Palos Area Chamber of Commerce President Todd Probasco ( left) and Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz share a laugh before the Mayor's State of the City Address on Tuesday. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Palos Area Chamber of Commerce President Todd Probasco ( left) and Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz share a laugh before the Mayor's State of the City Address on Tuesday. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Straz emphasizes ‘quality of life’ in Palos Heights during annual presentation

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By Jeff Vorva

Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz used the phrase “quality of life” quite a bit Tuesday afternoon.

The longtime mayor gave his annual State of the City Address sponsored by the Palos Area Chamber of Commerce at the Palos Heights Parks and Recreation Department and his theme was about the quality of life in the city of 12,000.

“In my decision making, whether it’s supporting the senior living facility, tax consideration given to a new business, the need for more parking in our business district or my opposition to gaming, all of these things are to maintain the quality of life we have here and to try to make it better,” Straz told the crowd before showing a 30-minute video.

“We have a great community, and it can only get better if you go forward. We have a great mix of young and old and we have a superior level of services. Great public services.”

One of the projects he is looking forward to is to remodel Orchard Park, which is located to the east of the recreation center.

By November, he hopes the park will have additional parking, a walking path, a shelter and other improvements.

Business-wise he said several new restaurants opened in 2022 and that Pete’s Fresh Market could be open in 2023 or 2024 at 6401 W. 127th St. That’s the former site of Dominick Finer Foods, which closed in 2013.

“That would give us two supermarkets,” Straz said of Pete’s opening. “Think about it – we’re a town of 12,000 people and we will have two major grocery stores. That’s unheard of.”

A Pride Stores gas station could be completed in 2023 at the northeast corner of Harlem Avenue and Route 83 – an area that’s been empty for more than 25 years.

The mayor is also looking forward to the city raking in a handsome bounty when it comes to sales tax.

“Last year, we had a $1.8 million number as far as sales tax goes,” Straz said. “When we add Pete’s and the Pride Store, we will be well over $2 million of sales tax.

“That’s something the City of Palos Heights has never achieved in its history.”

One area that might not be pleasing to many residents is the possible hikes in water and sewer fees. The council may make a decision on it Tuesday that could see sewer flat rates go up 50% and water rates go up 4%. Straz hopes to keep the costs lower than that but knows the system needs attention.

“Our town is more than 50 years old, and the water and sewer system is about the same age,” the mayor said. “We’re starting to see problems with the water and sewer system. Those are things we have to tend to in the next couple of years.

“We’ll be applying for some financing and some grants and have some conversations. We want to jump on this before it becomes a problem. We’re going to work on it now before it becomes a problem.”

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