2015 in Review
Around Oak Park’s biggest headlines of the year

As the end of 2015 draws near, Around Oak Park is remembering the most significant stories that have impacted the communities of Oak Park, River Forest, and Forest Park. For example, new local businesses opened while others have closed; residents have made international headlines; Oak Park was recognized nationally for excellence in park and recreation management. Catch up on everything OP/RF/FP right here.

OPRF chooses parking garage as new location for pool, community plans how to fund the project
April – Oak Park-River Forest High School chose the Lake & Scoville parking garage to be the location for a new pool on campus. The garage will be purchased from the village for $3.5 million and the total cost of the project will be about $37 million.

October – The school board approved the project with up to $20 million from the district’s cash reserves, as well as up to $17.5 million in non-referendum bonds.

December – Community members opposed to the school board make their voices known by asking to consider alternative ways to fund the project. The pool petition will be discussed more heading into the March 2016 election.

 

Tasty Dog closes its doors for good
Oak Park fast food restaurant Tasty Dog served its last customers on Monday, Sept. 14 after being ordered by a Cook County judge to vacate its village-owned property.

Tasty Dog owed the village $39,930 in rent, as well as $595.12 in penalty fees at the time. A notice was sent to Tasty Dog Owner Michael Barton on May 12 that stated full payment was needed otherwise the lease would be terminated.

Judge Kevin T. Lee ruled in favor of the village after hearing testimony from Oak Park Chief Financial Officer Craig Lesner, who said Tasty Dog paid its rent for January but has not paid since, making their total past due rent $57,466.38 as of Aug. 21.

 

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ingalls House hits the market for first time since 1977
Frank Lloyd Wright’s J. Kibben Ingalls House in River Forest hit the market for the first time since current owner and architect John Tilton bought the property in 1977.

The Prairie Style home was built in 1909 and every original room in the house has windows on three sides for optimal lighting, an uncommon practice for similar properties.

Tilton added a 1,000 square foot addition to the rear of the house to complement Wright’s original design. The addition includes a terrace and works with Wright’s vision to blend the exterior and interior so “you can be outside in any weather.”

 

River Forest shootout leaves 2 dead, 3 wounded
Two people were killed and three officers were wounded in a shootout that occurred at roughly 7:19 a.m. Sunday, July 12 on the 100 block of Lathrop in River Forest.

Officers responded to a “woman with difficulty breathing” call, according to police radio recordings. Upon arriving at the home, officers were ambushed by 24-year-old Matthew Watson who was armed with a shotgun. Watson was killed as a result of the police-involved shooting after Watson opened fire.

60-year-old William Carlson also died as a result of 20-30 gunshots fired back and forth at the scene. His body was found when officers entered the home, according to reports.

 

ShareASpot launches in Forest Park
Forest Park-based company ShareASpot, a network that connects parking space owners with those who need to find a place for their cars, went live in March.

“We are from the community of Forest Park, and have dealt with the headaches of parking in a suburb with overnight parking restrictions. We wanted to find a solution,” says co-founder Devin Bates.

Parking space owners will be able to list their unused spaces through ShareASpot free of charge, whether they choose to rent on a regular basis or sporadically. Furthermore, owners never have to deal directly with the renters, collecting payments directly through ShareASpot.

 

Bali suitcase murder trial comes to conclusion
Heather Mack and boyfriend Tommy Schaefer have been found guilty by a panel of judges in an Indonesian court for the premeditated murder of Oak Park resident Sheila von Wiese-Mack, which occurred August 2014 in Bali.

The Denpasar District Court ruled that Mack, 19, will serve 10 years in prison for the crime because she recently gave birth. “Her newborn baby badly needs a mother’s love and breastfeeding,” the verdict read.

Schaefer, 21, was found guilty of beating von Wiese-Mack to death and will serve 18 years in prison.

Mack and Schaefer are both alums of Oak Park River Forest High School.

 

Hundreds of students gather to discuss racial equality
An estimated 350 students and faculty from Oak Park and River Forest High School who identify as African American gathered at the Little Theatre on campus to participate in a panel led by Principal Nate Rouse. The goal of the seminar was to discuss ways to support one another and create a positive change at the school.

The panel was an opportunity for students to speak honestly, according to Principal Rouse. He continued, “I believe that the discussion will help us as a school begin talking about race in a deeper and more meaningful way than ever before—and most important, produce change.”

 

Oak Park honored for excellence in park and recreation management with 2015 National Gold Medal Award
The Park District of Oak Park (PDOP) received the Grand Plaque for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management at the 2015 National Gold Medal Award conference in Nevada.

The Gold Medal Awards program honors the preeminent communities in the United States when it comes to excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development and agency recognition. Oak Park received the highest honors for a Class IV community (population between 30,001-75,000 residents).

 

Oak Park mourns the loss of cherished school board member, Peter Traczyk
The community grieved following the tragic loss of District 97 school board member Peter Traczyk.

Traczyk served as board president for fiscal years in 2010 and 2011, and was re-elected to the board in April 2011. He also worked as a certified financial planner with ING Financial Advisers, LLC., and has worked in the financial services industry since 1992.

“Peter was a wonderful neighbor and a remarkable citizen of the Village of Oak Park, and we know that Peter’s many friends will remember him fondly for his warmth, his generosity, and his contagious laugh,” the family wrote in a statement. “We will miss him more than words can convey, and we ask that you respect the family’s request for privacy at this time.”

 

Drug raid Euclid house lands 3 suspects in custody
A suburban task force known as the West Suburban Enhanced Drug/Gang Enforcement (WEDGE) raided a suspected drug house on the 1100 block of S. Euclid in Oak Park on Friday, Feb. 13.

Police confiscated over an ounce of methamphetamine, minute quantities of cocaine, marijuana, and a plant believed to be hallucinogenic mushrooms, according to Chief Tom Weitzel of the Riverside police. There was also a handwritten agreement to lease space in the house, according to Weitzel.

Danielle A. Dipego, Edward P. Creedon, and Matthew A. Cooley were arrested. Police said Cooley and Dipego were renting illegally from Creedon, who used the income to support his drug operation. Cooley was charged with possession of a controlled substance and Dipego with possession of drug paraphernalia. Creedon has been charged with four felonies and two misdemeanors due to his involvement with the operation.

 

Firefighters bring dog back to life following house fire
A house fire on the 200 block of Pleasant St. left several pets trapped inside, including a 100-pound mastiff named Romulus. Firefighters from River Forest and Forest Park assisted the Oak Park Fire Department throughout the ordeal.

A neighbor to the building bordering the west side of the fire, Lori Yoder, said that firefighters carried the wilted dog out of harm’s way, and resuscitated him back to life using an oxygen tank designed for animals.

 

About

Pat is the Editor for Around Media Group. He holds a degree in journalism from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota.

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