HARVEY, Ill. -- The firefighters union in south suburban Harvey said half of the fire department was laid off following an emergency meeting to discuss the city's financial crisis.
In a post on Instagram and Facebook, the local Fireman's Association wrote, "The city has laid off 18 firefighters, half the department is gone! Prayers for the citizens and families of those laid off."
The fire department not only serves Harvey, but nearby Dixmoor, Ill.
There were also reportedly 13 non-police personnel that have been laid off.
“We have formed a bond with this city and we’ve put our hearts and lives on the line for this city for years,” Nick Capolillo said.
Capolillo was laid off after five years on the job.
“My wife is due to give birth this weekend, health insurance concern aside from financial ramifications,” he said.
Two of the firefighters laid off have 18 years invested. They were only two years short of getting their pensions. But they are mostly concerned about the residents of Harvey and what will happen when there are only three to five firefighters on any given shift to cover the 200 calls in this city a year and the ones in Dixmoor.
The city did not confirm the layoffs.
The situation started after State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, per state law, ordered Harvey to pay the police and fire pension fund, garnishing state funds to make sure the fund is paid. That money, more than a million dollars, is now on hold, so the mayor threatened layoffs because it can't meet payroll.
Harvey's mayor called his comptroller and all department heads to City Hall on Tuesday morning, to discuss how to proceed.
Harvey's attorney, Bob Fioretti, joined the meeting by phone.
He claimed the city has fulfilled its pension obligation, so he's working on an appeal.
The pension problem is linked to a lengthy lawsuit.
The Illinois Comptroller's Office says it's merely enforcing a new law, and this dispute is between the pension fund and the city.
It says in part, "The Comptroller’s Office does not want to see any Harvey employees harmed or any Harvey residents put at risk, but the law does not give the Comptroller discretion in this case. "
The state urged Harvey to negotiate with the police pension fund for the money.
The firefighters who were laid off said they are not only very concerned about not only feeding their families but of the safety of the residents of Harvey. The mayor insists he is trying to come up with a resolution to bring all of these employees back on the job.