NEW CUMBERLAND - Hancock County's insurance rates are going up, at least in part, because of an increasing number of accidents involving sheriff's cruisers, commissioners learned on Thursday.
The county's insurance agent, John Frankovitch of Assure America, said the frequency of accidents, and their severity, are leading to higher premiums for the county. His remarks came as he addressed commissioners about renewing contracts for property and casualty insurance and workers' compensation.
"The number of accidents with deputies has to be addressed," Commissioner Dan Greathouse said. "I think the sheriff needs to address that. He needs to take that as a serious issue and report back to the commissioners what he has found out."
Sheriff Mike White, who has been attending the National Sheriffs' Association Annual Conference in Nashville, could not be reached for comment.
Commissioners will keep Travelers Insurance as their carrier of property and casualty insurance for the coming fiscal year, but at an annual premium of $224,529. That's a $36,000 increase over last year's premium, said Chuck Svokas, county administrator for economic development.
Svokas said Travelers studied the county's accident rate for the past five years, in which time $3 million in claims were paid. "Truthfully, our experience was not very good," he said. "We've had quite a few accidents with sheriff's cruisers."
County officials did not know the exact number of accidents during that time, but Svokas said there were three or four in the past fiscal year. The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
An accident on May 17 occurred when a sheriff's deputy, responding to a report of shots fired on Shady Glen Road, struck a tree while negotiating a tight turn on Ballantyne Road.
Commissioner Jeff Davis said the accidents factored into the higher premium regardless of whether the deputies were at fault. "They just look at the incident rate," he said. "I personally know we've had incidents over the past five years. I don't know the exact number of incidents ... but we have had several."
Svokas said a Travelers representative will meet with county officials next week to discuss a loss prevention plan. Such a plan, which may include additional training, should be in place by the end of the year, he said.
The accident issue comes at a time when the sheriff is seeking approval for the purchase of six new cruisers at a cost of $152,698. Commissioners have been reluctant to approve the purchase request. Greathouse said incidents involving cruisers, although not the main reason for the commissioners' reluctance, are part of the bigger picture.
For workers' compensation, commissioners switched from Travelers to BrickStreet Insurance, of Charleston. The premium quoted by BrickStreet - $61,000 - is a $14,000 savings from the quote by Travelers. BrickStreet has been carrying workers' compensation insurance since 2006, when it became the first private workers' compensation provider in West Virginia.
In other business, commissioners approved a bid by James White Construction, of Weirton, to build new sidewalks in New Manchester. The company's base bid of $138,855 was the lowest of three bids opened on Thursday.
The sidewalk improvement project will involve the replacing of sidewalks on both sides of High Street, Davis said. Work is expected to begin later this summer.
Also Thursday, commissioners:
Hired Sierra Dunlevy, Chelsea Kavanagh and Mary Lang as part-time dispatchers for the E-911 Center.
Revised downward by $85,141 the amount of revenue collected from the hotel occupancy tax in the 2011-12 fiscal year, which ends June 30. Commissioners had projected the revenue to be $300,000.
Accepted the resignation of Richard Adams from the Hancock County Historical Museum.
Approved a second reading of a proposed county ordinance for the control of vicious/dangerous dogs.
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