Photo by Joe Boyle
Palos Hills resident Bernard Bartusiak shakes hands with Mayor Gerald Bennett after receiving an award recognizing him for his meritorious service as an aviator for the U.S. Navy during World War II. Bartusiak, 95, was honored during the Palos Hills City Council meeting last Thursday night.
By Joe Boyle
After much debate, the Palos Hills City Council approved a three percent tax on any proposed marijuana dispensaries that would operate within the boundaries of the municipality.
The ordinance was approved during the city council meeting last Thursday night. However, the ordinance was only approved after a lengthy animated discussion. Mayor Gerald Bennett pointed out several times that the passage of the ordinance only means that the municipality has agreed to consider allowing a dispensary or dispensaries to operate in the city with the tax.
The board would have to consider at a later date if they want to allow dispensaries to operate in the city, Bennett said. This would have to be decided through the planning commission and later a vote by the council, the mayor added.
However, Ald. Martin Kleefisch (1st) has already made up his mind.
“Using substances, mind-altering substances like alcohol and marijuana is something I can’t support,” Kleefisch said. “Beyond the money aspect is that people will have easier access to marijuana. Plus, we have an opioid crisis in this country that has destroyed families.”
Bennett reminded the alderman that this conversation should have taken place a couple of years ago because the state approved the sale of marijuana this summer. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the bill that will allow the sale of marijuana to people ages 21 and over beginning on Jan. 1.
“I know why the state did it and it is because they need the money,” Kleefisch responded. “I don’t see where selling marijuana is going to help. I got to think there is a lot of other ways to raise money.”
Ald. Mark Brachman (2nd) said the only reason to allow a dispensary to operate in the city is for one reason only, and that is for the money.
While Bennett listened to the concerns of the aldermen, he reminded them that there is more at stake here.
“We do a good job here, but we work on a dime,” Bennett said. “I have a budget to consider.”
Ald. Ricky Moore (4th) interjected at this point that allowing a dispensary in the city should be considered especially since some other neighboring communities will be allowing them.
“With all due respect, I don’t see marijuana as all doom and gloom,” Moore said. “Palos Hills would be purchasing cannabis from other towns. We live in a state with a dire pension problem. As alderman, I would rather have a dispensary instead of having our taxes go up.”
Bennett responded to a question by Ald. Pauline Stratton (2nd) about the city’s finances, stating that they are not in debt. The mayor reminded the board that future revenue possibilities are a priority.
“I can’t run the city on a deficit,” Bennett said. “I have to look at ways to raise revenue. We’re not in a hole. The governor is looking into consolidating pensions. That would help us out.”
On the issue of pensions, Ald. A.J. Pasek (3rd) suggested that revenue from dispensaries should go for the police pension board.
Bennett said there are many considerations that the board could approve. However, the issue at hand is to approve or dismiss the call for a three-percent tax. No dispensaries could be located along Roberts Road because of schools and certain businesses, the mayor said.
The board approved the tax by a 6-3 margin. Aldermen Mike Price (1st), Joe Marrotta (4th), Dawn Nowak (5th), Donna O’Connell (5th) and Pasek voted for the measure. Brachman, Kleefisch and Stratton voted against. Ald. Mike Lebarre (3rd) was not at the meeting.
“The biggest process in applying to sell marijuana is that they have to go through the state of Illinois and they have strict regulations,” Bennett said. “You (the board) may choose someone to operate a dispensary that you believe is qualified but the state may not approve them.”
A large crowd was in attendance to witness Palos Hills resident Bernard Bartusiak receive the meritorious service awards honoring him for his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Bennett greeted and presented the award to Bartusiak, 95.
The presentation took place after an article appeared in The Reporter last month in which Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) became aware that Bartusiak did not receive one Distinguished Flying Cross and several air medals for his service in World War II for some unexplained reason. Bartusiak received his awards after Lipinski interceded and the presentation took place during a ceremony held last month at the Pentagon. His two daughters and Lipinski were on hand for the ceremony.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer awarded the medals to Bartusiak for taking part in dozens of missions in European skies from April 1943 through August 1944, many before he turned 20 years of age.
“We just want to thank you and appreciate your service to your country,” Bennett said to Bartusiak after presenting him with a plaque.
Bartusiak thanked the mayor and the board after receiving the award.
The council also announced that trick-or-treat hours will take place from 3 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31 for Halloween.