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2017: A Year in Review

As the end of 2017 approaches, the Desplaines Valley News is taking a look back at the top stories of the past year. This week, we will highlight Bridgeview, Summit, Hodgkins, Indian Head Park, Countryside and Lyons. Next week, we will take a look back at what happened in Justice, Burbank, Willow Springs, Brookfield, McCook and Bedford Park.

BRIDGEVIEW: Park rededicated to Vietnam hero

The village honored the late Edwin Rudolph Wierzba, a Bridgeview resident who died in Vietnam, by rededicating on Veterans Day the park named for him.

Wierzba would have turned 70 years old in October. He died after being shot by a sniper in Vietnam in February 1968.

On Feb. 3, dozens braved cold weather to rally outside the Bridgeview mosque in opposition of the travel ban supported by President Trump. The show of support brought people of many different faiths together for a common cause.

The fourth annual Porky’s Ribfest returned to Toyota Park in June along with musical performers and about 30,000 hungry rib lovers who savored cooking from vendors around the country.

Toyota Park saw several sellout crowds at games played by the Chicago Fire, which experienced a winning season and made the MSL playoffs, albeit losing in the first game.

Toyota Park also was home to the second annual Open Air Festival, a three-day sold-out celebration of hard rock music that brought out legends like Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, Megadeath, Anthrax, Slayer and KISS.

Near Toyota Park, a new sports dome opened to replace the old dome that collapsed in a winter storm two years prior.

Fishermen found a new source for gear at the new Bridgeview Sports Sales, 7410 S. Harlem. They also sell firearms and plan to open two new shooting ranges.

A sadness fell over the village hall in October when longtime village employee William Cronch Sr. was found dead outside his home. Cronch had been the director of public works and most recently was director of administration for the police department.

Hundreds of residents turned out for the annual National Night Out in August, where they learned more about village services and departments.

Hundreds of “Thank You Blue for All You Do” signs popped up around the village as a show of support for the police, who had a rather busy 2017.

The village board approved a special permit to allow Ace Tires & Wheels Inc. to move into 7100 S. Harlem, Vehicle sales will not be permitted on the site. Nor will body work or painting of vehicles.

New houses are coming as the village board approved re-subdividing property at 7810-12 W. 73rd Street. The site is known as the Doug O’Brien Subdivision.

The board also approved a special use permit to allow operation of a used car dealership, including vehicle repair and a body shop, at 8251 S. Harlem Ave. Harlem Property Management is the new owner.

The police department added two new SUVs at a cost of nearly $25,000 each. The purchase was funded from the drug fund, which contains assets from drug seizures undertaken by Bridgeview.

Toyota Park was featured in a 2017 issue of Sports Turf Magazine because, in late 2016, it was deemed the finest pro soccer field in the nation by the Sports Turf Manager Association.

This fall, by unanimous vote, the village board appointed Russ Hartigan to direct the new Bridgeview Finance Corp. The corporation, Mayor Steve Landek explained, will make buying bonds for Bridgeview more attractive to potential investors.

Hartigan is a retired judge, president of the Illinois State Bar Association, and partner at the law firm of Goldstine, Skrodzki, Russian, Nemec and Hoff Ltd. “Our bond rating will be better because of it,” Landek said of the corporation plan.

Champion roller-skating Mattie Hyde traveled to China in September as a member of the U.S. team at the world roller skatingchampionships in Nanjing.

The 15-year-old Argo student said,”I’m really excited.I’m skating in a quartet with three girls from Missouri.”

A Bridgeview man, Jesus Solis, was charged with one count of aggravated driving under the influence causing death in an accident when a Blue Island man on a motorcycle was hit by Solis’ car in the 7200 block of Roberts Road.

In September, Bridgeview Police charged a man with committing several robberies in the Salvation Army parking lot. Ernesto Tequimila, 38, of the 900 block of Harlem, was arrested.

Three residents were charged in connection with the beating of 2-year-old boy in October. The boy’s sitters, Vincent Cisneroz and Miranda Benner, were charged with aggravated battery. The boy’s mother, Lisa Olson was charged with endangering the life of a child for failure to report the abuse, police said.

A Palos Hills man, Howard Strepek, was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of an Oak Lawn man in Bridgeview. Strepek was apparently upset over being let go from his job in July and shot to death Jerzy Milewski, 55, manager at a machining company in Bridgeview.



SUMMIT: Village welcomes new businesses

A very busy and productive year was seen in Summit, which welcomed new businesses and saw changes at Argo High School.

Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, famed for their “freaky fast delivery” opened on Dec. 28, 2016, at a new strip center, 5836 S. Harlem, and was soon joined there by Pizza Hut. Popeyes Chicken recently opened nearby, and served up plenty of free lunches that first day, Dec. 7.

A new Studio 63 nightclub opened its doors on Archer Road, less than a mile from its former location on 63rd Street near Harlem Avenue. Owner Nick Guotos, who had hoped to stay in the village, is happy to be back in Summit.

Mexican food fans in the area were shocked when a fire in a second-floor apartment forced the closing of El Famous on Archer Road, but the owner has announced plans to rebuild.

In the Summit Park District, Frank Torres was named the executive director after two years as acting director. He had also been director of the park and recreation department in Lyons, and that job is now filled with acting director Ted Tala.

In October, the National Park Service announced plans to help Summit do a study with the goal of reviving its boat launch into a recreation area, a pet project of Mayor Sergio Rodriguez.

Summit added solar lights to stop signs at 59th Street and 74th Avenue, resulting in bright lights around the stop signs there. It’s near the overpass used by students at schools it the village, and offers them safer passage.

Summit also touched up the water tower paint job, which had been peeling just a few years after it was done.

The Summit Park District approved bond sales needed to pay for improvements at parks around the village.

The village board saved about $70,000 a year by hiring a new refuse hauler. The village also aimed at cutting electrical costs by installing LED street lights.

The Summit police welcomed a new dog, Harley, who replaced Clyde the police dog killed in April after he got loose from an outdoor kennel and was a hit-and-run victim on Archer. The $7,000 to buy Harley came from donations by businesses.

Durbin’s decided to call it quits in Summit, ending its stay at 5719 Archer. The decision was announced in June, but as of last week, Durbin’s was still located there. There is plan for the Mezcal Cantina and Grill to replace it. Lack of parking may have hurt Durbin’s, but lack of a steady clientele was probably another factor, officials said.

On Dec. 18, former Oak Lawn trustee Jerry Hurckes, an aide to U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski was hired as executive director of the village, replacing Mike Porfirio, who has resigned after two years on the job.

Summit saved money by buying a used fire engine from Tinley Park to replace a 31-year- old engine.

Fire displaced a dozen residents of an apartment building in the 7600 block of 61st Place early Nov. 25.

Argo High School was very busy, too.

Todd Evans, citing “personal reasons,” resigned as coach of the varsity football team. One reason may have been his winning twice in three seasons. Or was it the turf’s fault? The school board announced the 13-year-old turf has to be replaced and the cost of removing it could be $400,000.

Argo opened its “amazing” Portillo Performing Arts Center in August, to great acclaim. The $17 million center was in part made possible with a $1 million donation from Richard and Sharon Portillo, two proud Argo graduates. He founded the Portillo fast-food empire.

Argo held its first ever night game for homecoming football on Sept. 15 and for the most part alumni, parents and students were thrilled.

The Argo High chess team was initially not allowed to compete at the nationals after its most successful season ever, but officials, after hearing from parents and community members, decided to let the team go after all.

In January, the Argo Community High School District 217 board hired Dr. Jill Kingsfield to be the new superintendent, replacing Kevin O’Mara, who retired. Kingsfield is a former assistant principal at Fenton High School.


HODGKINS: Mayor Cummings turns 90

Tiny Hodgkins celebrated in a big way on Oct. 19 when Mayor Noel B. Cummings turned 90.

Cummings has been mayor since 1979 and is in the midst of his 10th four-year term.

He has been the driving force behind the amazing commercial and retail development in Hodgkins the past four decades.

Cummings grew up on a farm in Mississippi. He and his wife moved from Chicago into the village in 1961 because they wanted a better education for their son and daughter at Lyons Township High School.

In 1975, friends convinced him to run for the village board, and he never looked back.

Among his crowning achievements are The Quarry Shopping Center where a truck farm once stood at Joliet and La Grange roads, Menards, the enormous United Parcel Service distribution center, convincing legendary Sam Walton to bring a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club into town, and attracting scores of other businesses.

On his birthday, the village board room filled with dozens of well-wishers who surprised him during a break in the regular meeting.

Cummings’ philosophy for success has been simple: Treat others with respect, work together even with rivals, always keep an open ear, and dream big.

Asked if he will seek an 11th term in 2019, he smiled and said “it depends how I’m feeling. We’ll leave it up the guy up there.”

And there are new developments coming to the village, in keeping with Cummings’ track record.

A 10-acre site long vacant at 6201 East Ave. across from the AMC Quarry movie theaters is being developed for two businesses. One is Runnion Equipment Co., based in Lyons, and the other is Advantage Chevrolet, which will sell new and used trucks.

On Lenzi Avenue, 10 apartment buildings, some of them dilapidated, have been acquired and demolished to make room for redevelopment.


INDIAN HEAD PARK: Former Dome demolished

The village of Indian Head Park is looking to the future after a local landmark was torn down.

The Dome Restaurant, vacant for several years, came tumbling down. Demolition began on Halloween and empty land is now found where it once stood.

The restaurant, at the corner of Wolf and Joliet roads, had been a landmark of sorts for a couple of decades with its distinctive “dome” design.

It was popular with locals, and more than a few golfers would saunter over for breakfast or lunch after playing nine holes at Flagg Creek Golf Course across the street.

But the restaurant closed down about three years ago.

The building’s owner, Nick Reveliotis, had grown tired of paying $10,000 a year in property taxes for an empty property that didn’t generate any income, village administrator John DuRocher said.

Meanwhile, merchants in the strip mall called Indian Head Park Plaza, just south of the site, are torn on what they want to see replace The Dome. Some would like to see a fast-food place like a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Others would like to see another sit-down restaurant.

The village is interested in doing a study on how to best develop what is called The Triangle, the area bordered by Joliet Road, Wolf Road and the tollway, DuRocher said.

In December, the second ranking police officer was charged with shooting his son over some missing vodka.

Sgt. Raymond Leuser, 48, was charged after he allegedly shot his 22-year-old son at least four times Dec. 12 in their home in the 6200 block of South Nashville Avenue in Chicago’s Clearing community.

Prosecutors said Leuser’s son drank several glasses of vodka from a bottle Leuser purchased and replaced the liquor with water.

He served as police chief from May 2015 to May 2016.

COUNTRYSIDE: New village hall, police station coming

Construction is expected to begin soon on a new City Hall and Police Station, which will be located at Joliet and Brainard, former home of The Flame and then Outriggers restaurants.

The old building was demolished in late October and early November.

The city in May created a historic preservation committee that will try to gather historical items and for a planned display area in the new city hall. The city and historic Route 66 are the topics.

Barbecue lovers are thrilled to know the legendary Russell’s Barbecue, based in Elmwood Park, plans to renovate and move into the former Beef ‘N Brandy Restaurant, 5545 S. La Grange Road.

On Aug. 5, the city hosted the first ever Countryside Criterium, a bike race with races for various ages and skill levels on residential streets. A total of 141 racers pre-registered for the event that included cash prizes for winners.

Another transportation issue had residents attending an IDOT meeting in October about plans to improve 55th Street and La Grange Road. Most there panned the project, saying it would reduce the number of parking spaces in the area and make getting around more difficult with raised medians to contend with.

Former mayor Carl LeGant was honored by the city in June when it renamed the park at 55th and Plainfield in his honor. LeGant was mayor of the city when it saw tremendous growth, especially in the commercial and retail business along LaGrange Road.

New cameras were ordered and installed for the city’s police cars.

And the city council amended an ordinance that will make it easier for more residents to keep bees.

LYONS: Village hands out new recycling bins

One of the biggest events in Lyons was a two-hour meeting, hosted by Mayor Christopher Getty, about the Cook County tax on sweetened beverages.

More than 125 people filled the village board meeting room to voice their displeasure at the September meeting. And they were heard, loud and clear, as the county eventually voted to rescind the tax.

The village closed the year with its eye on the environment, as it distributed new 65-gallon recycling bins to residents in the southwest corner of town. The new bins, which have lids and are larger than the old, should be found throughout the entire village in about two years.

A new business, the Beyond Words Dance Studio owned by Kate Jablonski, opened over the summer in a building near Stella’ and the popular batting cages.

Two other new businesses opened on Lawndale Avenue. The Lyons Food Market, at 4401 Lawndale, opened in the summer with a deli counter and a small dining area were Mexican food is served. Next door can be found La Michoacana which offers homemade ice cream.

In January, the village announced that the quarry at Ogden and First avenues will be filled sooner than expected. Plans call for the owner, Reliable Materials, to give the 60-acre site to the village for future development. This year, compaction of soil continued at the site and is near completion.

The village extended the contract of Police Chief James Keating by two years with an option for a third because the board is pleased with his job performance.

Demolition crews were kept busy in Lyons as three older buildings were torn down.

The old firehouse at 4043 Joliet Ave. was knocked down to make room for a much-needed parking lot.

The recreation center on Gage also was demolished and the land will be sold to a developer hoping to build two homes.

Finally, the stately old village hall and an addition on Ogden Avenue were targeted for demolition, which inspired many residents to watch the process. Officials hope to attract retail there.

Seniors and the disabled got around for less as the village subsidized taxi service, paying half the cost, in an agreement with Blue Cab based in Forest Park.

In May, a Lyons woman was fined $275 and found guilty of failure to provide proper veterinary care for a dog which died while it was in her care. The adjudicator, Garrett Reidy, told dog owner Angelica Zarco that he hoped she does not get any more pets in the future.

An unwanted dose of excitement hit Lyons in June when a chase that went from DeKalb to the village ended with a murder suspect being shot to death by law enforcement officials at the busy intersection of Joliet and Ogden avenues.

Another successful summer of free weekly concerts was held in Veterans Park. Local polka star Eddie Korosa Jr., packed them in one night. The village served up free hot dogs and soft drinks each week.

Lyons offered property tax pro incentives to keep Atlas Tool and Die in tow. Atlas has been in Lyons since the 1950s. Atlas employs 80 people, some of whom live within walking distance.

The village recently announced plans to seeking outside assistance from a real estate developer in the hopes of finding a tenant for a new, unoccupied building near Culver’s on Ogden Avenue near Veterans Park. Ideally that would be a good site for a restaurant, officials have said.

Mayor Christopher Getty we re-elected in the spring, and he also is now the supervisor of Lyons Township.

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