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Debate Merits of Video Gaming

Oak Lawn Village Board Review Plans for Liquor License Requests

The video gaming industry Ñ its benefits and minuses Ñ was the main topic of interest at the Oak Lawn Village Board meeting on Tuesday night.

The evening began with comments from Kathy Gilroy, who opposes the presence of video gambling in the village. {{more}}

Gilroy said during the question-and-answer session that ÒOak Lawn has given up all control” to the Illinois legislature, which has approved the video gaming industry for the state.

ÒIf the state allows it, the more accessible gambling becomes,” said Gilroy. ÒMore people will try it and it will lead to addiction.”

Gilroy then asked that with Oak Lawn also approving video gaming, will this mean that more liquor licenses will be allowed?

Board members later looked at the pros and cons of the video gaming industry.

Trustee Thomas Duhig (4th) was absent from the meeting.

ÒWe are now being inundated with bistros and cafes,” said Trustee Cynthia Trautsch (1st). ÒDo we cap them at a certain amount? We not only have barkeeps but we have restaurants that are also requesting liquor licenses.”

Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) said that his concern is that if more liquor licenses are rewarded to these establishments, the video gaming industry will increase to an alarming rate in Oak Lawn.

However, the income derived from the video gaming industry would benefit cash-strapped Oak Lawn, according to Trustee Carol Quinlan (5th).

She pointed to the southeast corner of 103rd and Central Avenue and the empty buildings.

ÒI’ve talked to residents that say they would like to see something there than nothing at all,” said Quinlan.

Quinlan added that the economic boost for the village would be worth considering. She estimates that Oak Lawn could see an extra $500,000 annually with the presence of video gaming.

However, even with those advantages, Quinlan said she was concerned.

Trustee Thomas Phelan (6th) also had questions.

ÒThere are people who do have addictions,” said Phelan. ÒIt’s a problem and could result in lawsuits. I thought we were giving licenses to existing businesses, but now we know we are getting all these requests.”

Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) stated that there has been 21 requests for liquor licenses just recently.

ÒIt isn’t a panacea but we as a board have to weigh each business, case by case,” said Streit. ÒHow is it going to affect the neighborhood? Are they going to be a nuisance? What about parking?”

Several businesses had requested liquor licenses at the meeting. However, the merits of another business was debated despite the fact that it was not looking for a liquor license and was approved by an 8-0 margin by the village’s Planning and Development Commission.

A petition for a massage establishment, 6340 W. 95th St., was debated at the meeting. Quinlan questioned one of the owners, Chang Suo Xue, about the business. Xue stated that massages would be out in the open and would be mainly foot massages. When pressed by Quinlan, Xue said that shoulders may be rubbed in an effort to relax the customer.

Xue said that no showers or wet areas would be at the businesses. The business was approved by a 3-2 margin.

Liquor licenses were unanimously approved for the Blackhawk Restaurant Group for Penny’s Place, 6346 W. 95th St., and Bobush, 4911 W. 95th St.

While the board welcomed the businesses, concerns over what appears as an increase in liquor license requests will mean additional video gaming.

Olejniczak said that he met with the owners of Bobush and they stated they have no interest in video gaming.

But when asked, village attorney Paul O’Grady said that any business that receives a liquor license is eligible to have video gaming.

Mayor Dave Heilmann said that perhaps an ordinance needs to be established specifically for video gaming to maintain control over the industry. Oak Lawn already has an ordinance for liquor licenses.

Larry Deetjen, the village manager, said that a new alarm system is being set up at strategic locations in Oak Lawn to warn residents about floods or other major disasters. Deetjen said the messages will be in English, Polish and Spanish. The alarm system will also be set up in mid-February.

Deetjen also pointed to a display in front showing three water mains, one that is broken. The water main breaks occurred between 102nd and 104th on Menard. Water began bubbling out of the 30-foot water main pipes. A boil order was requested for a short period of time. Deetjen later added that the situation was isolated and only affected about 10 homes.

Despite the lack of snow, Olejniczak said that the senior shovel program is available and the Òtroops are ready to go” when the snow finally arrives. He also reminded residents to check on the elderly especially after the recent frigid temperatures.

Olejniczak also questioned why Streit called for more additional information regarding his request for a turning signal at Central Avenue and Southwest Highway. Olejniczak said the corner is dangerous, and a serious accident occurred there recently.

A barrier had been installed in front of the corner home on the northwest corner because of vehicles that have plowed into the residence previously.

Streit countered by saying that he was only responding to someone who approached him about the need for a turning signal light at that corner. Streit agreed with Olejniczak about additional safety measures that need to be examined.

Calling for more awareness for bicycle safety, Streit said extra precautions have to be implemented to create a safe environment for pedestrians, drivers and bicyclists. He also mentioned the corners of 95th and Central, 99th Street and 55th Avenue, Southwest Highway and 52nd Avenue, and 95th and Cicero, where an Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School girl was killed last year trying to cross, as examples of dangerous corners.

Phelan and Streit bickered over funding for infrastructure improvements. Phelan stated that Streit has dictated what areas should be set for improvements, which he said should be determined by engineers, not public officials.

However, Streit stated that money for improvements have come from the Build American funds, which he said is nearly depleted. Streit added that while engineers can decide what projects should be worked on, the board has to focus on what areas have the greatest need.

A resolution authorizing Deetjen to seek reimbursement of overtime costs incurred by the village as a result of the filming of ÒSpeeders Fight Back” became the source of another heated exchange.

Olejniczak and Phelan called for the request. Heilmann said that many entities owe the village money and this is just one more.

Quinlan wondered why this had to be brought up again and felt that the issue was Òridiculous.”

Phelan did not see it that way.

ÒThese were serious allegations for a month, and we didn’t do anything,” said Phelan.

Streit countered by saying this issue was on the agenda last month and the only reason it is being brought up is political.

Phelan and Streit again argued about their past differences that included how tickets were distributed at the Fall on the Green. Heilmann banged the gavel and said that Phelan was out of order.

Streit concluded by saying just Òsend out the bill.”

Quinlan added that there appears to be some confusion over aggregation. Verde Energy, which was approved in the November election to provide energy for the village, will begin operating on Feb. 5.

She also said that if someone calls saying they are from Microsoft, Dell or other companies, this is nothing more than a scam. They are trying to get residents to detail them information from their computers.

Quinlan advises residents who receive these calls to just hang up.

Trautsch reminded residents about the ÒRemembering Megan” Candlelight Bowl that begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2 at Arena Bowl, 4700 W. 103rd St.

The annual event is held in memory of Megan Hurckes, who was the daughter of former 1st District Trustee Jerry Hurckes. Megan, who would have turned 14 this year, died several years ago in a vehicular accident.

Heilmann also reminded residents about the Cook County Bureau Food Checkout Day, which will be held Thursday, Feb. 21. Funds raised from the event at a local Jewel will go to the Ronald McDonald House.

The mayor and Trautsch said that another school safety meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 29 at Harnew School, 9101 S. Meade Ave.

Demolition plans for the Harley Davidson building near 111th Street and Cicero Avenue will proceed. Demolition will begin during the next month, Deetjen said.

Phelan, a graduate of Brother Rice High School, mentioned that Tom Mitchell, the longtime head football coach at Brother Rice, had died.

ÒOur condolences go to the Mitchell family,” said Heilmann. ÒHe is a guy who contributed a lot to Oak Lawn and a lot of families here.”

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