Hillsboro council chooses stability over savings

The Hillsboro City Council opted at a special meeting March 31 to take a higher bid from an out-of-town insurance supplier than to use a local agency with the lower bid-at least for this year.

The council was pressed by an April 1 deadline to make a decision about the source of the city’s insurance coverage for its property, vehicles and general liability for the coming year.

For years, the city’s insurance provider has been EMC Insurance Co.; last year the city opted to use the IMA office in Wichita as its provider rather than the Insurance Center in Hillsboro.

But at its March 23 meeting, the council was given a bid through Rodgers & Associates Insurance Inc. in Hillsboro to meet the city’s insurance needs through another provider, Scottsdale Indemnity Co., based in Pennsylvania.

The Scottsdale bid was $54,168-about $10,300 less than the EMC bid had been.

The issue, said City Administrator Steven Garrett, was not the competency of the local Rodgers & Associates agent, Tracy A. Williams. It was the lack of a track record in Kansas of Scottsdale Indemnity Co.

This is the first year Scottsdale has been trying to make an inroad in the state. EMC has been the only provider of municipal insurance in Kansas for several years now.

Mayor Delores Dalke added her concern about making the switch. “Scottsdale has no other city in Kansas (as a client),” she said. “Do we want to be the first to jump? As far as Tracy’s ability (as an agent), I know her well enough that she would work forever for us.”

In response to Garrett’s recommendation that the council stay with EMC, Councilor Matt Hiebert floated a motion to that effect, but it died for lack of a second.

In the discussion that followed, it was pointed out that the city will be reviewing its insurance again next spring. By then, Scottsdale may have a track record in Kansas.

After stating his desire to use “someone local,” Councilor Byron McCarty reluctantly offered the same motion as before, which Hiebert seconded. It passed 2-1 with Councilor Len Coryea voting against it and Councilor Shelby Dirks absent.

In other business, the council:

— approved several board appointments recommended by the mayor. To the Planning and Zoning Commission, the council appointed Kevin Suderman to fill the unexpired term of Karen Elliott. To the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the council reappointed Elfrieda Funk, Hank Wiebe, Sonya Fisher, Mike Knak and Steve Berg, and appointed Donna Klose, Pat Nuss, Stan R. Harder, Matt Dalke and Frances Walls.

— heard from Garrett that the cable television franchise currently awarded to Galaxy Cablevision will be reviewed later this year. Garrett said that if that franchise is extended, the city’s franchise fee should be be increased from 3 percent to 5 percent, and the length of the contract be limited to three years instead of seven years. The council gave its informal affirmation.

— heard from Garrett that the remodeling of the city hall public restrooms was “99 percent complete.” In addition to receiving a facelift, the restrooms are now in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

March 22 meeting

The Hillsboro City Council voted March 22 to submit an application for a state block grant to fund the construction of a wastewater pre-treatment facility intended for a new business that will likely locate in Hillsboro.

The vote came during a special meeting that followed a sparsely attended public hearing on the matter.

Cottonwood Cheese Co. has indicated a high interest in locating in Hillsboro, and would build a facility estimated at $3.5 million. The company is projected to bring in 40 jobs when it opens and to expand to more than 100.

Company officials are considering a building site in the area of U.S. Highway 56 and Kanza Road, but that has not been determined.

The application submitted to the Kansas Department of Commerce for Small Cities Community Development Block Grant would request $750,000 in funding for the pre-treatment wastewater facility. Half of that amount would be a loan, the other half a grant.

The half that is loaned would be paid back by Cottonwood Cheese Co. over 10 years.

On another matter, the council heard an insurance proposal from Tracy A. Williams of Rodgers & Associates Insurance Inc., 105 N. Main, Hillsboro, regarding coverage for the city’s property, vehicles and general liability issues.

Williams said that Scottsdale Indemnity Co., based in Pennsylvania, could provide the identical coverage of the city’s current provider, EMC Insurance Co., for $54,168.

That bid is about $10,300 less than the bid offered by EMC through the IMA office in Wichita.

Williams said Scottsdale, one of the largest insurance carriers in the country, has recently decided to be “a major player” in the municipality insurance market and has priced its rates accordingly.

For years, City Administrator Steven Garrett said, EMC has been the only affordable “player” in the municipalities market.

Even though EMC is rated as an “A” insurance company and Scottsdale is rated “A+” Garrett told the council he would like some time to review Williams’ proposal before recommending a switch.

“I don’t want to make a mistake, but $10,000 is enough to warrant a look,” he said.

The council will decide between the two bids at a later date.

In his report to the council, Garrett said:

— the state’s set-off program has recouped about $2,500 in delinquent utility fees so far. The total amount the city turned over to the program was $17,099.74 . The program deducts the money from the state-tax refunds of delinquent customers for an 18.4 percent recovery fee.

So far, the city has received $1,502 and Garrett said about $1,000 more had just come in.

“The set-off program is working out nicely,” he said.

— the city had received a letter from the county stating that its dispatch service would no longer be handling utility-related that come in after regular office hours. The county will continue to handle 911 emergency calls, but will not receive after-hours non-emergency calls to the police station.

Garrett said he would be meeting with Police Chief Dan Kinning to figure out an alternative way to handle such calls.

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