Maintain buildings, watch expenses, D-234 officials tell District 80
D-234 board president and business manager talk D-234 finances
District 80’s finance committee heard from Ridgewood District 234’s business manager and board president on how they manage the District’s expenses, including recovering from a financial crisis in 2009-2010.
234 board president Paul Draniczarek urged District 80 to maintain its buildings, saying that if they were not maintained, the eventual cost to fix major issues would be much higher in the long run.
“You’ve got to maintain, because that keeps you from having the catastrophic problems, spending a lot more money later” Draniczarek said.
He also recommended District 80 spread maintenance spending out over time, instead of doing everything at once.
“You try to schedule out things so that you … are not spending $3 million in capital improvements one year, and $100,000 the next year”, Draniczarek added.
He said District 234 splits up maintenance into pieces so they can budget for it “as long as you have a good comprehensive inventory of what needs to be done”.
“I think that’s key from a building perspective”, Draniczarek said.
Despite burning nearly $8 million from a $10 million dollar reserve since 2011, District 80 had not spent the money for capital improvements, instead using it to fund new programs that the District could not fund from their yearly operating revenue.
Board Member Frank Tribuzio asked if District 80 should perform a “forensic audit”, to find out where the money went, a campaign issue made by other board members.
Draniczarek threw cold water on that idea. “What’s done is done” Draniczarek said.
“What you need to do is get yourself on the right track”.
“Find a way to go forward” Draniczarek added. “Going back and pointing fingers… I don’t think really serves any purpose”.
District 234 is moving forward with a feasability study to potentially combine Districts 234, 80, and Union Ridge District 86.
Recording of the October 16 2019 District 80 Finance Committee Meeting (full video, 1 hour 37 minutes)
Norwood Park fire department trustee Andrew Skyba was censured for taking medical supplies earmarked for flu shots
Skyba (right) and his buddy, fellow fire trustee Frank Avino, in August 2019
This coming Saturday, October 5th, free flu shots are being made available by the Norwood Park fire department for local residents.
During last year’s flu shots, there was some excitement as medical supplies mysteriously vanished from the firehouse.
Surveillance footage of Andrew Skyba
The mystery was solved once fire employees reviewed video surveillance. Camera footage revealed an individual dressed in a sports jacket, baseball cap, and dark glasses entering and leaving the building at the time the thefts occurred.
Looking closely at the identify of the thief however, produced the realization that the perpetrator was actually one of their own – longtime fire department trustee Andrew Skyba.
When confronted, Skyba admitted taking the supplies. Offered a choice to resign or the department would press charges against him, Skyba arrogantly refused to resign. Instead, he returned the supplies.
The Norwood Park fire board was unable to impeach him due to the dollar amount being under the threshold of a felony… or so they claim.
And although a police report was made, it appears Skyba was never actually charged with anything.
Ultimately, the only action the fire department made was censuring Skyba – hardly even a slap on the wrist. In other words, no meaningful consequences.
The cash value of a box of 100 band-aids is minuscule. But theft is theft. Why wasn’t Skyba charged with even a misdemeanor?
Every few weeks we see the police blotter showing criminals being arrested and charged with petty theft at stores throughout Norridge.
Who other than the always-protected political class can just go in, take something that wasn’t theirs, get caught, then “return” it – with NO criminal sanction whatsoever by the local PD?
Based on his political activity, Skyba seems to have ties to Democratic operatives… AND somebody who loves taking more and more taxpayer money every chance he gets: Illinois governor JB Pritzker.
Skyba has ties to… billionaire Governor JB Pritzker?
Voters should send the thief packing
Skyba has been trustee since 1989. If the fire board is unwilling or unable to remove Skyba, then voters should see to it that he is not re-elected to this or any other position. Forever.
A focused challenger shouldn’t have any trouble defeating the perpetrator of “bandaid-gate”.
If Skyba had any shame, he would have resigned, or at least not seek re-election when his term is up.
In the meantime… since Pritzker saved all that property tax money “de-toileting” one of his homes… maybe the governor can gift this poor man a box of bandages?
Renter of “Johnathan Reyes incident” home requests Village reimburse her over excessive property damage by police
Kathleen Smith says she is the renter of the home on the 4000 block of Oleander where the Johnathan Reyes incident took place.
Kathleen Smith: “please take responsibility for the destruction at my house”
Her son, who is a heart transplant patient and currently suffering from transplant rejection, was an acquaintance of Reyes, and allowed him in the house.
Smith said when she came home she cooperated with the police in order to get Reyes out of her house. “At this time we told them Mr Reyes was hiding in the basement”.
She said the officer who was in her house “took my son at gunpoint to the basement to look for the suspect”.
Had Reyes come out shooting, it would have been her son that got shot, Smith added.
More police officers arrived including a SWAT team, and at 4:30 PM, “SWAT decided to rip down my Ring doorbell [camera] and toss it on the ground.” The officer uttered “profanities” as he was ripping the camera doorbell to the ground, Smith said.
Police broke her bedroom and bathroom windows, even through she had provided the keys to her locked bedroom to the police.
Smith stated that while she “understood the magnitude of what happened”, she was in disbelief of the excessive force and destruction that was done to her residence.
“I plead to you, the Village of Norridge, to please take responsibility for the destruction at my house, and cover the expenses for my windows and doors that are boarded up, now leaving me feeling very unsafe”.
“I did nothing but comply with the police officers”, Smith said, visibly upset. “And I feel like I am now the victim”.
Interim Village President Tannhauser and “Village Administrator” Skupien responded, saying they would need to talk to their insurance company about this issue.
Daniel Tannhauser “officially” resigned his trustee position, and the Village board immediately voted to nominate Andrew Ronstadt of the village zoning board as Tannhauser’s replacement.
The Village did not inform the members of the public of the vacancy, nor did they accept any applications for the position. This contrasts with District 80, which opened up its vacancy to all applicants in 2017 after Adam McGready abandoned his board seat.
Ronstadt is a member of the Norridge Improvement Party.
The Village is now offering online payment of water bills… for a hefty $3 fee.
Recording of the September 25 2019 Village of Norridge Board Meeting (21 minutes)
Village Board votes to deny re-zoning of single family to multiple family of Farragut/Cumberland parcel
A proposal to turn the vacant property at the northwest corner of Farragut and Cumberland on the far northern part of the Village has been killed by the Village Board… at least for now.
The property owner’s designer made a last ditch attempt to “sell” the zoning change, by claiming that it will be used by the owner’s family. The proposal can be modified to a townhouse, rather than apartments or rentals, he said.
This time, the Village Board sided with residents, voting to deny the zoning petition that sought to change it from R-1 single family to R-3 multi family.
This decision is rare as Village politicians often side with developers over the objections of local residents. Earlier this year, Village politicians under the then-James Chmura regime, approved a gas station in the 4000 Ozark and Overhill neighborhoods, despite local opposition.
Recording of the August 28 2019 Village of Norridge Board Meeting (full video – 24 minutes)
Many residents of Farragut Ave spoke out against the zoning petition
Board tables vote to deny zoning change of single family home to multi tenant unit on Farragut & Cumberland
The Norridge Zoning Board held a hearing on a zoning petition July 1st by an owner of property at Cumberland and Farragut Avenues, on the far northern part of Norridge’s boundaries.
The petition would change the zoning classification of the 5235 Cumberland property from a single family home (R-1) to a multi family (R-3) unit.
Many Farragut residents came out to oppose the petition, citing several concerns including sewer issues, parking and traffic.
Historically, the Village Zoning Board has shown itself to be a been a rubber-stamp farce, packed with patronage job political hacks, who never hesitate to throw local residents under the bus to support the political leadership’s diktats… no matter the cost to the locals.
This time, however, the Zoning Board actually stood by local residents, voting to recommend the Village Board deny the R-3 zoning change.
The decision, however was not upheld by the Village Board. At the July 24th Village board meeting, the board chickened out, not supporting or opposing the petition, instead tabling the vote until a future meeting.
The board members who could be bothered to show up, that is. Interim mayor Daniel Tannhauser failed to attend the meeting. Also missing was trustee Donald Gelsomino.
The remaining trustees voted in 85-year old trustee Ursula Kucharski an temporary President Pro Tem. Kucharski seemed out of her element as she painfully stumbled through the meeting agenda.
The delayed vote seems an attempt to find some reason to approve the zoning change over both the zoning board’s, and local residents’ objections.
No doubt they’ll find a way to ram this multi-unit monstrosity down the throats of the good residents of Farragut… just as they did the gas station a few months earlier.
Recording of the July 24 2019 Village of Norridge Board Meeting (full video – 25 minutes)
Chmura’s tax-and-run final budget shows $2.1 million property tax levy for 2020, up from $1.6 million in 2019
Buried under the announcement of Norridge Improvement Party regime leader James Chmura’s departure as Village President effective June 30th, was a line item of the Village property tax levy for 2020: $2.1 million.
That’s a 32% increase from 2019’s $1.6 million, which itself was a 35% increase over 2018’s $1.2 million levy.
Village trustees rubber stamped Chmura’s last tax increase budget without a single comment… as per usual.
Chmura will leave office in 2019 with the Village property tax levy 110% higher than it was when he took office in 2013.
The Village levies property taxes under it’s “home rule” authority, which does not require a referendum for increases beyond the rate of inflation.
The tax levy will not happen until after a formal hearing is held later in the year, followed by another Village board vote. The likelihood of NIP politicians opposing it? Pretty slim.
Why the sudden departure?
James Chmura has given various reasons for skipping out before the end of his term.
But the timing of his departure, right after shoving through two HUGE property tax increases, shows he doesn’t want to deal with the fallout from the decisions he’s made.
In an interview with the Chicago-based Tribune, Chmura denied health related reasons for his exit.
Anyone who has observed James Chmura over the past few years knows that his health has seen significant decline. His stated reasons for leaving are his choice, but it doesn’t sound very credible.
Nobody could blame Chmura for leaving on health grounds.
Given his visible health related issues for the past two years, the better choice would have been to leave in 2018, so his replacement could have been… elected… in April this year.
Now, the NIP regime will be able to appoint a new mayor and a new trustee, both of whom will enjoy the power of taxpayer-funded incumbency… giving them an unfair advantage going into the 2021 local elections.
New trustee Bill Larson did the same thing when he refused to resign his Park Distinct commissioner seat in 2018, despite knowing he was running for the Village board; his replacement will also be appointed.
Can’t even be bothered to be elected. A pattern of NIP contempt for democratic principles.
We can’t say we’re going to miss Chmura… his misdeeds will be felt in our Village for a long time.
He leaves a Village suffering from a crime epidemic, appalling zoning decisions that have and will continue to surge crime further, big tax increases… and the Village Board being slowly conquered by people who’s loyalty is to Chicago… rather than Norridge.
Sam Palazzo becomes Board President, Frank Tribuzio as Vice President and Renzo Berardi as Secretary
New board members Sam Palazzo, Frank Tribuzio, Renzo Berardi, Lou Mezzano and incumbent Mike Bellafiore are sworn in.
Board members debated the various scenarios for a new Superintendent carried over from the previous meeting: sharing a superintendent, an interim superintendent, and hiring a search firm for a full time superintendent.
Recording of the April 23 2019 D-80 Reorganization Special Meeting (full video, 1 hour 1 minute)
Recording of the April 16 2019 D-80 Board Meeting (full video, 40 minutes)
Furious residents pack the Village board meeting to oppose gas station, but the board and its mayor pay them no heed, approving it unanimously
Residents attended in big numbers
On April 24th, the Village board room had more people then chairs to seat them (a rare occurrence). Most were there to speak out against a new 12 pump gas station on Irving Park Road between Ozark and Overhill.
It was for naught. The Village government, under the control of the Norridge Improvement Party, didn’t even allow them to speak before they voted unanimously to ram through the zoning petition for a 24-hour gas station with convenience store, video gambling, and liquor.
Prior to the vote, some residents tried to speak out, but were silenced by Norridge Police Chief David Disselhorst.
It was an appalling, disrespectful and more importantly – undemocratic – slap in the face to Village residents.
Strong residential opposition
After the vote, residents took turns raking mayor James Chmura over the coals, followed by loud applause.
A professional geologist for the state of Illinois, Renee Wawczak who has several years of cleaning up leaking gas station sites, expressed her concerns over the gas station proposal.
“As somebody who has cleaned up these sites” she said “They all leak”. Underground storage tanks can leak causing contamination of storm and sanitary sewers, and travel through these systems where they “can release vapors into homes and businesses”.
“The Zoning department has not done their environmental due diligence” Wawczak added.
Ann Chmura (no relation to mayor James Chmura), sent a letter to the Village trustees asking them to postpone the meeting and the decision, which James Chmura and the board confirm that they have received and read.
Ann Chmura and the residents affected only had two weeks to mobilize on this issue. “We were given the opportunity to voice our concerns way too late in the decision process”, Ann Chmura added.
Despite that, they were able to obtain 106 signatures for a petition opposing the development.
Ms Chmura also criticized the Village’s lack of communication on this issue, saying “I didn’t hear about this” until later, further objecting to “the lack of transparency” throughout the process.
Edelweiss’s attorney Sam Amirante echoed the comments of other residents, saying “We don’t want the Village to move too quickly … further studies need to be done”.
“Edelweiss has been there for over 50 years, it’s been a tremendous business in the community, people is Norridge love it, people from all over come to it.”
“If that gas station is allowed to be built without further study how a gas station does affect the environment, children, and a restaurant right across the street from it … those issues have to be addressed by this board … please act prudently and with concern for all our issues”, Amirante said.
Linda Cowski expressed dismay over the 24 hour gas station, and convenience store that sells liquor.
She also expressed concern about the video gaming, “it was never really said if there was going to be a separate room for gaming?”
Cowski said parking will be an issue, and the fact that the gas station property will be allowed up to two feet close to the alley.
She objected to the zoning board claiming the gas station would not decrease their property values.
James Chmura responded that the Village hasn’t agreed to the 24 hours. Video gaming stops at midnight, and liquor sales ends at 2AM.
“We also have to discuss the streets and the turnoffs [onto Irving Park Road and / or the side streets] with them”, Chmura said.
“Why do you need video gaming in a gas station?” Cowski asked. “It’s very lucrative”, Chmura responded.
Cowski also spoke of traffic issues, “The traffic is going to just be horrific. You don’t live here, you don’t understand.”
Danny Defelice said condos would be better than a 24-hour gas station.
“What kind of suburb do we want to be? Do we want to be a suburb that has slot machines at gas stations or do we want to be more of a Park Ridge where things are a little more restrictive?” Defelice said.
Edelweiss owner Walt Kosch expressed concern with the crime that comes with putting in a gas station, “We’re concerned as corporate citizens next door about that kind of situation.”
“We think it is going to bring in a different type of element into our business, we’re very concerned about that, as well as how it is going to affect our neighbors” Kosch said.
Travis Aguilera said there are 11 children on the 4000 block of Overhill and is concerned about children’s safety.
He also thinks parking will be made worse with the new gas station as the 4000 block of Overhill is already getting overflow parking for Edelweiss.
Aguilera also objected to the Village moving forward so quickly.
“We got a petition … you guys just keep moving forward … we don’t appreciate it” Aguilera said.
Flo Wawczak asked if an environmental study was done on the land – there was none.
“Do you know the Village of Norridge Motto? Community, compassion, care and hope. That’s what all these people want, myself included”, she said.
Christine Wawrzynowicz said her block has problem now with speeding, no parking. “All we know is that we can’t park in front of our street now”.
She also objected to liquor and gambling sales.
“I have lived here 20-23 years, I love this place… to tell you the truth now, I can’t wait to get out. And a lot of people feel that way.”
“Because it seems like you don’t care about us, you care about the almighty buck, and it’s not right” Wawrzynowicz added.
Daisy Aguilera objected to the zoning petition being approved. “The zoning was put in this Village to protect this Village, but in one false move the zoning was changed.”
“Every gas station in the world brings a bad element … motorcycles … hot rods”.
“This nice, quiet neighborhood … has become the City of Chicago” Aguilera said. “We are losing sight of the Village that once was”.
Anthony Kaldis said he didn’t feel a gas station is the right way to go.
Cindy Tullio has a child with severe lung dysfunction and is concerned the vapors from the gas station will further adversely affect her health.
Bob Mrozek, who used to work at a gas station his father owned, said a gas station “does bring an element that that is undesirable, especially as the nighttime comes”.
“Who lives near the gas station?” Mrozek asked. “Who wants the gas station?”
“Who doesn’t want it?” All hands in the audience went up, and he got a standing ovation.
Unfortunately, what the people want, isn’t something that interests the current crop of Norridge politicians.
The lady said it best: they are only interested in The Almighty Buck.
Recording of the April 24 2019 Village of Norridge Board Meeting (full video – 1 hour 4 minutes)
Residents ask Village board to delay vote on 12-pump gas station with 24 hour convenience store due to environmental, noise, traffic concerns
Exron LLC is planning on putting a new gas station on the piece of Village-owned property on Irving Park Road between Ozark and Overhill, in a proposal unveiled at a zoning meeting held April 8th.
The property currently consists of the unused Joe Sieb community center and its parking lot, an undeveloped portion in the middle, and parking across from Edelweiss restaurant.
Exron wants to turn the entire property into a gas station with twelve pumps, and a convenience store open 24 hours. The store will have gambling and may even sell liquor.
The twelve-foot setbacks would be reduced to two and green space would be eliminated under the proposal, raising flooding concerns for a parcel that already has issues with standing water.
Part of the property is undeveloped
Despite the potential environmental impact underground gasoline storage tanks can have, no environmental study was done.
Local residents brought these issues to the zoning hearing on the 8th, but the zoning board failed to take any meaningful action on any of it.
The zoning chairman is required to ask several questions of the zoning board members prior to a vote, including if there is local opposition, or if it will affect local property values.
Incredibly, the zoning board answered “no” to both questions.
The message was clear: this zoning petition is to pass regardless of opposition.
Local residents opposed
In a letter sent to Village President Chmura and the Village trustees, residents asked the Village board to “delay the final vote on April 24” and to “instead hold public community meetings to inform us on the zoning request while also taking the time to listen to the community’s ideas of what to do with the vacant space”.
Edelweiss overflow parking
They are also concerned they will “not be able to complete a review of the information requested before the board meeting on April 24”.
This group of concerned citizens is correct. There is not enough time to do a thorough review of the proposal before the April 24 board meeting.
Even worse, because public comment at Village Board meetings is only allowed after votes are taken, the residents will not be able to speak to the Village board at all before the trustees vote.
Underground storage tank leaks
There have been incidents with gas stations and leaking underground fuel storage tanks in the area.
Harwood Heights has had three stations with leak issues:, the station at Nagle & Naragansett, the station at Foster & Harlem, and a repair shop that no longer sells gasoline at Lawrence & Olcott.
Norridge currently has five gas stations, and the Norridge Village Board should carefully consider any new gas stations in light of issues with underground storage tanks.
Lack of transparency and democratic process
The zoning board is just an advisory board packed with political appointees. It is the Village Board who has actual say whether or not to concur with the zoning board’s recommendations.
By not allowing residents to speak at the board meeting before the vote is to take place, the Village of Norridge is making a mockery of a proper democratic process.
The Village of Norridge should table this vote until a future board meeting, to give the neighborhood most affected by this development, as well as the greater community as a whole, a chance to consider and weigh in.
Edelweiss restaurant is also a stakeholder as they use the gravel portion of the lot for extra overflow parking.
Not only will it impact the local community, but it will also impact traffic on Irving Park Road.
Even if you’re not opposed to putting this development here, consider the following: if they can put a 12-pump gas station with 24 hour convenience store in this neighborhood (as they put a 24 hour X-Sport in another neighborhood)… they could put anything in your neighborhood.