New performing arts center at Richards moves forward

  • Written by Michelle Zalesny

district 218 photo 4-20

Photo by Michelle Zalesny

The board congratulates Larry Harris and Karen Burmeister for their service during the District 218 School Board meeting on April 10.


Progress on the new performing arts center that will be built at Richards High School in Oak Lawn is well under way.

The arts center project was discussed briefly at the District 218 School Board meeting on April 10. The board rejected the original construction bids last month, after they came in several million dollars above the architects’ original estimates. The arts center is being redesigned with DLA Architects to bring the cost back down to the original budget.

The board hopes to re-bid the project soon.

Secretary Karen Burmeister and member Larry Harris also attended their last official board meeting this month, receiving clocks as gifts for their service. Burmeister has served the community high school district board for 10 years. Harris joined the board in 2009.

Taking their new seats on the District 218 Community School Board will be William 'Bill' Christian and Cindy Bartczak.

The Cook County Board of Elections results showed that Christian won the election in Harris’ Sub-District 7 with 70.19 percent of the votes (1,891). Bartczak won unopposed in Burmeister's Sub-District 2. Burmeister chose not to run for re-election.

Board members Randy Heuser and Thomas Kosowski, president, were unopposed in the consolidated election.

“Apart from serving on this board, Mrs. Burmeister has volunteered much of her time as a member of the education committee,” said Superintendent Dr. Ty Harting. “She also was a trustee and the president of District 218 and the Friends of District 218 Foundation, where she helped raised thousands of dollars for college scholarships and future grants. Mr. Harris has been a lead member of the district facilities committee and has given an untold number of hours in making sure the district spends its money prudently so that our students, staff, and communities can have access to the finest high schools possible,” added Harting, who thanked them for their kindness and generosity.

After the board congratulated students and faculty who received awards that evening, Harris and Burmeister expressed their gratitude with deepest admiration for their community, students and fellow board members.

“I just wanted to thank the community for having elected me two times to serve in this position, the administration, the staff, and all the support you’ve given me to make my job a little easier and more successful,” said Harris. “I truly hope that the students of our district use all the resources that we’ve provided. I also would like to wish my fellow board members all the success and remember that a well-educated student will become a good citizen and a great person.”

“I truly enjoyed serving the community, administration, staff, and students in this fine district,” said Burmeister. “We have some of the best students around with the biggest hearts and great potential to succeed. Whatever success means to them, it is my hope that this board, my successor, and future board (members) serve with honor and dignity to serve all of our students with the students’ best interest in mind.”

Kosowski also brought up new seat belt legislation being supported by Secretary of State Jesse White. House Bill 3377, sponsored by state Rep. Lou Lang (D-16th), would require three-point seat belts on school buses in Illinois. The bill passed the House Transportation Vehicles and Safety Committee and now moves to the full House of Representatives.

“Hopefully it will get moving along, maybe with a little help from the community,” said Harris, who has been an advocate for seat belts on school buses. “Call your rep up. Let them know what you think. There’s nothing better than a phone call. Let’s hope it passes.”

SXU's Birth to 3 program to continue in Evergreen Park

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

The Evergreen Park Board of Trustees granted a request from St. Xavier University to renew its lease for property at 9549 S. Homan Ave. during the April 3 meeting.

The university first leased that location last year. The property is used for programs for children from infant to 3 years of age.

Mayor James Sexton stated that the program and the agreement with St. Xavier University have worked very well during the last year.

“We have no problem in granting a second-year lease,” he said.

The SXU Birth to Three program offers free screenings, play groups, field trips and parent support for preschool readiness. In addition to Evergreen Park, the facility serves families in the communities of Oak Lawn and Alsip. For further information on the program, families may call (773) 941-5708 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Looking ahead on the 2017 calendar, the board also took action on a resolution approving the 49th Annual Independence Day Parade on Monday, July 3. The vote was unanimous, Sexton said.

“Please don’t ask me why it is on the 3rd. It’s not my call,” he said, laughing.

In the public forum portion of the meeting, Sexton commended the men and women serving in the village’s police department for their recent work in apprehending a suspect fleeing from robberies in Chicago, Merrionette Park and Mount Greenwood. The Evergreen Park officers and the K-9 unit found the suspect hiding in a garage in the village.

“Our department is to be commended for their excellent work and cooperation with the officers from the other communities” Sexton said. “We have a terrific relationship with both the police and fire departments of our neighboring towns.”

Trustee Mary Keane added that she wanted to thank the village’s fire department members for their kindness and compassion in dealing with her neighbors who had suffered a devastating fire several days prior to the board meeting.

“In the midst of their trauma, they took the time to tell me how wonderful the department was in trying to save their home and how they followed through the day after the fire to check on how they were doing,” said Keane.

A member of the audience, who said he lives on the 9800 block of South Avers Avenue, also praised the fire department for their work during a recent house fire at his neighbor’s house.

“Within a couple of hours, they had the fire out and the site cleaned up. You couldn’t even tell anything had happened there,” he said. ‘They were very efficient and competent.”

In other action, business certificates were approved for Prime Plus Pharmacy, 2955 W. 95th St., Suite 100, and a beauty shop, Happy Shear’s Salon, at 3510 W. 95th St.      

Young artists find inspiration at Easter

  • Written by Kelly White

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Photo by Kelly White

Evergreen Park residents Charlie Cushing, 6, and his sister, Claire, 4, work on handmade Easter cards to be distributed to hospitalized children at the Evergreen Park Public Library.

Maeve Broderick aspires to become an artist.

The 6-year-old Evergreen Park resident spends her free time coloring, drawing and making homemade craft projects In her first-grade classroom at Most Holy Redeemer School. Maeve also looks forward to art projects. On April 3, she utilized her artistic talents and joined several other youngsters, including her 3-year-old sister, Katie, at the Evergreen Park Library to make Easter cards for hospitalized children.

“I really like working on arts projects and making crafts that I can share with or give to other people,” Broderick said. “It makes them happy.”

“We visit the library on a weekly basis and I like to get my children as actively involved as possible, especially when it’s for such a good cause,” Brigid Broderick, Maeve’s mother, said.

The staff at the library, 9400 S. Troy Ave., Evergreen Park, hosted the youth event to make handmade Easter cards for hospitalized children, just in time for the holiday.

All materials were provided by the library staff. The cards were created out of construction paper that had an Easter bunny cutout on it. They were then decorated with markers, colored pencils, crayons, Easter-themed stickers and cotton balls for bunny tails, before being cut out in the shape of an Easter bunny.

Each card was designed by a child with their personal favorite colors and held an uplifting and encouraging message written inside for the card’s recipient. The event was free. It was organized and guided by Laura Meyer, the children's librarian.

“Kids love to make cards and be creative, so it's fun for them,” Meyer said. “It gives children in the community an opportunity to volunteer, be crafty and do something kind for someone else. It also gives them a chance to brighten the day of another child.”

The participants were not instructed by Meyer on what to write. Children were instead encouraged to come up with their own message in accordance to the holiday as well as offering good wishes.

“The cards are very happy and positive,” Meyer said.

The cards will be going to “Cards for Hospitalized Kids,” a non-for-profit organization based out of Chicago that is internationally recognized charitable organization that spreads hope and joy to hospitalized kids through uplifting, handmade cards. The program has been running for over five years and at the discretion of the organization, over 100,000 children in hospitals in all 50 states have received a personalized card through the organization, including volunteers like those at the Evergreen Park Public Library.

Meyer sent the cards to Cards for Hospitalized Kids, and volunteers of the organization will be distributing them to children's hospitals nationwide and to Ronald McDonald Houses for Children. The cards will be delivered prior to Easter Sunday.

“I like helping others,” Charlie Cushing, 6, of Evergreen Park, said, as he colored a card filled with orange and blue Easter bunnies, alongside his 4-year-old sister, Claire. “It’s fun to make cards for other people.”

“My children love sitting and coloring and working on craft projects together,” said Colleen Cushing, Charlie’s mother. “The library always has great ways to get the kids involved in something important.”

Pleasure Lake 'stocked and thriving' as fishing ban is lifted

  • Written by Michael Gilbert

Area anglers can rejoice. The long awaited reopening of Pleasure Lake to fishing has finally arrived.

Palos Hills Ald. Mark Brachman (2nd Ward) told the council and approximately a dozen residents in attendance during the committee of the whole meeting April 6 the fishing ban at the 8.1-acre lake has been lifted.

“Grab your fishing poles, enjoy the day and catch a big one,” said Brachman, adding public works crews had removed the “no fishing” signs and reinstalled ones that say “catch and release.”

Fishing has been prohibited at the lake, 10801 S. Roberts Road, since October of 2014 when Palos Hills officials placed an immediate and, at the time, indefinite ban. The exceptionally harsh winter of 2013-2014 caused a complete freeze at the lake, which, at its deepest point is only six feet, killing all of the fish, according to Ald. Joe Marrotta (4th Ward).

“The winter just froze us solid,” Marrotta said in the fall of 2014. “Everything was lost.”

A year later, the city spent around $1,300 to restock the lake with 1,500 blue gills, 325 bass and 300 catfish. City officials decided to give the fish two full cycles to grow and reproduce before allowing fishing.

“The lake is stocked and thriving,” Palos Hills Public Works Commissioner Dave Weakley said. “During hours when fish are active you will see fish jumping up at new insect larva. We are seeing a lot of activity in the lake. I’m sure our residents are going to enjoy fishing there again.”

Marrotta said it was “great to have the lake back open to fishing.”

“I believe [Resource and Recreation Department commissioner] Kristin [Violante] did receive some calls from residents inquiring about the fishing ban so we are happy to lift it and once again have fishing.”

With the lake reopened, Marrotta announced the city will resume holding its annual fishing derby. The free event, which is open to all ages, is scheduled for June 17. The Department of Natural Resources has designated June 17 as one of only a few days in Illinois during which a person can fish without a state fishing license, Violante said. Therefore, in addition to being a free event one does not need to purchase a fishing license to participate in the derby.

All fishing at the lake remains catch-and-release, and Marrotta said Palos Hills police have been directed to make frequent checks at the lake to ensure the policy is being followed.

In other news, city attorney George Pappas told the council the Cook County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee is expected to review Palos Hills’ request to acquire the property which currently houses the shuttered Palos Olympic Health & Racquetball Club through the county’s No Cash Bid program during a hearing April 11 at the Cook County Building in Chicago.

The seven-member committee has been tasked with offering a recommendation to the full Cook County Board of Commissioners as to whether to approve or deny Palos Hills’ request, Pappas said.

City officials voted unanimously this January to direct Pappas to file the required documents with the County in an attempt to acquire the racquetball club property, 11050 S. Roberts Road, through the No Cash Bid program, an economic development tool designed to assist municipalities in acquiring tax delinquent property for reuse as private development and tax reactivation or for tax exempt municipal use. There are around $300,000 in back taxes on the property, which has been sold several times since the racquetball club closed more than a decade ago.

Pappas expects the hearing to go well for Palos Hills.

“I anticipate approval [from the Finance Committee] and recommendation to the County board to grant us the property,” Pappas said.

Mayor Gerald Bennett has previously said if the city was to acquire the property, the building, which is around 40 years old and in “poor condition,” would be demolished. The cost to raze the building and clean up the site would be around $100,000, he said. City officials have said they would initially leave the land as open space but would listen if a developer came along interested in the property.

The No Cash Bid Program for this property is only available to Palos Hills, Bennett said. Any individual looking to purchase the property from Cook County would need to pay the $300,000 in back taxes. 

Bennett rails against state budget impasse

  • Written by Joe Boyle

gerald bennett photo 4-13

Photo by Joe Boyle

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett listens as speakers discuss employee benefits and financial planning during the Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting held last month at The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park.

Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett sees no end in sight to break the budget impasse deadlock in Springfield that is closing in on a second year.

“Nothing has changed on the state budget,” said Bennett. “The magic continues down there (Springfield). I don’t know if we can have a budget this year.”

Bennett provided a report on the budget during a Southwest Conference of Mayors meeting March 29 at The Bridge Teen Center in Orland Park. Bennett, who serves as the president of the Southwest Conference of Mayors, was just one of a few mayors in attendance. Several mayors were not present because they were campaigning for the April 4 consolidated election.

“From the people I have talked to, we might not see a budget until after the 2018 election,” said Bennett, who was unopposed in the April 4 election. “I hope I’m wrong about that but I don’t see anything happening right now.”

Mayors who were in attendance did not disagree with Bennett’s assessment. At that point, Bennett switched gears and discussed the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning funding. Andy Plummer, a consultant for the RTA, provided a report on CMAP that he said is facing reductions due to the budget impasse.

“We want to submit as many projects as we can,” said Plummer. “We want to be proactive because these (projects) are going to be done with Phase 1 funding.”

The legislation creating CMAP called for the agency to produce a comprehensive land use and transportation plan for the southwest suburban region. It would also provide a funding source to enable CMAP to perform it duties. But the budget implementation bill has dissolved this funding. Bennett said the issue has to be addressed to ensure that CMAP has a funding source to effectively implement future programs.

The Southwest Conference of Mayors supports the passage of House Bill 6286 and Senate Bill 2966. Both bills seek to reestablish the Comprehensive Regional Planning Fund, which was dissolved in 2011.

In terms of the Regional Transportation Authority funding, Plummer said money is becoming scarce.

“We had about $400 million from the (former Gov. Pat) Quinn administration,” said Plummer. “We are now approaching our limit. The RTA CMAP projects were on hiatus last year. We are going to reintroduce it again this year on May 5.”

During the meeting that lasted just over an hour, the board discussed pension reform and protecting municipal revenue. The Southwest Conference of Mayors encourages the General Assembly to address and reform the pensions of current public safety employees. The goal, according to the mayors, is to develop longer term, comprehensive solutions that protect local taxpayers and secure sustainable retirement benefits for all public safety employees.

Bennett said the Illinois Genera Assembly should take immediate action to consolidate the over 650 individual public safety pension funds into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund or a similar single multiple employer pension system.

“The best way to get pension relief is to have a single consolidation state fund,” Bennett said.

The mayors also urge for the protection against any further efforts to erode municipal revenue sources, especially the share of the state income tax and the one percent local portion of the sales tax.

“The state must refrain from withholding, freezing, diverting, delaying or reducing any state-collected local revenue streams,” Bennett said. “If local revenue is withheld in any way, municipalities will be forced to cut essential services, raise property taxes or layoff critical staff to cover this loss.”

Bennett said that this would harmful to taxpaying residents and businesses throughout the state.

Other local mayors who attended the meeting were Bob Straz (Palos Heights) and Mike Howley (Hickory Hills).