City officials: Insurance increase a trend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2000

A 10 percent increase in the city’s liability insurance is part of a recent nationwide trend in group insurance coverage, city officials say. The Natchez Board of Aldermen accepted a bid from St. Paul Insurance of Minnesota Tuesday for the city’s liability insurance.

The quote for $242,742 was the only bid submitted and is a $24,000 increase over this year’s price from the same company.

Though it is an increase, City Clerk Donnie Holloway said he was pleased with the quote because many Mississippi municipalities are having a difficult time acquiring insurance.

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Johnny Byrne, a local insurance agent, said the city’s increase is low compared to others nationwide, who have had their premiums doubled – if they can find a company that will underwrite them at all.

The price increases are the result of a &uot;tightening&uot; in the insurance industry, Byrne said. Over the last several years, the number of insurance companies on the market has kept premiums low.

But as competition decreased, especially in the last six months, those companies that remain have become more restrictive, he said.

Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said the increase was not totally unexpected, but he was surprised no other company offered a quote.

&uot;It’s just another one of those unexpected expenses,&uot; he said. &uot;We just have to hope the sales tax collections continue to increase as they have.&uot;

Holloway said the insurance increase is compounded by a 16 percent increase in electricity rates beginning in January.

Neither increase was budgeted for, and Holloway said he hopes continued &uot;tightening&uot; and increased revenues will make up for the extra expenses.

In other business, the board:

Approved transfer of $28,000 from the capital improvements fund to pay a bill submitted late from Nash Plumbing for work on the city auditorium.

Holloway said the transfer will be repaid from a certificate of deposit set aside for the project that matures Dec. 28.

Approved advertisement for bids to upgrade traffic signalization on Canal and Franklin streets. Bids will be received through Feb. 13, 2001.

Authorized City Engineer David Gardner to sign legal documents with contractors at the city auditorium declaring the project &uot;substantially complete.&uot;

Gardner said &uot;substantially complete&uot; is one of the final stages of a construction project, followed by &uot;punch lists&uot; drawn up by the architect and the building inspector.

Once the punch lists are complete, officials can close out the project. Warranties on work performed at the auditorium begin with the substantially complete date, which was Nov. 30.

Discussed concerns about the extension of the Natchez Trace Parkway into the city during a finance committee meeting.

Gardner, who recently attended a meeting with trace officials and the state Department of Transportation, asked the board and mayor if they would prefer decorative street lights on the Trace as it enters Liberty Road or match those already standing.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sue Stedman said she would prefer decorative lights if MDOT had enough money in the budget, and the other aldermen agreed.

Gardner, who is on a project committee dealing with bridges and ramps, said he agrees with a suggestion by Virginia Salmon, Adams County Board of Supervisors president, that the entrance to Liberty Park be relocated and a new entrance be built by Rite Aid pharmacy. Gardner also said the fire station near the entrance will likely be relocated at the expense of MDOT.

Postponed acting on an application for Tree City U.S.A. with the National Arbor Day Foundation until after the first of the year.

Presented Hillarie Long, a Natchez High School sophomore, with the P.R.O.U.D. award for excelling in education and community service.

Presented Sabrena Bartley, Natchez Senior Citizen Multi-Purpose Center executive director, with the employee of the month award for December.

Approved an application from Oscar Davis for a certificate of public convenience and necessity to operate a limousine service in the city.

Davis, who presented proof of required insurance and passed background checks with the Natchez Police Department, said his business will not interfere with the Natchez-Vidalia Cab Company, because he intends to service special occasions.