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Abby considers insurance for sewer backups

Abby considers insurance for sewer backups Abby considers insurance for sewer backups

Abbotsford’s elected officials are looking at possibly expanding the city’s insurance policies to cover no-fault sewer backups and to provide additional compensation in case cyber criminals gain access to personal data held by the city.

Following a presentation Monday night by Jesse Futter, an account representative from Spectrum Insurance, council members requested more information about the cost of expanding coverage in various areas.

As currently proposed, the total cost of the city’s liability, automotive, property and workman’s comp insurance would drop by about $8,200 next year, from $84,716 to $76,469. About $3,000 of that savings comes in the area of workman’s comp because there hasn’t been a major claim filed in several years.

Ald. Roger Weideman, however, questioned whether the city had enough coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists who cause bodily injuries when striking a municipal vehicle with a passenger not covered by workman’s comp.

Weideman also asked about no-fault sewer backup coverage, which pays up to $100,000 per claim when a homeowner’s basement is flooded by water or sewage at no fault of the city. Jesse said this often happens during a period of heavy rainfall, with no negligence by the city.

Utility manager John Soyk and DPW Craig Stuttgen said they both can recall several instances when a homeowner’s basement was flooded at no fault of the city or the homeowner.

Futter estimated the cost of no-fault backup coverage for Abbotsford to be about $1,700 per year, which would cover up to $300,000 in annual claims.

Futter also floated the idea of the city purchasing a “cyber liability” policy that would cover losses in case computer hackers seized personal data held by the city and used “ransomware” to extract money for unlocking that data.

“This stuff happens all the time,” he told the council.

As of Jan. 1, the city’s current policy will provide coverage for the city and its residents in case of a cyber attack, but it’s limited to $25,000.

“I don’t think that’s enough,” he said, noting that a vast majority of Spectrum’s clients have standalone cyber crime policies.

For a municipality the size of Abbotsford, Futter said he would recommend $1 million in cyber crime coverage. He did not have cost estimates for that type of policy available at Monday’s meeting.

City administrator Dan Grady told the council later in the meeting that he doesn’t think additional cyber crime coverage is necessary, since the city backs up its own computer files and does not carry much personal data on city residents.

However, Soyk said anyone who has an auto-payment plan set up for their monthly water bills has their bank account information stored in the city’s CIVICS accounting system.

The council voted to postpone renewing its insurance policies until its next meeting on Dec. 16 so it can see prices for the various coverage additions discussed on Monday.

Other business

_ After hearing from financial advisor Sean Lenz, the council approved a resolution to refinance $2.7 million in water utility debt, at a minimum savings of $350,000 from reduce interest rates. The actual savings won’t be known until the USDA’s Rural Development program signs off on the refinancing, since it holds one of the two longterm debts.

Ald. Dennis Kramer questioned Lenz on why he hadn’t presented the refinancing proposal earlier, since interest rates have been low for years. Lenz said one of the old debt issues wasn’t callable until just last month, and it was more cost-effective to wait and refinance it with the second debt.

At the end of Monday’s meeting, Kramer said he wants to consider other options for the city’s financial advisor at the council’s next meeting.

_ The council approved raises for three Colby-Abbotsford Police Department employees. Increases of 75 cents per hour were approved for both secretary Jessica Weich and Lt. Alex Bowman, with their insurance deductibles raised to $1,000.

A $1.48 hourly raise was also approved for Chief Bauer, but Alds. Dennis Kramer and Jim Weix voted against the motion because it also included a $150 increase in the monthly stipend Bauer receives for not taking health insurance through the department. Kramer and Weix noted that city employees get a $350 monthly insurance stipend, so they didn’t think it was fair that Bauer would get $500.

_ During public comment, resident Jim Colby complained about text messages sent to him by DPW Craig Stuttgen about another resident, Hank Blazel, regarding items on Blazel’s property being too close to the city’s sidewalks. Stuttgen reportedly told Colby that he would have “the last laugh” if Blazel didn’t move his items because then the city crew would not remove snow from the sidewalk.

“In my opinion, that’s no way for a city official to act,” Colby said.

Council members agreed to discuss issues surrounding Blazel’s properties at their next meeting.

Colby also complained about the way curb and gutter was installed in the Sportsmens Addition last year. At Kramer’s request, the council agreed to discuss that issue at its next meeting.

_ The council approved a $184,762 pay request from Melvin Companies for work done on the Safe Routes to School project and another for $249,145 for work done on West Spruce Street.

_ The council approved a $20,571 pay request from Haas Sons for work done on extending Opportunity Drive.

_ The council approved a motion to write off a total of $4,604 in unpaid utility bills from accounts that are considered uncollectable. This includes about $1,900 from the former owner of Abbotsford’s nursing home, Dycora, which has declared bankruptcy.

_ The council authorized Grady to work with the Graff Law Firm in Medford to proceed with razing the house at 318 N. First St. The owner of the house took out a permit to demolish the building earlier this year, but nothing has happened since then. There are still people living in the house, so city officials want to follow up with legal action.

_ The council approved a support services contract with MSA Professional Service, which establishes hourly rates for MSA employees to provide technical assistance for the city’s new GIS map of its water and sewer infrastructure.

_ The council approved the $875 purchase of a new radiator for a generator at one of the city’s water plants, replacing a leaking one that is 23 years old.

_ The council approved the appointments of Karen LaPine (chair), Jane Medenwaldt, Claude Peissig, Gerri Loucks and Dennis Suttner to the Abbotsford Housing Authority’s board of directors.