Posts Tagged Harvey Fire Department

Harvey Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from cltv.com:

On Monday, an appellate court granted a temporary restraining order against the Illinois Comptroller’s decision to withhold $1.4 million from the city of Harvey over its underfunded police and fire pensions.

On Friday, 30 emergency responders police officers and firefighters lost their jobs because the suburb couldn’t pay into the fund. The state comptroller stepped in on behalf of the pension fund and began garnishing city money to make up what Harvey was not contributing.

While certainly not the only Illinois municipality to have pension funding problems, Harvey is the first to have its funds withheld by the comptroller according to Harvey mayor Eric Kellogg.

As a result, under Kellogg’s direction as many a total of 40 police and firefighters were laid off in recent days.

But the temporary restraining order believes Harvey Alderman Christopher Clark who is a political foe of Kellogg’s is just that – temporary and a permanent garnishment of funds in court may come to be until and if it can back on solid financial ground.

“As far as the pension is concerned, it’s a bit conflicting because you want the firefighters and police officers to come back but they should have never been laid off in the first place. At the same time you want the pension fund to be able to have its pension but the overarching issue is the mismanagement of funds which got us to this situation in the first place,” Clark said.

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Harvey Fire Department news (more)

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Excerpts from Chicago.cbslocal.com:

Thirty Harvey police officers and firefighters got their final paychecks on Friday after losing their jobs to layoffs. The layoffs of 18 firefighters and 13 police officers came after a court ordered pension payment Harvey can’t afford to make.

The people of Harvey have already been worried about their city’s financial crisis. Now they’re worried about their own safety. 

The attorney for the police and firefighter unions said in the worst case of municipal management he’s ever seen, the city hasn’t been funding those pensions properly or at all in the past 10 years.

In Springfield this week, new legislation was proposed that would consolidate municipal fire and police pension funds, as well as create some oversight for those investments.

 

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Harvey Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from abc7chcago.com:

The Harvey Firemens Association IAFF Local 471 said the city has laid off half the fire department after the city was ordered to pay its police and fire pension fund. The issue has been a longstanding problem with the fire and police pension funds. After failing to make payments for more than a decade, the city recently began contributing to the pension funds again.

But per state law, Comptroller Susana Mendoza is currently withholding more than $1 million in revenues due to the city to make sure the pension fund is paid. City officials are crying foul, saying the city’s collection rates on property taxes are not enough to sustain government operations, and they need those state funds to operate. But Monday, a judge agreed with the state and the money will be on hold to deal with the pension problem.

The union posted about it on their Facebook page Tuesday afternoon, saying, “The city has laid off 18 firefighters, half the fire department is gone! Prayers for the citizens and families of those laid off.”

Harvey officials held an emergency meeting Monday night with city employees and warned there could be major layoffs due to lack of funds. Officials argue the city has engaged with negotiations with police and fire officials with no resolution.

Tuesday morning, Harvey officials were speaking with the state comptroller’s representatives. The Harvey comptroller said pensions will not be sustainable going forward and Harvey’s city attorney said the city is planning on filing appeal to stop the state from withholding funds. Officials say employees will be paid on Friday, but after that, no one knows if they can pay their bills.

A spokesperson for the comptroller’s office said in a statement Monday, “The legislature passed a law allowing pension funds to certify to our office that municipalities have failed to make required payments to pension funds. The municipality has a chance to respond. A judge ruled today in favor of the Harvey Police Pension Fund, saying the funds were appropriately put on hold. This dispute is between the pension fund and the city of Harvey.”

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Harvey Fire Department news

Excerpts from wgntv.com:

Firefighters and police officers in Harvey were called to city hall Monday night and told that layoffs are possible. The main issue is underfunded pensions dating back to 1996.

Mayor Eric Kellogg blames the state comptroller’s office for withholding funds in a manner that hasn’t been done since 1861, but local Alderman Christopher Clark said the mayor is  using the comptroller as a scapegoat and that he believes what’s happening here with Kellogg and his son’s administration rises to the criminal level.

thanks Dan

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Working fire in Harvey, 1-20-18

Photos by Tim Olk of a  house fire at 190 W 157th Street in Harvey, 1/20/18

house engulfed in fire

Tim Olk photo

house engulfed in fire

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heavy fire from house fie

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heavy smoke from house fire

Tim Olk photo

firefighter on ladder with heavy smoke

Tim Olk photo

house engulfed in fire

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firefighter on ladder with flames

Tim Olk photo

firefighter on ladder with flames

Tim Olk photo

firefighter on ladder with flames

Tim Olk photo

firefighter on ladder with heavy smoke

Tim Olk photo

heavy smoke from house fire

Tim Olk photo

fire engine engulfed in smoke

Tim Olk photo

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Harvey Fire Department news (more)

Excerpts from abc7chicago.com:

The death of a woman in a house fire early Wednesday in Harvey has been ruled a homicide.

Firefighters responded about 4 a.m. to the house fire in the 14800 block of Leavitt Avenue, and within 15 minutes of firefighters’ arrival, the woman was found in the rear of the home. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy Thursday found the woman, whose identity wasn’t released, died of multiple injuries from an assault and the house fire, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. Her death was rule a homicide.

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Harvey Fire Department news

Excerpts from cltv.com:

Harvey firefighters received a call about a fire near 148th and Leavitt Avenue around 4 a.m. Wednesday morning.

A woman was discovered with a gunshot wound to the head. She was found in a back bedroom. She was believed to be older than 60. Her identity hasn’t been released. Officials believe the fire started after the woman was shot.

The house is a total loss.

A person of interest is in custody and it’s being investigated as a domestic incident.

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Harvey Fire Department news

Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

In an unprecedented ruling, an appellate court declared the city of Harvey so severely neglected its firefighters’ pension fund that it was on the verge of insolvency — meaning there might not be any money for retirees or firefighters on the job there today.

The ruling comes as local firefighters complain of equipment in disrepair and manpower cuts. And it follows another embarrassing ruling in which a Cook County judge took away control of Harvey’s water finances from leaders of the scandal-plagued and debt-ridden south suburb.

In a scathing opinion filed earlier this month, the 1st District Appellate Court found that for nearly a decade, the city neglected to pay enough money to keep the pension fund solvent, leaving it in danger of running dry in as little as five years. Indeed, the court found that over that period, the city contributed only 17 percent of the amount needed to sustain the pension fund.

“Harvey has set up a collision course over a period of many years where the beneficiaries of their firefighters’ Pension Fund are being paid substantially out of the money that the firefighters have themselves contributed to the Pension Fund and the money the Pension Fund earns from investments…” the court wrote. “In essence, Harvey is robbing Peter to pay Paul, but what happens when Peter retires?”

It is the first time a court has declared a pension fund to be on the verge of default or bankruptcy, the ruling said, meaning that the fund now has the right to be funded under a little-known clause in the state constitution.

“The constitution only protects your right to receive the benefit,” said attorney Jeff Goodloe, who represents the fund. “It doesn’t control funding, except under the rare circumstance where a court determines that the pension fund is under imminent threat of default or bankruptcy.”

The opinion echoed many of the findings of a Tribune series, which outlined years of questionable deals that enriched the city’s former comptroller, illegal borrowing that led to federal sanctions and a hotel-redevelopment deal that left city taxpayers on the hook for tens of millions in borrowed money with nothing to show for it.

But Goodloe said the courts have given the fund tools to force the city to uphold its responsibilities to pensioners.

The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the city’s firefighter pension board asserting that since 2005 the city had failed to make the required contributions to the fund in violation of an earlier funding dispute settlement. In 2015, the trial court held the city liable for more than $15 million in damages, and issued an injunction requiring it to insert a pension fund line-item in its annual tax levy, prompting the appeal.

In a separate, concurring opinion, Justice Bertina Lampkin noted that as of May 2015 there were just 47 active members of the fire department, while the pension fund was supporting 67 retirees or beneficiaries.

“In 2014, the Pension Fund paid approximately $157,000 a month to the beneficiaries while contributions from the active firefighters were approximately only $25,000,” she wrote, noting the pension fund’s financial consultant found that between 2005 and 2013, the pension needed nearly $12 million in funding from the city but instead received just $1.4 million. Meanwhile, over that same time, the fund was required to pay nearly $14 million in benefits.

The appeals court ruling cited the “precarious” financial shape of the pension fund, “the constant declarations by Harvey that it has not contributed to (its) poor financial condition, and the continued lack of financial responsibility shown by Harvey over a significant period of time.”

Harvey spokesman Sean Howard said that over the past two years, the city has contributed more than $3.5 million to the fund from property tax revenue, but declined to speak further about the court’s action.

The court ruling came a few days before the firefighters union filed suit asking a judge to force the city to abide by an arbitrator’s findings that the city owed firefighters more than $1 million in back pay after it reduced the number of employees per shift from 10 to seven in 2015.

Bill Canavan, a 28-year department veteran and president of Local 471 Harvey Firemen’s Association, said the staffing cuts were just another example of the city’s neglect.

“There have been times in the last couple of years when we’ve been down to one engine,” Canavan said. “We used to run four engines and a truck. The city either doesn’t have the money to fix it or they’re not prioritizing the engines to be fixed. We’re like a clown car, putting guys in one engine and then the rest in a pickup truck.”

And last month, a Cook County judge ordered a receiver to take control of the city’s water fund after finding that Harvey repeatedly violated court orders and a consent decree to repay tens of millions for water purchased from the city of Chicago. Those funds, which should have been used to pay off the debt to Chicago, were instead diverted to other accounts and used to cover other expenses, including payroll, the judge found.

thanks Dan

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Harvey Fire Department news

Excerpts from the cookcounntyrecord.com:

While leaving it to the elected leaders of the City of Harvey to figure how much tax to levy to get the money they need from property tax payers, a state appeals court panel has ruled the south suburban city’s pension fund is on the brink of default, and, thus, the pension board for the city’s firefighters has a valid claim under state law to force the city to cough up nearly $11 million in unpaid and underpaid pension fund contributions.

On Aug. 4, a three justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court in Chicago determined the city’s mayor and council for years had improperly abused their discretionary powers under state law to fund the city’s firefighter pension fund, leaving the fund on the brink of default and bankruptcy.

This, the appeals justices said, meant a Cook County judge had been correct in determining past Illinois legal precedents, which had generally found courts can’t order cities or other governments to pay certain amounts to fund public worker pensions, don’t apply in Harvey’s case, and the judge was within her rights to order the city to pay the amount it had allegedly underfunded – regardless of the city’s claims it had not been able to do so.

“Based on the testimony from multiple witnesses, Harvey’s blatant disregard for the Pension Fund over a long period of time, and the dwindling status of the Pension Fund assets, this court finds that the Pension Fund is on the verge of default, which establishes a valid and enforceable constitutional right to funding,” the justices wrote.  “Harvey has set up a collision course over a period of many years where the beneficiaries of their firefighters’ Pension Fund are being paid substantially out of the money that the firefighters have themselves contributed to the Pension Fund and the money the Pension Fund earns from investments, causing an ever increasing dissipation of the Pension Fund’s assets, which will result in the fund having no assets to pay its beneficiaries or fulfill its obligations under the fund.

 

The case had landed in Cook County court in 2010, when the Board of Trustees of the City of Harvey Firefighters’ Pension Fund first filed suit against the city of Harvey, alleging chronic underfunding of the pension fund, which managed pension money for 67 retired firefighters, had left the fund teetering on the verge of insolvency.

Court documents indicated actuaries had indicated the city had “ ‘deprived the Pension Fund of $8 million in actual contributions and another $2 million in actual investment gains on those contributions’ because Harvey failed to make proper contributions to the Pension Fund from 2005 to 2013.” By 2013, this had depleted the pension fund’s assets to just about $11 million, a deficiency of about $23 million compared to the amount actuaries believed was needed.

In her special concurring opinion, Judge Lampkin noted in 2014, the pension fund “paid approximately $157,000 a month to the beneficiaries” while the city’s 47 active firefighters contributed “only $25,000 a month” to the fund.

“The contributions of the active firefighters were being used to pay the current beneficiaries instead of being invested for the active firefighters’ future pension benefits,” Lampkin wrote.

“This is not merely a matter of an underfunded pension plan,” Lampkin added. “The severe fund deficiency and alarming rate of asset depletion, and Harvey’s demonstrated inability to collect on its tax levies to support its obligations establish that the Pension Fund’s ability to pay the beneficiaries will be extinguished in the near future.”

After years of arguments in the trial court, then-Cook County Circuit Judge Mary Mikva, who now also serves as a justice on the state’s First District Appellate Court, determined the county’s failure to pay violated the Illinois Pension Code, and the city was obligated to pay the pension fund nearly $11 million in damages.

She stopped short of ordering the city to raise taxes, however, saying the actual act of raising taxes should be left to the city.

The city appealed the decision, arguing Mikva had been off base, as the Illinois Supreme Court and other courts in Illinois had for decades affirmed the Illinois state constitution and Pension Code, while requiring cities and other governments to pay their workers’ pensions, did not give pension funds the right to demand certain funding levels. The city further argued the court order violated the separation of powers, as it amounted essentially to the court ordering the city to either spend its tax money in a prescribed manner or to raise taxes.

The justices, however, said the city does not have an absolute right to decide how much money to put into its pension funds, as the state Pension Code mandates governments annually collect and allocate enough money to meet their pension obligations.

“… Although Harvey is correct in stating that it has the authority to set its levies, it cannot abuse its discretionary powers pursuant to the Code,” the justices wrote. “The Code explicitly states: ‘the municipality shall annually levy a tax upon all the taxable property of the municipality at the rate on the dollar which will produce an amount which … will equal a sum sufficient to meet the annual actuarial requirements of the pension fund.’ Although Harvey is allowed discretion by the Code, the General Assembly requires Harvey to enact a levy for the Pension Fund, which Harvey has failed to do. Because Harvey has abused its discretion, this court affirms the trial court’s ruling that the separation of powers doctrine does not bar the Pension Board’s claim.”

The justices also cast aside the city’s attempt to argue it could not make the “required actuarial” payments to its firefighters pension fund because it did not collect enough in taxes to do so. The justices said, rather, the failure to pay into the pension fund came because the city chose to make up for the shortfall in taxes by paying other obligations at the expense of the pension fund. Essentially, the justices said, the city doesn’t have the discretion under state law to short the pension funds exclusively, but can only decrease payments to those funds proportionately to all others.

And justices further chided Harvey city officials for years of financial mismanagement in other areas, as well, pointing to scandals and court orders against the city and its officials for, among other things, steering millions of dollars of funds intended to support the development of a hotel to fund other city expenses, including payroll, and “Harvey’s aldermen’s $80,000 unregulated expense accounts, paying the relatives of prominent city officials thousands of dollars for doing relatively simple tasks such as creating a social media website and shoveling snow.”

“Harvey has presented no testimony and no evidence to demonstrate that it has the ability to manage its finances and properly fund the Pension Fund,” the justices wrote.

As did Mikva, however, the justices also declined to issue a court order directing the city on how it must fund its pension obligations, saying deciding how much to tax should be left to the mayor and city council.

“Taxes levied by Harvey are not collected at the rate of 100 percent and, as a result, there is clearly some discretion required in order to make this projection,” the justices write. “As long as Harvey, within its discretion, is levying an amount that would be enough to produce the (actuarily)-mandated contribution, Harvey would be meeting its obligations under the Pension Code. Harvey ‘is vested with the authority to take the final action: adopting an ordinance levying the tax.’”

thanks Dan

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4-Alarm fire in Harvey, 7-14-17

This from Brad Steinweg:

Photos from the 4 alarm in Harvey this Friday at 147th & Halsted. They also had a 2nd one going at 145th & Union AVE that I did not get to. 

-Brad S.
house fire in Harvey IL

Brad Steinweg photo

Thornton FD Engine 777

Brad Steinweg photo

Dolton FD tower ladder

Brad Steinweg photo

Phoenix FD fire engine

Brad Steinweg photo

Homewood Fire engine

Brad Steinweg photo

Flossmoor fire engine

Brad Steinweg photo

house fire in Harvey IL

Brad Steinweg photo

house fire in Harvey IL

Brad Steinweg photo

Dolton FD tower ladder

Brad Steinweg photo

Dolton FD tower ladder

Brad Steinweg photo

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