On October 19, 2009, Chicago Department of Water Management Workers noticed an employee from a concrete company taking water from a fire hydrant. They were on the Milwaukee Avenue street project that proves private contractor are not up to the tasks of getting work completed in a timely manner. The project which stretches from Montrose to the Jefferson park CTA terminal is the result of multiple minority contractor incompetence. Everyone on this project should not be allowed to work for the public again. A concrete contractor was caught with his saw cutting machine hooked up to a fire hydrant with no protection to the potable water supply. The man had no permit to use the water. A Chicago Police officer was dispatched and made quick work of the violations. I commend Officer Stranski for a job well done. The City of Chicago Department of Water Management needs proper training to make all employees aware of water safety. Many people think the department promotes political hacks that have little knowledge of public safety. Many Chicago Water Department employees think the only thing that matters is getting signatures for Daley and his selected political goons. I want to thank the employees that did their job and reported the violations. Many employees are afraid to report these violations as the Management in the department will retaliate. Make sure you read the following articles, Daley is selling the City of Chicago to the highest bidder. Make sure you vote everyone of these idiots out of office. Photo by Patrick McDonough.
Five Chicago assets that could be sold off next
FUNDS | After peddling the Skyway, parking meters, Daley could look up -- or down
October 23, 2009
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
After draining reserve funds generated by city asset sales, Mayor Daley has hitched Chicago's financial future to continuing the Great Chicago sell-off.
If that's his rabbit in the hat, there are several viable alternatives, provided aldermen vilified for the parking meter fiasco are willing to go along with it.
» Click to enlarge image Mayor Daley has hitched Chicago's financial future to selling off of city assets. The Chicago Skyway and, most recently, the parking meters have been privatized.
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Daley could privatize the water system or just the sewer portion. He could revive the $2.5 billion Midway Airport deal that collapsed for lack of financing and lay the groundwork to do the same at O'Hare.
If he wants to reduce operating expenses without generating up-front cash, he could privatize garbage collection or recycling. Water billing and other revenue collections are also possibilities.
Here's the rundown:
MIDWAY AIRPORT: This is the most immediate prospect, considering the groundwork already done. Former Daley chief of staff John Schmidt, who advised the city on the Midway and Skyway deals, says "alternative refinancing structures" under study could set the stage for the city to revive the Midway deal within six months without another round of bidding.
"There is no law that says we have to go back through another auction process. There are other bidders who've been found qualified by the airlines," Schmidt said.
"If you look at corporate merger deals, there are a lot of different ways to create a market test to make sure you're getting the best possible deal without" another round of bidding.
O'HARE: If Daley is willing to think big and keep his powder dry, this could attract a monster payout. But roadblocks remain. Hundreds of millions worth of outstanding bonds must be paid off. The massive runway expansion project must be completed. And the Federal Aviation Administration, which agreed to make Midway the first major commercial airport privatization in the United States, would have to approve the transaction.
"It would be enormously complicated. It couldn't be done for 10 years," Schmidt said.
WATER SYSTEM: This sounds intriguing, but it's fraught with political danger. It's one thing to privatize the Skyway and street parking, which play to more limited audiences. But everybody uses Lake Michigan water purified and pumped through Department of Water Management facilities. Does Daley really want to put that service in the hands of a private company that might cut corners to improve its bottom line? One City Hall observer called it "a gamble I wouldn't take." Another complication is the condition of the city's water mains. Like the Midway deal, a private contractor likely would be required to offer jobs to city workers. Would they pay top dollar, only to inherit employees implicated in the Hired Truck and city hiring scandals?
SEWER SYSTEM: This would probably make more sense from a political standpoint. "To put it crudely, people are less sensitive to the quality of what's going out than they are about the quality of what's coming in," Schmidt said. Chicagoans pay a sewer surcharge that amounts to 86 percent of a customer's water bill. If sewer service alone is privatized, those fees tacked on to water bills would have to be separated.
GARBAGE COLLECTION: Daley can't get up-front money without imposing a fee for garbage collection. But he could save money by farming it out, if he could withstand the avalanche of aldermanic opposition. It likely would make the controversy from the failed attempt to privatize side-street snow removal pale by comparison.
No matter what assets Daley wants to unload, nothing will happen quickly. Aldermen were crucified for giving quickie approval to the parking meter deal. They're not about to do it again, said City Council Transportation Committee Chairman Tom Allen (38th).
"The process going forward to sell more assets will be very different than it was for the Skyway and meters. It'll be much more public with the citizens weighing in on it," he said.
Look out water thieves: City is watching for you
By STEVE HUNTER
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
Jan 09 2009
Kent city officials want residents to help watch for and report mobile fleet-washing companies and others that are reportedly stealing water from municipal fire hydrants.
The city has been losing money, thanks to the theft of water by several fleet-washing companies and other contractors. The thieves also are damaging hydrants and creating the potential for contaminating city water supplies.
"We are seeing an increase (in 2008) compared to what has happened the past 10 years," said Brad Lake, city water superintendent, in a Dec. 23 phone interview. "We want more emphasis on catching folks for a warning or a fine from the police department."
If residents see a truck using a hydrant without a water meter, they should jot down the vehicle's license-plate number as well as the name of the company, and call the Kent Public Works Department at 253-856-5600.
"If we get a license plate number, we can follow it up," Lake said.
Here's how to spot an illegal water hookup: The hose is attached directly to the hydrant without a water meter attached. Even city vehicles use water meters to monitor the amount of water they're using. Companies can fill up trucks in as quick as 10 minutes, depending on the size of the truck's water tank.
The city can fine companies up to $300 per day for using hydrants without a permit or meter. Police also can cite the companies for theft of water or malicious mischief for damage to the hydrants.
City policy requires companies to get a permit, water meter and a specific wrench from the public works department to legally use fire hydrants. The city's permit fees are $50 for 1-inch water meters and $100 for 3-inch meters. Permits are valid for up to 60 days.
Contractors that provide mobile fleet-washing services use the hydrants to fill up trucks with water before heading to a job site.
But a few companies hook hoses directly to the hydrant and use pipe wrenches to open the valve rather than using the city-issued water meter and wrench.
"They can break the (valve) stem and that makes it non-operating when the fire department shows up," Lake said. "And the hoses (without a proper connection) can contaminate the water."
Lake said the water meter helps to control backflow that can contaminate the water supply. City workers constantly repair hydrants damaged by improper use.
Gwen Abraham, who works in accounting services for the Kent Public Works Department, bills the companies that get permits and check out water meters. She discovered even a few of the companies that check out water meters don't always use them when hooking up to the hydrants.
"A company with a 500-gallon truck, the cost would be at least $20 per fill," Abraham said. "They have the meter for 60 days and the meter charge is $11 total. There's no way. Even if they only had one fill per day, the cost for 60 days would be $1,200."
City officials said they are unable to estimate how much revenue the city has lost because it's difficult to know how many companies illegally fill trucks and how much water those companies take.
"We really don't know," Lake said. "But we try to talk to companies to educate them. We've had meetings with a couple of companies. We've issued a couple of citations, but that's not what we prefer to do."
City employees recently caught one company stealing water from a hydrant and gave the company a warning, Lake said. The next day city employees caught the same company hooked up again to a hydrant without a meter. Police cited the firm for theft.
Besides fleet-washing companies, contractors at construction sites use the hydrants for pressure washing. The city also has issued permits for filling up swimming pools.
The city started a permit system for companies to use fire hydrants more than a decade ago, because of the thefts from the hydrants.
"Kent felt it was better to have a program to use the hydrants properly, meter it and protect the system from damage," Lake said. "And we can use legal enforcement to go after folks who take water illegally."
Lake has met with the Kent Police to help inform officers to keep an eye out for illegal use of the hydrants.
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter Steve Hunter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-872-6600, ext. 5052.