Local News

Page 2: 2 long awaited infrastructure projects make progress

News about the train station, the Dixie Highway Viaduct, a young Flossmoor trumpeter who makes a television appearance, state representatives available to talk with constituents in Homewood, progress on the Homewood Police Department entrance, a benefit 5K run sponsored by St. Andrew Church, county beverage tax implementation delayed, old friends make new friends at Hot Fun in the Summertime, Homewood officials take a turn making White Castle ‘burgers and a new TALK program has artists pitching their ideas to potential sponsors.


The commentary below represents the ideas, observations and opinions of the author.

On Monday, July 10, Metra will hold a public meeting at Homewood village hall to unveil the plan for major renovations to the train station, a project village officials have spent years lobbying for.

  The Dixie Highway viaduct is 
  flooded Sunday, July 2, after 
  a 15-minute downpour.

  (Photo by Eric Crump/
  H-F Chronicle)

Funding is still not in place, but Homewood Village Manager Jim Marino said having the plan ready to go would speed the project along when funding is available.

There were signs recently that another long awaited project is moving forward.

The week of June 19 Illinois Department of Transportation conducted survey work at the Dixie Highway Viaduct.

That’s the first step in addressing chronic drainage problems that lead to serious flooding that can block traffic for hours during heavy rains.

Homewood Public Works Director John Schaefer said IDOT will use the inspection and survey information to begin developing options.

“IDOT will develop a solution which may include repairing the current system or replacing the entire storm system, with cost estimates for both,” he said. “Based on the final solution, IDOT will prepare plans and  place the project on a list of other projects to determine when funding would be available to move forward with the project.”

Flossmoor trumpeter gets moment in the spotlight
Homewood Farmers Market patrons might remember seeing a young trumpeter taking solos with Chris Denman’s jazz ensemble last summer. Liam Nelson, who was 11 at the time and had been playing for about a year, impressed more than one listener.

  Liam Nelson, third from the
  left, appears with musician and
  actor Harry Connick Jr., right,
  in an episode of Connick’s
  television show “Harry,”
  which aired in May.

A producer for “Harry,” musician and actor Harry Connick Jr.’s television show, saw a video of Liam playing Dizzy Gillespie’s “Birks’ Works” and was impressed enough to contact Liam.

“It was an amazing opportunity made possible by a village of teachers who have cared for and challenged Liam,” his mother, Michelle Nelson, said.

She thanked Liam’s violin teacher, Suzanne Rickman, who taught him music theory, and Denman, his trumpet teacher.

The Nelsons traveled to New York in April for the “Harry” taping session. The show aired May 11 on the Fox network.

Michelle Nelson said six child musicians appeared on the show, where they played “Eve,” Connick’s theme song.

“Liam loved the experience,” she said. “He said his favorite part of the trip was working with Harry’s trumpet guys, Mark Braud and Jumaane Smith.

“Liam loves the trumpet now more than ever, and I’m thankful to School District 161 for having a band program that allowed Liam to test the waters in picking out the trumpet.”   

In getting an opportunity to perform for a big audience, Liam is following in the footsteps of his sister, Kate, who plays violin and last year performed in front of 22,000 fans at halftime of a Chicago Bulls game.

Businesses sour on sweetened beverage tax
If you think a new tax would be met with strong opposition, you’d be right.

The Cook County sweetened beverage tax, originally slated to go into effect July 1, had the beverage industry ratcheting up its efforts in June to convince the county to reconsider, taking the case to consumers via the Can the Tax campaign.

Last week, a coalition of grocery stores, including Walt’s Food Centers, and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed suit, and on Friday, June 30, a Cook County judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt implementation of the tax.

The one-cent-per-ounce tax would apply to “bottled sweetened beverages (soda, sports drinks, flavored water, energy drinks, pre-made sweetened coffee and tea with less than 50 percent milk content,” according to the Cook County website. The tax would not be applied to “100 percent natural fruit/vegetable juice, syrup and powder with no added sweetener.”

The Can the Tax campaign’s website, assuming that producers and retailers would pass the entire tax along to consumers, projected cost increases of 30 to 67 percent on popular sizes of sweetened beverages.

That means a 99-cent 2-liter bottle of soda gets 67 cents in new beverage taxes tacked on.

For beverage industry advocates, the tax is portrayed as an impending disaster, costing consumers money, costing jobs and harming struggling businesses.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle defended the tax as a necessary step to bolster the county budget ― the tax is expected to generate $200 million a year ― and help fight health problems, especially obesity.

The fate of the tax is now in the courts.

State representatives expected to be available at Homewood village hall
Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld announced that two local state representatives have said they would join him at his weekly office hours in the lobby of village hall in the near future.

Will Davis is slated to be available to talk with constituents on July 8, and Al Riley is expected to be there on July 22.

Hofeld holds office hours each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon to answer questions and help residents with concerns they have.

Hot Fun in the Summertime brings old friends together

  John McKinley, left, listens as 
  Tony Pratscher, right, talks 
  with author Craig Champlin, 
 (Photo by Eric Crump/
  H-F Chronicle)

Craig Champlin was signing copies of his book, “Ernie Bedlam Stories,” and promoting his podcast while a crowd of Homewood-Flossmoor alumnae from classes in the early 1970s swirled around him.

The gathering Saturday, June 24, was the third annual ’70s reunion, formerly known as Homewoodstock.

This year, organizer John McKinley dubbed it Hot Fun in the Summertime. He said the Woodstock reference led some to believe there would be live music at the event.
That’s something he would like to see happen eventually, but as a grassroots, unfunded event, it hasn’t been feasible to provide a festival-type setting.

“That requires infrastructure. I want it to grow organically,” McKinley said.

  From left, Karan Thomas, 
  Bob Bruzzole and John
  McKinley chat at Hot Fun
  in the Summertime. 

  (Photo by Eric Crump/H-F

And it is. The crowd late Saturday afternoon was packed into the south room of 5th Quarter. McKinley said a new group of people from the class of 1973 showed up this year, and more former classmates were expected to arrive later.

“It’s more of a meet and greet,” said Karan Thomas, H-F class of 1971, who helps promote the event.

She lobbied McKinley for a return to the original name, something he said he would ponder before next year.

There will likely be a next year because the old friends from the ’70s are making new friends, he said. And the energy continues to grow.

Homewood officials get a taste of the burger business

  From left, Homewood 
  Homewood White Castle
  Manager Ebony Ross helps
  Homewood Events Manager
  Allisa Opyd prepare burgers
  while Mayor Richard Hofeld
  works on a new batch of 
  burgers in the background.

  (Photo by Eric Crump/
  H-F Chronicle)

They don’t flip hamburgers at White Castle, as Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld and Events Manager Allisa Opyd well know. Burgers are cooked on a bed of grilled onions, and then deftly transferred to bun and boxed.

The Homewood officials donned aprons and plastic gloves on May 15 to help out in the kitchen at the restaurant. It was part of the annual Hamburger Month observance. Hofeld and Opyd have helped out at White Castle and other local restaurants for the past several years. On May 16, Hofeld and Opyd helped out at Culver’s.

Hofeld said the annual event is an opportunity to thank the local businesses.

“I appreciate them being here and I want them to know it,” he said.

In the case of White Castle, it’s also a way to thank the restaurant for its sponsorship of the village’s annual Noon Year’s Eve celebration.

It’s also a chance to gain a better understanding and appreciation of the job fast food workers do, Opyd said. She and Hofeld not only help prepare food on these visits but also take orders at the counter and drive-through.

The officials were welcomed and guided by Homewood White Castle Manager Ebony Ross and District Supervisor Kelvin McClinton.

TALK sponsors Art Tank 
The Theatre & Arts Leadership Kouncil is introducing Art Tank, a program modeled after Shark Tank, a reality TV show in which entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to investors.

In the TALK version, local artists and musicians can pitch project ideas to potential sponsors.

TALK advisor Steve Ploum said the first pitch session is set for July 6. One of the TALK members will present an idea to several judges, including a potential project sponsor. The group plans to video the presentation to create a brief show of its own.

Anyone interested in the program can contact Ploum at [email protected].

Homewood Police Department entrance work continues

  A new ramp leading to the 
  Homewood Police Department 
  is nearly finished on June 29.

  (Photo by Eric Crump/H-F 

Work on the improvements to the stairway and ramp leading to the front door of the Homewood Police Department continues. Concrete was poured recently, and Public Works  Director John Schaefer said railings should be arriving in a couple of weeks.

The new entrance replaces the original structure of the 1968 building, according to Police Chief Bill Alcott. He said it was unfortunate the tree in front of the building had to be removed, but the new ramp is wider and longer. with a more gradual slope. Those features increase accessibility, but take more space, and there was no room for ramp and tree to co-exist.

St. Andrew church to host benefit 5K
St. Andrew United Methodist Church, 18850 Riegel Road in Homewood, will host a 5K run/walk starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 15. 

Proceeds from the event will benefit Pan African Rural Health and Social Services, according to Sam Kormoi, a long-time Homewood resident who is originally from Sierra Leone. 

The entry fee is $35 per person, and that will include a T-shirt. The deadline for early registration to reserve a particular T-shirt size is Friday, July 7.

For more information, visit africanhopeanddignity.org.

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