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Putnam County to see spike in insurance policy costs

By Kara Moore

WINFIELD -- Putnam County will pay substantially more for property and casualty insurance next year.

Last year the county's policy cost $399,680, and next year the same policy will cost $511,167.

Harold Payne of Payne and Garlow presented the commission with two proposals for the next fiscal year's insurance policy at its regular meeting Tuesday morning.

The proposals came from Travelers, the current underwriter, and the West Virginia Board of Risk and Insurance Management, known as BRIM.

BRIM's proposal was even higher at $678,523.

The cause for the steep hike?

"Factors beyond our control," Commissioner Joe Haynes said. "Tornados in the Midwest and hurricanes and floods. The risk gets spread across the whole country. It increases for everybody, not just the areas that are affected."

But Haynes added that there's likely a second cause.

"I think the real problem is lack of competition."

Last year the commission also received a proposal from the West Virginia Counties Risk Pool, which is a group of counties that pool resources to self-insure rather than paying premiums to an insurance agency.

"Last year (Travelers) brought us a proposal that was really high, and when the county risk pool was lower, they went back and they came down," Haynes said.

The pool's proposal was still lower than Travelers, but the commission chose the Travelers policy because of differences in coverage.

The pool declined to submit a proposal this year.

Commissioners likely will approve the Travelers proposal at their June 25 meeting. They tabled the matter Tuesday so they could go over the details of each proposal before making a decision.

Payne and Garlow has administered the county's property and casualty insurance since 1996.

In other news:

* Haynes reported that the board of the health department will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at the health department and will hold a news conference immediately afterward.

The Putnam County Health Department has been in financial trouble in recent months.

It filed an application with the state health department for $186,000 in funding to tide it over, but had to withdraw the application when the state requested additional details with only a few days until the application deadline.

Haynes said the troubles stem from a prolonged legal dispute with an employee and an expansion of clinical services beyond community demand.

"It's nothing we can't recover from," Haynes said. "It's going to take time, and it's going to take real effort."

Haynes would not say what the news conference would be about but said he thinks a solution is close.

* The commission passed a resolution recognizing the Putnam Public Service District for winning several awards.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources recognized the district with two gold-level awards for 2012 for surface water system of the year and optimized water treatment plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized the district for its water filtration.

* A subcommittee of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce plans to propose revisions to the county's signage ordinance to bring it more closely in line with municipalities in the county, according to Haynes, who is a member of the committee.

For example, scrolling message signs are prohibited in the county's ordinance but are allowed in the city of Hurricane. The scrolling signs also are allowed on schools because signage ordinances do not apply to them.

* A bridge in County Park in Eleanor needs about $3,000 in repairs to meet modern standards, Haynes reported.

The bridge, which leads to the county fairgrounds, is not in immediate danger of failing but does not comply with modern standards according to a recent evaluation.

Haynes said he hopes groups with a stake in the bridge, including the county fair board, the city of Eleanor and the county commission, will chip in to cover the cost.

The county commission meets at 9 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the county courthouse in Winfield. The commission will have an additional meeting this month at 9 a.m. next Tuesday to approve end-of-year budget revisions.

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