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City Council: Contract ordinance introduced to switch city liability insurance provider; city reorganizes funds to pay parking meter bill due to lack of city revenue

Athens City Council introduced an ordinance Monday that plans to switch liability insurance providers from the Ohio Municipal Joint Self Insurance Pool to Public Entities Pool of Ohio, or PEP. 

This switch of providers will save the city $17,992 by April 1. 

Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, said that Athens is required to have this insurance by the state of Ohio. Athens was insured with its previous carrier, OMJSP, for almost 30 years, and though there have been no problems, better coverage and more savings are available through PEP.  The money to pay for this insurance comes from nine different city funds that include 26 upper-level administrative employees who are required to be insured. 

The PEP coverage discussed would be in place of a traditional surety bond for those public officials, including council members, employees and appointees, who are required to be bonded under Ohio Law, Crowl said in an email.  

“If the City chooses PEP coverage we must decide, by resolution, to use PEP’s coverage document for all the required bonded public officials as an ‘employee dishonesty and faithful performance of duty policy,‘ in lieu of surety bonds,” Crowl said. 

The ordinance states that the mayor or a designated representative of his choosing would have the ability to enter into a contract with PEP for property and liability insurance for the city. 

According to its website, PEP has more than 570 members that include cities, counties, fire and ambulance districts, villages, health districts, agricultural societies and parks and recreation districts throughout the state of Ohio. 

Athens City Auditor Kathy Hecht recognized Andrew Chicki, Athens deputy service director, for the amount of work he did reviewing the paperwork attached to this switch, which has not been renewed since 1998 and includes a 15-page contract and a 70-page asset list of the properties, buildings, vehicles and equipment and the coverage amounts for each of these items. 

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson said he did his homework, having called seven other municipalities that were members of PEP, Cambridge, Chillicothe, Belpre, Martin’s Ferry, Upper Sandusky and Newark, all cities that he had no prior affiliation with so there would be no bias when asking about their experiences with PEP. 

“The first thing they said is that PEP’s responsiveness to claims was something that was very important to them and highly acknowledged and recognized with the PEP program,“ Patterson said. “One city in particular did a five year comparison with PEP against their previous carrier and noted right away that the savings they experienced weren’t comparable, they were just really pleased with PEP.” 

A third reading for an ordinance to advance funds from the general fund to the parking garage fund was read and unanimously passed at tonight’s meeting. The ordinance calls for $100,000 from the general fund to be loaned into the parking garage fund due to lack of revenue, which will be paid back in installments of at least $5,000 per year beginning in 2022 until the full balance has been repaid.

“I just wanted to remind people that once we get through the COVID crisis, and today we only had one new case in the county, parking within the parking garage will begin to pick up and consequently, revenues will begin to increase,” Councilmember Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward said. “This means that there will be finally some positive revenue stream going into the various parking funds, which will allow us to pay off this inter-departmental loan much, much quicker rather than dragging it out for many years. So I'm optimistic that we'll be able to take care of it pretty soon.”

Reisner said to all council members and the listening audience that this is not something that council normally does. Council wants the parking meters to be paid for from the revenue that they make for their city, but the bills need to be paid and there has not been enough revenue for the parking garage fund. 

Councilmember Beth Clodfelter, D-At Large, said that with people starting to see the $1,400 American Rescue Plan Checks hit their bank accounts, she hopes it will help people who are struggling to get by. She urges people who might be able to choose what to do with that money to spend it supporting Athens’ local businesses. 

“So many businesses are hanging on by their fingernails,“ Clodfelter said. “I think if a lot of people in Athens spend some of their money at our local businesses, it could really improve our local economy.”


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