City officials discuss water leak insurance

Administrator requests more time to research new approach

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During the first meeting of the Sparta Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the new year, the board listened to discussions about a new water leak insurance program for residents and ultimately decided to table the decision to give city administrator Brad Hennessee more time to determine the most cost-effective way to make this possible.

“Maybe as long as two and a half years ago, we talked about a leak protection program for customers at the water department,” Mayor Jeff Young told the board. “The city administrator, along with Belva [Bess, electric department manager] and the staff have been gathering information on this.  We thought we were real close, but a few questions have come up this week that they would like to clarity and pin down.”

The city had been preparing to purchase water leak Insurance from ServLine, which is currently the only company in the country offering this as an insurance-backed program that is vetted and partnered with the National Rural Water Association and multiple state associations.

Hennessee told the board that, should the board choose to enter into an agreement with ServLine, they would have to select a level of protection for all customers as either water-only or combined water/sewer.

“We felt uneasy about that,” Hennessee said. “We don’t have the same number of water and sewer customers.”

 Hennessee told the board  that approximately 17 percent of the city’s customers do not have sewer service with the city, but it was his understanding they would not be able to separate the insurance for those customers to be water-only.

He said that after discussing the issue further with both Bess and Dillard Quick, the public works department manager, he thought there might be options for offering an in-house version of insurance that would offer residents more options.

“The way I understand it, the city would be doing the background work anyway,” he said.

Hennessee explained to the board the city would actually be insured by Servline and act as the collection agent, investigate the claims, and make any decisions before submitting claims to the insurance company.

“After finding that out, it’s possible we may can do it more cost-effectively with an inhouse program,” he said.

Hennessee requested more time to research this new approach, and Alderman Jerry Lowery made a motion, that was seconded by Alderman Bobby Officer and unanimously approved, to table the matter until the next meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m., Jan. 14.

Other items on the Jan. 7 agenda included approving the application of Igor Bachoy for the position of Trades Helper I with the Public Works Department and hearing reports from all of the city’s departments, which reported mainly business as usual and improved staff-related absences in regard to COVID-19, with only two city staff members being out on quarantine leave at the time of the meeting.    

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