Cold weather means water main breaks, says public works director
By Jane Charmelo LOMBARDIAN-VILLA PARK REVIEW STAFF REPORTER
The freezing and subzero temperatures have kept the Lombard Public Works Department busy over the last few weeks, village officials emphasized at the Thursday, Jan. 4, village board meeting. Village Manager Scott Niehaus stated his appreciation for the hard work of the public works department, saying that on Jan. 4 alone, there were three water main breaks and a possible fourth. He deferred to the director of public works, Carl Goldsmith, who said that as of Jan. 4, the village had dealt with 14 water main breaks since Dec. 14 and five snow events. “A staff of 52, give or take, with engineers, have been battling all of those elements,” the director continued, adding that breaks on dedicated rights-of-way and public property were repaired by in-house personnel. “We’ve not had to bring in contractors at this point in time,” Goldsmith said. “In each case we try to minimize the impact it has on the public,” he continued. “That’s our primary goal, and to provide services to the police and fire departments so they can respond to emergency situations.” The director acknowledged that public works employees face difficult conditions in the cold, describing, “We’ve got guys in water up to their waist in many of these cases, at 3 in the morning.” Goldsmith praised his employees, saying, “I think they’ve performed admirably ... a lot of opportunity to show the skills and the ability that the department has.” The director noted that the village will keep residents informed through social media, and advised residents who see icy conditions after a water main break to contact the village. “We have personnel on the clock 24 hours a day to make sure the public is safe,” Goldsmith said, after which he praised the board and village staff for their support during the last few weeks of water main breaks. “We’ll continue to monitor the situation as we need to,” the director said, pointing to fluctuating conditions from upcoming temperature increases that could lead to further complications. He added that employees are equipped with remote operating software to monitor the system. In other business: • A resident request to lower the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph on Grace Street between Madison and Maple streets has again been put on hold for further review, this time back to the Public Safety and Transportation Committee. According to village documents, the village received a request in September 2017 from a resident to reduce the speed limit in that area from 30 mph to 25 mph, after which the police department conducted a traffic study—looking at speeding in excess of 10 mph over the posted limit, pedestrian activity, parking, number of crashes and number of “access conflicts” from driveways and intersections. One village memo describes that before the traffic study was deemed warranted, Police Deputy Chief Thomas Wirsing consulted the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) “Policy on Establishing and Posting Speed Limits on the State Highway System.” Another village memo states that the study “supported the resident request to alter the speed limit on Grace Street from Madison Street to Maple Street to 25 mph.” The issue was brought to the Public Safety and Transportation Committee at its Nov. 6 meeting, and at that time the committee recommended the board approve the reduced speed limit. At the Nov. 16, board of trustees meeting, the issue was tabled and referred back to village staff. At the Jan. 4 meeting, it was referred back to the Public Safety and Transportation Committee “for further review.” Committee Chair Dan Whittington explained that the item is scheduled to appear on the agenda in February, as the police department is doing another study to see if the 25 mph limit should be expanded a bit further. Wirsing stated in a memo that part of Grace Street, between Maple and Parkside/St. Charles Road, is already posted at 25 mph. • The village board voted to retain the services of lobbyist Scott Marquardt of Roger C. Marquardt & Company for $2,000 a month, which represents a 50-percent decrease in the $4,000 per month paid in 2016. Niehaus said the village approached the company wanting to retain its services, but was looking to make cuts to help balance the budget. At the same time, “we still think there’s value there,” in having a lobbyist looking after Lombard’s interests. The village manager explained that Lombard benefits from “having eyes and ears” in Springfield related to issues of municipal revenue, “to protect our interests.” Also, someone with an ear to the ground can inform the village about grant and capital funding opportunities, he continued, adding that it is “helpful to have a lobbyist as an advocate.” Niehaus cited as an example a $500,000 grant the village was able to obtain in order to expand Vista Pond. Additionally, “If we ever need specific legislation—specific to Lombard—it is helpful to have a lobbyist,” he concluded.
Lombard Public Works: Avoid freezing pipes
Extreme cold can cause pipes to crack and burst. To avoid this expensive and damaging situation, residents are reminded to leave their water trickling, to open cabinets in order to expose water pipes to warm air, and to eliminate sources of cold air. If you experience frozen pipes, shut off the water immediately. Do not attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off. Freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints. Avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames. More cold weather tips can be found at villageoflombard.org/winter.
‘Welcoming face and voice’ of Montini, Mrs. Nancy Mack, dies
Montini Catholic High School recently announced the passing of Mrs. Nancy Mack. Nancy, 81, who died on Jan. 3, was “the welcoming face and voice” of Montini as the school’s receptionist. She served Montini in various roles for over 45 years. In addition to being the receptionist, she was the school’s bookkeeper, business manager and main office manager. Nancy, who retired from Montini in 2016, received the Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award for her 45-plus years of service during the school’s Founder’s Day Award Presentations in May 2016. Her husband, Richard, also worked at Montini for over 40 years. The couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last August. They have four children and four grandchildren. Three of their children: Gary (1976), Mary (Mack) Morgan (1980) and Carl (1983) all graduated from Montini. Two of their grandchildren—Jack Morgan (Montini Class of 2017) and Brooke Morgan (Class of 2019)—have either graduated from, or are currently attending, Montini. A memorial gathering and prayer service were held Sunday. Interment was private. See Mrs. Mack’s obituary in this issue of the Lombardian.
Cullerton outlines new laws to benefit veterans
Starting the first of this year, there are new laws in place to better serve Illinois veterans. Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, state Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) is proud of the work the Illinois General Assembly completed last legislative session to serve and honor the sacrifices Illinois veterans have made for our state and nation. The laws make it easier for veterans and military personnel to get cancer screenings, terminate their phone contracts during deployment, obtain specialty veteran license plates and more. “Illinois’ heroes have worked to serve and protect our democratic values and principles. It’s important that we continue to honor the sacrifices they have made for us by implementing common-sense legislation to improve our military men and women’s lives,” Cullerton said. “I urge area advocates and organizations to familiarize themselves with them to better serve and educate our heroes as they return home.” Cullerton served in the Army from 1990 to 1993 as an infantryman. He continues to use his military experience to champion legislation to help military veterans, personnel and their families. And believes we must continue to honor the work our military personnel do throughout the year. “We have more work to do to guarantee our veterans and military persons receive the services and protections they deserve,” Cullerton said. “I remain committed to better serving our heroes and honoring the sacrifices they have made for our great nation. I will continue to work with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to better serve Illinois veterans and military members.” DuPage County residents can read the list of laws to aid Illinois veterans that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, at http://bit.ly/2A6QktF. Cullerton urges veterans, military personnel, service providers and organizations to reach out to his Villa Park Office at 630-903-6662 for further information or with any questions concerning the legislation or state services.
Police department in DuPage County village to unveil new roadside drug test
ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK
An Illinois police department will be among the first in the country to use a mouth swab drug-testing kit that can detect if motorists pulled over on suspicion of impairment have drugs in their system. The suburban village of Carol Stream is slated to be the first municipality in the state—and one of only a few in the nation—to roll out the small and portable tests manufactured by German biotechnology company Protzek. Tests—which will quickly determine the presence and amount of marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines, and opiates such as heroin—will be performed on willing suspects who have already been arrested and who consent to testing. The results cannot be used against them in court. The procedure for the test will go as follows: an officer will screen a driver who has been pulled over for cause using a mouth swab, which will then be tested by a mobile P.I.A.2 device. Subsequently, the device will produce measurements of a drug present in the driver’s system. Officers in only four other states—Michigan, Kansas, Colorado and California—have similar tests at their disposal. Tests cost approximately $30 per kit and funding will come from existing DUI Tech funds. That the test measures the amount of the drug’s presence and not merely detects it is significant because the state doesn’t recognize the presence of controlled substances alone as sufficient evidence of impairment. Marijuana, for example, can be detected for days after it is used even if its effects have worn off. Sgt. Brian Cluever of the Carol Stream Police Department’s traffic and safety unit said the goal is to perform 50 to 100 sample tests. Cluever said if the testing is proven effective, it can hopefully be used by Carol Stream and throughout the state. Since last year, the level of a driver’s impairment must cross a defined threshold before reaching illegality, necessitating more than just a mere positive or negative test result. According to state law, a blood, urine or breath sample may be procured by police on suspicion that a driver is under the influence. In the coming months in Carol Stream, motorists suspected of being impaired will also be asked for a swab. The department already is known for its aggressive drunk-driving enforcement. This, in part, is why Judicial Testing Systems, the company that distributes the system in Illinois, first approached Carol Stream police. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, for the first time, the number of drivers involved in fatal deaths who tested positive for drugs outpaced those who tested positive for alcohol. Carol Stream authorities herald the Protzek test as a greater means of facilitating enforcement against driving under the influence. “We want to give officers all the tools they need to make sure they’re making the right decisions and removing intoxicated drivers from the roads,” Cluever said. “Once we have proven this in court and it’s been proven in the scientific community to be accurate and reliable, then there’s no reason why it should not go statewide.” Defense attorney Don Ramsell, who specializes in D.U.I. law, is skeptical of the new test. “They might just as well hand somebody a bag of nachos and see if he eats it,” Ramsell said. “That’s just as valid.” Ultimately, the courts will make the decision on the validity of the new test. In the meantime, the verdict is still out.
Coal mining has a deep history in southern Illinois
Editor’s note: The weekly Illinois Bicentennial series is brought to you by the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors and Illinois Press Association. More than 20 newspapers are creating stories about the state’s history, places and key moments in advance of the Bicentennial on Dec. 3, 2018. Stories published up to this date can be found at 200illinois.com.
By Casey Bischel OF THE BELLEVILLE NEWS-DEMOCRAT
Louis Joliet and Pere Marquette, returning from an expedition on the Mississippi River in 1673, were the first explorers to notice the combustible material that would shape the Illinois economy. The coal just sat there on the surface like low-hanging fruit near Utica along the Illinois River. The first mine appeared near Peoria not long after, but it wasn’t until 1830, when coal from Belleville found a market in nearby St. Louis, that the industry took off, according to Keith Weil and Alvin K. Grandys, who wrote the 1976 Illinois Coal Digest, a publication from the Illinois Department of Business and Economic Development. Coal grew by leaps and bounds over the decades. In the 1850s and 1860s, railroads opened lines to new customers and the Civil War. Later, Weil and Grandys write, the formalization of geology and the appearance of the steam engine made coal easier to find and dig. The mines attracted tens of thousands of workers, many of whom were exposed to the dangers of an unchecked industry. As mine collapses and explosions claimed hundreds of lives, new vitality sprang into labor unions that went on to fight for better safety and health care. Early mine collapses, the result of apathetic owners, encouraged miners to organize but still produced few gains, according to Rosemary Feurer, a history professor at Northern Illinois University. Reforms went unenforced, and even a nascent form of workers’ compensation, the victory of a particularly deadly episode in Cherry, Ill., in the north-central part of the state in 1909, barely compensated widows from a legal judgment. Every law “was written in blood,” said Bernie Harsey, president of the United Mine Workers of America Local 1825 in DuQuoin. Harsey also fought for a better way of life for miners. In 1993, management wanted to reduce health care benefits, so the union went on strike, and Harsey was out of work for six months. If the strike didn’t happen, he said, he didn’t think he would have health insurance coverage. Harsey, who started in the coal industry in 1973, said he’s used between $2 million and $3 million in health insurance to cover his family for everything from cancer to a kidney transplant. “We wouldn’t have that without our labor disputes,” he said. Health care was one of the items that miners fought hardest for, and in 1946, John Lewis, the leader of the United Mine Workers of America, negotiated legislation that secured cradle-to-grave health care coverage for its members that was guaranteed by the federal government. Recently, that compromise came under threat when Peabody Energy filed for bankruptcy in 2016, the latest in a series of coal companies to fail. After a temporary stopgap that saved health insurance for 22,600 retired miners, their widows and children, Congress finally saved the deal in April 2017. Today, the “Promise of 1946,” a term the Krug-Lewis Act acquired relatively recently, seems sacrosanct, but miners at the time wouldn’t have seen it that way, Feurer said. Throughout Lewis’s tenure, the UMWA grew closer to management, and the organization became more bureaucratic. Inspired by these trends, a more rebellious wave of labor action in the 1960s won the Federal Mining Safety Legislation of 1974, an improvement to narrower and weaker bills passed in 1951 and 1969. For as much as miners sacrificed for their benefits, others who weren’t covered sometimes sacrificed just as much, as companies pit workers against themselves by bringing in different ethnic groups to undercut wages of more established groups. The 1922 Herrin Massacre stands out as the one of the most violent episodes of labor violence in which union members shot and killed 19 strikebreakers. The first people to mine in Illinois were slaves, Feurer said. Other early groups to settle the area were English, Scots-Irish and Irish, people who’d struck out with the poor soils of Appalachia, according to David Conrad, a history professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. From 1890 to the early 1920s, eastern and southern Europeans settled the area next. After the Civil War, African-Americans came north only to find that “southern Illinois was not greatly different,” Conrad wrote in “Tell Me A Story: Memories of Early Life Around the Coal Fields of Illinois.” As evidence of coal’s importance to the economy and culture of Southern Illinois in particular, the first mining union, the American Miners’ Association, began in West Belleville in 1861. Since then, Illinois has produced many generations of miners, and today, as a lack of opportunities clamps down on the region, it ensures that only an eager, if smaller, generation will continue the dangerous work. Only, they won’t belong to the UMWA anymore, Harsey said. Not a single member works in any mine in southern Illinois. About 98 percent of workers who belong to the Local 1825 are retired now. The other 2 percent, about 10 people, are waiting for work on the inactive list. It’s been this way since 1997, when the mine reached the end of its property and there was nothing more to dig. “We knew the day was coming,” Harsey said. “You just get on with life.” The future of coal mining in Illinois is bleak for workers, and although many believe the industry’s freefall began only recently, it peaked in the 1920s, and has been declining since, Conrad said. In 1930, a whopping 185 coal mines employed 51,200 people who produced 52 million tons of coal. By 2015, just 19 mines employing 3,600 people produced 55 million tons of coal, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. While coal production varies from year to year, the number of workers has declined steadily. Technology and natural gas, the two biggest culprits for the industry’s current decline, were blamed 100 years ago, too, as trains became more efficient and other fuels found new markets. After Harsey’s mine shut down, many workers were let go, but some stayed on for the next five years to work on land reclamation. Harsey worked with the operating engineers’ Local 5 for 10 more years. “For me, only working (seven or eight) months out of the year, I was more fortunate than the others,” he said. Local 1825 may be out of work, but it still celebrates the history of Illinois coal mining. Every year on April 1, it gets together to celebrate the victory of an 8-hour workday. In 2017, about 175 people showed up.
Corrections watchdog: More needs to be done for criminal justice reform
ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK
While there were some major criminal justice reform measures passed and signed into law for the new year, an independent corrections monitor says much more needs to be done to lower the state’s prison population. Gov. Bruce Rauner set a goal when he took office in 2015 to decrease the state’s prison population by 25 percent by 2025. Some movement has been made in that direction, but criminal justice reform advocates say there’s a lot of work to do. John Howard Association Executive Director Jennifer Vollen-Katz said a couple of measures allowing former offenders to get professional licenses is a good start. “We all know that getting a job is one of the biggest indicators on getting somebody to succeed upon release from prison,” Vollen-Katz said. But she said the number that’s impacting is small and lawmakers are merely nibbling around the edges with other reforms. And there are instances Vollen-Katz says the state is going in the other direction. “There was the bill that passed that increased enhancement for people who are convicted of a weapons offense for the second time,” she said. “That was a step in the wrong direction in terms of changing our sentencing structure.” To address the state’s sentencing structure, Vollen-Katz said “give judges discretion in deciding sentences so that we can consider all the factors in making sure that the people that need to be put away longer are, and the people that don’t, and there are many more of them, are not.” Meaningful criminal justice reform is hot political potatoes, so many lawmakers are apprehensive to address it, she said. Vollen-Katz also said much more needs to be done to address the conditions inside Illinois prisons for those suffering from mental illness. “The circumstances they live under are inhumane and unacceptable,” she said. Here are some of the laws impacting crime and punishment that took effect Jan. 1: Mental Fitness Report to the Courts (SB 1276/PA 100-0424): Reports about individuals adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity will be made every 90 days to reduce administrative burden and focus resources in other areas. Inmate Training Dogs for PTSD Veterans (HB 2897/PA 100-0384): Illinois Department of Corrections inmates can be taught to help train service dogs to help veterans with post traumatic stress disorder. CJIA Inventory (HB 3879/PA 100-0307): The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority can take inventory of what law enforcement agencies, county sheriff offices, and court systems are using predominantly paper systems. Juvenile Expungement Expansion (HB 3817/PA 100-0285): Two years after a juvenile delinquency case is closed the record is automatically expunged. Homicides, felony sex offenses, certain bodily harm offenses, forcible felonies other than burglary and weapons offenses are excluded from expungement. Immediate Sealing of Records (HB 514/PA 100-0282): Records from individuals who are acquitted or a case is dismissed with prejudice may be sealed immediately after the case is disposed. DOC content controlled tablets (HB3712/PA 100-0198): Corrections officers shall provide inmates with content controlled computer tablets to be used for educational and visitation opportunities. Restorative Justice Training for DJJ Personnel (HB 3165/ PA 100-0157): Department of Juvenile Justice personnel are required to undergo training focused on having a victim, offender and community explore restitution. Unfit to Stand Trial Placement (HB 649/100-0027): Inmates who are unfit to stand trial are to be transferred from county jails to Department of Human Services mental health facilities within 20 days. Bail Reform Act of 2017 and State RICO Extension (SB 2034/ PA 100-0001): Alleged offenders have a right to counsel at a bail hearing. It also extends Illinois’ RICO Act another five years and expands existing laws regarding threats to public officials.