Sept. 20. He joined a list of honorees that included Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton and Oak Lawn resident Kent Carson.
  Around the Oak Lawn facility, this kid was like a superhero, according to therapist Diana Daniak.
  “Alex’s great determination allowed us as therapists to obtain goals,” she said. “With Super Alex and his super suit and his cape, he literally soared and accomplished any tasks that were set before him. This hospital became and an adventure of his imagination every day.”
  Alex may have not been the picture-perfect patient, but the staff seemed to love having him around.
  “Despite the hair-pulling, biting, kicking and punching, Alex was the highlight of our day and always had a smile on his face,” she said. “And he always put a smile on our face.”
  Daniak lauded the Muller family for its support of Alex and said that Lisa frequently stayed many nights in a pullout bed at the hospital before heading to work.
  “In some ways Alex took all of this better than an adult would,” Lisa said. “He took it better than me. There were times when he needed therapy but didn’t always want to but he did it.”
  “There was a lot of screaming, kicking, yelling and biting,” Robert said. “I have a permanent bite mark. But overall, he went through a lot did a great job.”
  Doctors admitted they were flummoxed by Alex’s condition and looked nationally and internationally before finding a specialist.
  “The miracle part is that he was at infant stage when we started rehab,” Robert said. “He couldn’t hold his head up and had no feeling on his left side. But when we left the hospital he literally walked out. He’s still recovering and every day is something new. We’re learning more every day.
  “He still goes to therapy in the morning,” Robert said. “He goes four days a week. He started preschool at Indian Hill. He has therapy in the morning and therapy at school.”
  Attempts to talk to Alex featured mixed results. Shortly before the ceremony, he was an energetic dynamo who ran and spun around the hallways. When he saw an uncle, Alex was so happy he ran up to him and gave him a playful punch in the solar plexus region.
  When he settled down to answer a few questions, he nodded his head instead of a verbal exchange.
  When Alex was asked if he was happy with his treatment at the hospital, that caused the biggest nod of all.

Safety concerns spark idea of turning Central Junior High into a middle school

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The decision to transform Central Junior High School in Evergreen Park into a middle school began with some security concerns.
  “It’s kind of an interesting story,” School District 124 Supt. Robert Machak said.
  Machak and Evergreen Park police conducted security audits at each of the district’s five schools shortly after he arrived in the district last year.
  “They walked through every building with me,” Machak said.
  During a tour of Central Junior High, Machak noticed that anyone who entered the doors of the adjacent administrative office could get into the school without being noticed, he said.
  He talked to the school board about securing the entrance, which led to a proposal to swap the administrative offices and junior high library.
  The plan carried a $600,000 price tag, which led school board members to consider other proposals, including transforming the junior high into a middle school.
  The idea has been floated before, but the district never followed through on bringing sixth graders to the junior high, 9400 S. Sawyer Ave., Machak said.
  “The plan sort of evolved,” he said. “Maybe now was the time to revisit bringing the sixth grade over.”
  The board’s facilities committee and met several times with the district’s architect to discuss specifics.
  Accommodating sixth graders means adding 10 to 12 classrooms to the school, which necessitated moving the administrative offices out of the junior high, Machak said.
  The district considered renting office space, but couldn’t find anything that met its needs. It also considered purchasing and renovating a residential property.
  “We looked at everything under the sun,” Machak said.
  Ultimately, the district decided to buy Brady-Gill Funeral Home, 2929 W 87th St.
  The district will use $1 million in reserves and float a $7.5 million bond to pay for the funeral home and fund the renovation of the junior high, Machak said.
  District officials decided against using more of its reserves in case funds were needed for an emergency, said Machak, who added that the bonds will not lead to a property tax increase for district residents
  The first group of sixth graders will attend Central in the 2015-16 school year.
  The school will be renovated after the district offices are relocated next year, Machak said.
  Machak, a middle school principal for 13 years, said the concept will bring many advantages to the district.
  He said a common complaint about the junior high model is that the timeline for students is too fast. They are either arriving in 7th grade or getting ready to graduate the following year. The middle school, on the other hand, allows students to grow and mature over a three-year period.
  Additionally, it gives eighth graders the chance to serve as mentors to the sixth grade class, thereby developing leadership skills.
  “I also think there is a strong academic benefit,” Machak said.
  Also, removing sixth grade from the elementary schools will free up much needed space in those buildings, he said.

Hickory Hills officials investigate yard waste complaints from resident

  • Written by Kelly White


  Yard waste has been accumulatingPage3--2-col-yardThe inconsistent pickup of yard waste on this alleyway in Hickory Hills had one resident angry enough to complain to the city council last Thursday. Photo by Jeff Vorva. in the alleys of Hickory Hills and a resident came forth at last Thursday’s Hickory Hills City Council Meeting with both questions and concerns for the council.

  Mike Mitchell, who said he has been a Hickory Hills resident for more than 23 years, told the council that since the city signed a contract with Waste Management in May, this is the first time he is witnessing this problem.
  “It has happened seven times this summer where I have had yard waste in my alley to be picked up by Waste Management, and the truck did not come down the alley to pick up mine or any of my surrounding neighbor’s yard waste,” he said, “Then it gets to the point where I have to call the company, myself, and tell them to come back because they skipped my house.”
  He lives in the 8200 block of West 93rd Street behind the Dirty Sock Bar and Grill.
  “It’s not necessarily the waste but it is the yard waste that we have a problem with,” Mitchell said. “The truck simply refuses to go down alleyways within the city to pick up yard waste.”
  He added that other residents in his area had similar complaints.
  “I could understand them missing it once in a while, say for example if there was a new driver on the route, but this has happened to me alone seven times,” said Mitchell, who displayed photos of yard waste in his alleyway that he said was previously ignored by Waste Management.
  Alderman Mike McHugh noted on being aware of the alleyway issue. “I have spoken to Bernie (McHugh), Director of Operations at Waste Management, in a recent phone conversation and he plans to speak to his employees in charge of picking up yard waste in our city immediately.”
  Mike McHugh recognized the alleyways often being ignored during waste pickup for yard waste. “For some reason, those trucks just do not like going down those alleys,” he said.
  Mitchell admitted the trucks do not always skip the alleys.
  “[Last Wednesday] they did come down to pick up my yard waste, and alongside a container of grass I had a ten pound tree stump,’’ he said. “Well, they took the container of grass and left the tree stump sitting in the alley. There is no reason why they could not have taken that tree stump.”
  Mitchell also claims Waste Management tossed his yard waste container down the end of the alleyway on multiple occasions and placed a sticker on the container stating, “Place can at curb for service.”
  Mayor Mike Howley stated there is no problem with Mitchell or any resident living with an alleyway behind their home to have their yard waste picked up from the alleyway.
  Director of Waste Management, Bernie McHugh, was not aware of the stickers being placed on the containers or did not give orders for the placement of the stickers, and he also plans to immediately address this issue, Alderman McHugh stated.
  The director has been made aware of prior complaints by residents within Hickory Hills and he has handled them himself and in a prompt manor, Howley assured his residents the alley situation would be no different.
  “There was a time when a resident’s house was skipped during garbage pickup and we called and spoke to Bernie and he came by himself and picked up the garbage. Since then, we have had no further complaints from that resident and I believe he will handle this situation in the similar manner,” Howley said.