Top stories of 2012
Kelli O'Laughlin's childhood friend, Annie LeFevour, stands next to Kelli's parents, Brenda and John, and talks about her friendship with Kelli. | Photos by Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
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3. Memories of late Kelli O’Luaghlin still appear around towns
4. Helium shortage hits party stores, not hospitals
5. Wrestling Curby Cup to feature Olympics qualifier Coleman
Updated: January 28, 2013 6:10AM
WESTERN SPRINGS — Better water and backyard chickens were among the stories that affected residents of Western Springs in 2012. Meanwhile, Indian Head Park tightened its financial belt and people from both communities made efforts to remember a young life lost.
1. Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow
After more than a year of preparation, Western Springs residents are on the verge of receiving water processed through the village’s new reverse osmosis treatment system.
Testing was scheduled to run Dec. 10 through Jan. 8, following installation of the reverse osmosis membrane. The membrane filters calcium carbonate and other impurities from two aquifers that supply the village’s water pumped from deep wells.
Village officials began pursuing a reverse osmosis filtering system for well water in 2008, instead of tapping into a pipeline for Lake Michigan water like most suburbs, which are now coping with huge increases in water rates passed along from the city of Chicago.
The village’s Water Department serves more than 4,400 customers each year by pumping water from local wells to the treatment plant at 614 Hillgrove Ave. The water is softened and purified before it’s pumped into the distribution system for consumer use.
While the new system was under construction, softening levels were disrupted, causing complaints. Residents also expressed concern about fluoride levels early in 2012, but were assured both situations would be resolved when the new system was fully operational.
2. Indian Head Park tightens belt on services
Indian Head Park officials were forced to hold the line on spending after voters twice defeated tax hike proposals to increase operating revenues.
In March, voters soundly rejected three measures to raise taxes for increased police protection, repair of village streets and a reduction of village debt.
Voters said no again in November to a more modest request to fund village services that would have cost residents $120 more a year on a home with a market value of $300,000.
Village Administrator Frank Alonzo said no major street repairs are planned, and officials hope the town’s infrastructure remains intact,as little money is available for emergency repairs. The Police Department is coping with reduced manpower to follow up on crimes, he said.
3. Kelli O’Laughlin’s memory very much alive
Students from Lyons Township High School and surrounding schools continued to mourn the loss of freshman Kelli O’Laughlin, who was murdered during a burglary at her home in 2011, and staged events throughout the year to raise funds in her memory.
Students organized a car wash, raffles, bracelet sale, flower bulb sale and sporting events. Indian Head Park dedicated a memorial plaque, tree and bench Oct. 27 in Sacajawea Park next to the O’Laughlin home, where the bubbly teen was killed one year ago.
John Wilson, 39, of Chicago awaits trial on 31 courts of first-degree murder, home invasion, armed robbery, burglary and aggravated unlawful restraint. Wilson is being held in the Pontiac Correctional Center on a parole violation for robbery.
4. Ordinance flies to approve backyard chickens
Western Springs residents can look forward to fresh eggs if they choose to raise chickens at home under a new ordinance approved in November.
Following a successful test case spearheaded by Wendy and Greg Vichick, the village will allow residents to apply for a temporary use permit to raise no more than four hens. The birds need to be housed in a coop or garage and can’t run at large outside the owner’s yard.
Trustee Edward Tymick said the village received few negative comments and several positive ones about the test case, and a second family may be applying for a permit to raise chickens.
5. Ogden crossing device stirs debate
Western Springs police continue to respond to an array of fender benders since a pedestrian-activated crossing signal with flashing lights was installed in June on Ogden Avenue at Woodland Avenue.
Police have received more feedback during the last decade about that traffic control device than any other signal in town, said Brian Budds, deputy police chief. Comments have been both positive and negative.
A bicyclist was struck by a vehicle and injured but not transported to a hospital in August. A sport utility vehicle knocked down the pole of the solar-activated signal later that month in a two-vehicle collision; the signal has been re-installed.
Since June 1, police have responded to 11 crashes without injuries and two accidents with injuries at the crossing, Budds said.