Fire district offering to insure Abby building
The head of the Central Fire and EMS board believes the fire district is paying too much for insurance on its portion of Abbotsford’s public safety building. He says the district can get a better deal under its own insurance policy.
City officials, on the other hand, say the building is being insured at the correct value, and although they’d be willing to entertain offers from other insurance companies, they want the city to continue holding the policy.
The issue came up at last Thursday’s monthly district board meeting in Colby.
At that meeting, the board voted to accept a new insurance policy from MacGillis Insurance Agency of Verdonia, at a total cost of $14,450 — about $4,000 less than a competing offer from Advantage Insurance of Wausau.
Advantage has been providing the district’s vehicle, property, liability and workman’s comp insurance for the past three years after it submitted the lowest bid in 2016. The district’s 2019 premiums total $16,874 through Advantage, so there will be a $2,424 savings next year.
MacGillis agent Ryan Bedroske, a native of the area, presented the policy details to the board, which were mostly comparable to the competing offer presented by Kevin Malvorh of Advantage.
Bedroske said MacGillis could insure the entire public safety building, at a value of $7.4 million, for $4,073.
The city is currently insuring the building at a cost of $4,583, but the premium is projected to rise above $5,000 in 2020. Of the $4,583, the district is reimbursing the city $3,437 for the fire hall, or 75 percent of the premium.
Board chairman Larry Oehmichen said this amount is too much.
“We’re not being treated very well by the city of Abbotsford,” he said.
Oehmichen said he suggested to city administrator Dan Grady that the district take on the insurance for the entire building in order to get a cheaper rate, but Grady rejected that idea. At a city council meeting on Nov. 20, Grady said he does not believe the district can insure the entire building, as it does not have an “insurable interest” in the property.
“In other words, Central Fire has nothing to lose in case of a loss,” he said. “They don’t own the building, the city of Abbotsford does.”
Oehmichen, however, said the district already insures the fire halls in Colby and Dorchester even though it doesn’t own those buildings either.
Bedroske said the lease agreement between the city and the district could be legally changed so it’s clear the district is responsible for insuring the building. He said the policy would cover the actual replacement cost of the building, so the district and city wouldn’t have to worry about insuring the exact value.
The existing cost-sharing arrangement between the city and the district is based on the square footage of the building, which houses both the Colby-Abbotsford Police Department and Central Fire and EMS.
Out of the building’s total 32,769 square feet, Oehmichen said 10,900 (33 percent) is occupied by the police department and 21,869 (67 percent) by the district. He says the premium split should correspond to those square foot percentages.
Abbotsford Ald. Roger Weideman, however, said those square footage figures do not include the second floor of the fire hall. He said that would make the split more like 75 percent for the fire district and 25 percent for the police.
“If those figures are accurate, we’re adjusting it pretty fair,” he said.
Oehmichen, however, said the cost per foot to replace all of the CAPD’s offices should be significantly more than the open garage space occupied by the district.
Board member Dennis Engel questioned whether the building really needed to be insured at a value of $7.4 million.
“It seems like a lot of money for that building, I don’t know,” he said.
The city’s current insurance policy is based on a $5 million value for the building, which was determined by a municipal property assessor in 2016. That value will increase to $7.4 million next year because of “today’s construction costs and the requirements necessary for a public safety building,” Grady wrote in an email to Oehmichen.
Weideman told the rest of the district board that Abbotsford’s city council would consider cheaper insurance policies, but the city is not likely to turn over the policy to the district.
_ The board approved the purchase of 85 bottles for self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) used by firefighters, at a cost of $950 per bottle. District staff had originally wanted to buy 96 bottles, but after the district lost out on a FEMA grant, the board scaled the order back.
_ The district responded to 66 ambulance calls and six fire calls between Oct. 17 and Nov. 21, according to the chief’s report. District chief Joe Mueller said they responded to four accidents in one day, including a semi rollover on STH 29 that left the driver in the middle of the road.