Posts Tagged Harvey Fire Department

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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Working fire in Harvey, 7-14-17

This from Eric Haak:

The Harvey Fire Department had an interesting afternoon Friday (7/14). The department was first dispatched at about 12:15 to 14631 S. Halsted Street where they had a 2.5-story, 25×50 frame apartment building with heavy fire and exposures on arrival. Ten minutes later, companies reported there was another structure going at 14538 S. Union Street. This second fire was a 1.5-story, 24×45 frame home and was heavily involved just about a block away. A total of 4 alarms were struck to take care of both incidents which also took into account several departments taking passes according to radio traffic. I took this in 2 hours after the initial call figuring I would just do some reporting on the incident and maybe take some pictures of the rigs on scene. I did not take any pictures of what was left of the home on Union and what you see is what remained of the building on Halsted.

aftermath of house fire

Eric Haak photo

Dolton FD Truck 1443

Eric Haak photo

Harvey FD Engine 5

Eric Haak photo

Harvey FD Engine 6

Eric Haak photo

Thornton FD Engine 777

Eric Haak photo

Harvey FD Engine 4

Eric Haak photo

aftermath of house destroyed by fire

Eric Haak photo

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3-Alarm fire in Harvey, 5-5-16 (more)

This from Josh Boyajian:

I arrived about an hour into this fire that consumed a large building that took up the whole Southeast corner of 154th and Broadway. Chicago sent their foam unit along with Engine 26 and 5-1-5 but they weren’t used.  Here are some of my shots with the whole gallery on my site @ Harvey 3-11 Alarm @ 154th & Broadway
fire chief at building fire

Josh Boyajian photo

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Josh Boyajian photo

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Josh Boyajian photo

Pierce tower ladder at fire scene

Josh Boyajian photo

Sutphen tower ladder at fire scene

Josh Boyajian photo

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Josh Boyajian photo

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Josh Boyajian photo

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Josh Boyajian photo

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Josh Boyajian photo

Pierce tower ladder at fire scene

Josh Boyajian photo

fire chiefs at building fire

Josh Boyajian photo

fire chiefs at building fire

Josh Boyajian photo

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3-Alarm fire in Harvey, 5-5-16 (more)

Photos from Gordon Nord of the 3-Alarm fire in Harvey (5/5/16)

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

Thornton Fire Department Tele-Squrt

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

Pierce fire engine at fire scene

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

Pierce tower ladder at fire scene

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

Pierce tower ladder at fire scene

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

Pierce tower ladder at fire scene

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

Pierce tower ladder at fire scene

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

Chicago Fire Department foam unit 6-3-1

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

Pierce tower ladder at fire scene

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

Pierce tower ladder at fire scene

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

fire chief at building fire

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

fire chiefs silhouetted by fire

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Gordon J. Nord, Jr. photo

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3-Alarm fire in Harvey, 5-5-16 (more)

Photos from Dennis McGuire, Jr. of the 3-Alarm fire in Harvey, 5-5-16

Pierce tower ladder at fire scene

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

firefighter surrounded by smoke

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

fire trucks battle commercial fire with billowing smoke

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

commercial building fire in Harvey IL

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

More photos are HERE

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3-Alarm fire in Harvey, 5-5-16

(19:00 hrs 5-5-16) Harvey firefighters are on the scene of a commercial fire at 155th Street and Broadway, battling fire in a block long building.

The following images and video are from Dennis McGuire, Jr.

commercial building fire

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

commercial building fire

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

commercial building fire

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

commercial building fire

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

commercial building fire

Dennis McGuire, Jr. photo

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Possible layoffs in Harvey

Excerpts from theChicagoTribune.com:

Harvey is threatening to lay off half the town’s police and other workers as part of a widening political dispute in a place long known for high crime, insider deals, and precarious finances. Harvey Mayor Eric Kellogg’s administration has notified union leaders that layoffs are expected soon for police, fire, public works and water department employees.

For months Kellogg has battled a majority bloc of City Council members who say they’re demanding more transparency in a town the Tribune has shown has collectively lost millions of taxpayer dollars on insider deals, including at least one that has sparked a lingering FBI investigation.

Under state law, the town must pass an ordinance that by Dec. 29 tells the county clerk how much money to levy in property taxes — the lifeblood of the suburb’s budget. If the ordinance isn’t passed, the mayor warned, the town will lose out on most of its budget.

Four of the six council members have banded together to not pass any financial measures — from approving bills or, now, the tax levy ordinance — until they say the mayor recognizes the committee structures the four voted to approve earlier this year. Without those committees in place to oversee how the money is spent, they have argued, they can’t do their jobs to ensure money isn’t wasted. And if it requires they refuse to approve the levy, so be it.

“It’s not the city’s money. It’s the taxpayers’ money. And we represent the taxpayers,” said Ald. Christopher Clark, one of the four members. “So passing the levy, giving the money (to Kellogg’s administration), only to not know the use of the money when there has been a questionable use of other money over the past 12 years, … it would be irresponsible as elected officials to continue in that vein.”

Kellogg has countered that the four are merely obstructionists playing politics in a way that now has put the town on the brink of financial ruin. He has taken that message to the public and city workers, said Kellogg’s spokesman, Sean Howard who said the cuts could reduce the number of sworn police officers from 72 to 36, and the number of firefighters from around 40 to around 20.

“The mayor is for the levy. He doesn’t want to lay anyone off,” Howard said. “It’s at the feet of these four aldermen.”

The two sides met Thursday behind closed doors, but left without reaching a compromise on the committee structure. The council then voted down an ordinance to approve the levy.

On Friday, Ald. Donald Nesbit told the Tribune that its side offered to split the roles on the coveted Finance and Economic Development committees: A Kellogg supporter would chair one, with the other two members being critics, and the other committee would be chaired by a critic of Kellogg, but have its other two members be Kellogg supporters.

Clark told the Tribune he and the other three Kellogg critics on the council believe they have a legal ordinance giving them control of the committees, but that Kellogg refuses to allow them to operate.

Now, Clark and his allies say, Kellogg wants them to vote on a $15 million tax levy without having reviewed it in committee.

It’s the latest in a political battle in which mayor’s council opponents sent letters asking federal and state agencies to intervene to investigate alleged misdeeds of the mayor’s administration, and have a pending lawsuit alleging the mayor and clerk unlawfully kept the council powerless as it has tried to fight questionable spending in a town with little financial transparency.

thanks Dan

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Box Alarm in Harvey, 10-24-15 (more)

This fro Eric Haak:

Here are some still images from the Harvey fire on Saturday (10/24).  I arrived very late and they still had heavy fire in the second building.  The original fire building was completely down by my arrival.

Pierce fire engine at fire scene

Eric Haak photo

E-ONE tower ladder at fire scene

Eric Haak photo

firefighters with hose line and massive flames

Eric Haak photo

firefighter with hose line and massive flames

Eric Haak photo

Markham fire engine at fire scene

Eric Haak photo

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