La Salle wants $93,738 from Carus for damaged fire gear

City says it was led to believe a payment would be made, but still waits for the reimbursement

Firefighters from Aurora, Batavia, St. Charles and Big Rock fire departments wash down hoses used in the Carus Chemical fire on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023 at the La Salle Fire Station

La Salle Alderman Bob Thompson said he and other city officials met with Carus Chemical representatives recently and they were led to believe the city would get reimbursed soon for $93,738 worth of damaged fire gear.

The city still is waiting for payment, Thompson said at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Some La Salle firefighters, among others called in to assist with the Jan. 11 fire, had thousands of dollars worth of gear that needed to be replaced, including breathing apparatus, boots, gloves, pants and jackets.

Thompson said he, Fire Chief Jerry Janick and Finance Director John Duncan met with Carus representatives, and they told Thompson more than 90% of the gear would be paid.

Thompson said the next correspondence he received from Carus was asking the city to file a claim through the Davies Group.

“The taxpayers need to know, Carus is not paying these bills,” Thompson said, noting there were at least a half dozen other firefighters at the scene that needed gear replaced. Janick said La Salle’s department had the most damage to its gear.

Thompson said he would like to see the city buckle down on Carus.

“I’m not going to approve anything until the taxpayers are made whole,” Thompson said.

Thompson said Carus was invited to attend the City Council meeting Monday to discuss the item. No one from Carus was in attendance.

Alderman Tom Ptak said it was shameful how Carus has reacted in the aftermath of the fire. Council members suggested Carus could have written the check and had its insurance company reimburse it, rather than have taxpayers be on the hook for the new gear, which needed immediately replacement for emergency responses.

“They have provided an example of how not to handle [response to the community],” Ptak said. “How they can justify it is beyond me.”

Earlier this month, Carus conducted a public meeting with its CEO Andy Johnston saying during the event his company has “work to do” after its response was slow to reimburse citizens for damages from the fire’s aftermath.

In response to several residents who said their property damages have not been paid or assessed, and some questioning low values being offered for damages, Chryss Crockett, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Carus, said at its May 10 public meeting the company had a third party insurer. Those companies AIG and Allied World don’t have local agents to assess damage, so the Davies Group was contracted to the do the ground work. She said working with the two companies and figuring out which one was responsible for what led to a two-month delay in the process

City Attorney Jim McPherson reiterated what he said then, that Carus is ultimately responsible for damage it allegedly caused in the fire. He said the city could pursue Carus through its ordinances for the lost costs.

Mayor Jeff Grove suggested the city try working through the Carus’ protocol through the Davies Group and if it doesn’t see sufficient action, it can pursue other options.

Thompson said he also believes the city should look at alleviating the truck route to the former Apollo warehouse if it is not needed by Carus anymore. Carus has moved its storage to a facility in the South Towne Mall in Ottawa. No action was taken on Thompson’s suggestion at this time.