Gardner Council Moves Forward on Insurance, Museum and Pit Bulls
Posted on Aug. 10th, 2011
The three big topics at Monday evening's work session were the formation of a "Pool" of Kansas Municipalities for Property and Liability insurance, restoration of funding for the Gardner Museum and the movement from banning all vicious dogs to a breed specific ban targeting pit bulls.
The City of Gardner is currently a member of Midwest Public Risk (MPR) which is a pool of municipalities, school districts, counties and special districts in Missouri and Kansas that provides Health Insurance coverage. MPR currently provides property and liability coverage for over 40 Missouri communities, but there is no pool for Kansas municipalities. There are currently 8 Kansas municipalities interested in establishment of such a pool.
In general, MPR provides the property and liability insurance for almost all claims. If a major claim occurs, MPR purchases insurance from Travelers Insurance to protect itself. The back-up insurance is called re-insurance. If the Council agrees to be a founding member of the Kansas Pool it must participate in the group for at least one year. The City of Gardner paid approximately $300,000 for property and liability coverage in 2011. Melissa Mundt, Interim City Administrator, stated, "I've been told that we should expect an increase in our property and liability rates of at least 5% and it will most likely be in the 9 or 10% range."
A specific dollar amount from the proposed pool was not presented to the Council. In general terms, the Council was told that the Pool rate would be about what was paid in 2011. In addition to the likely lower rate than they will receive under their current plan, the deductibles would be significantly lower. Access to attorneys prior to an employee termination, difficult zoning decision, or an unusual arrest will likely reduce claims against the city.
The Council will vote on a resolution to join the proposed pool at their meeting on August 15th.
GARDNER MUSEUM FUNDING
Shirley Brown-VanArsdale and Laura McCarthy of the Gardner Historical Museum asked the Council to consider in-kind donations to the museum. In recent years, the City has donated about $7,000 to the museum for payment on their mortgage. In the proposed 2012 budget the Council has assigned no funds to the museum. Following significant discussion the Council came to a consensus that would forgive $2,400 in utility payments on the two museum properties, allocate $2,500 additional funding from the "bed tax," continue marketing efforts in city publications, and work with city staff to provide labor for the installation of an ADA ramp at the 207 West Shawnee building. Council Member Fotovich wanted the $2,500 bed-tax money to be taken from the EDC, but the funds will be taken from bed-tax reserves. As part of the museum discussion, it was determined that $2,500 of bed-tax money would be restored to the Gardner Community Theater. The Community Theater also receives in-kind donations from the City.
The 2012 Budget will be voted on at the August 15th Council meeting.
PIT BULL BAN
Councilmember Fotovich requested that a change to the City Code that would ban "Pit Bulls." The City of Gardner had a pit bull ban in the past, but moved to the "Vicious" animal ban in 2007. According to Captain Jim Moore of the Gardner Police Department, "When the breed specific ban was in place these dogs were registered as a ‘boxer-mix' or some other ‘mix,' but not as a pit bull." Much of the discussion centered around how to determine if a specific dog is indeed a pit bull.
Animal Control Officer, Jason Willis stated, "When I first came to the City all of the loose dog calls came in as pit bulls because the public believed that we would only respond to pit bull calls. Most often it was a boxer or some other breed." Council President, Kristi Harrison asked, "If we enact a breed specific ban, how would that work?" Captain Moore responded to her question with the following response, "On complaint, just as we do now."
Councilmember Fotovich brought up the following points:
• Many insurance companies will not cover pit bull liability on homeowner policies.
• Pit Bulls have a higher rate of bites than other breeds.
Officer Willis pointed out that there are 4 different breeds that are classified as pit bulls. He also suggested that a higher percentage of pit bull bites are reported to the police and that nips and bites from Chihuahuas and Spaniels are less likely to be reported to the police. According to the US Humane Society website at least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the 238 dog-bite-related fatalities in the U.S. during the 20 years studied.
According to Joe Oldham, State Farm agent in Gardner, "We do not approve or deny coverage based upon breed, we look at the history of the individual animal." According to research conducted by Dr James Serpell and reported in the Journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, The top three breeds for dog bites are Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Jack Russell Terriers. Dr Serpell reported that research into canine aggression has almost exclusively involved analysis of dog bite statistics. But these were potentially misleading as most bites were not reported. Big dogs might have acquired a reputation for being aggressive because their bites were more likely to require medical attention.
Following extensive discussion on the issue, it was determined that a proposal to ban pit bulls would be placed upon an upcoming agenda. The ordinance change will probably appear on the September 5th agenda. Items discussed in a work session and placed on the agenda typically have the consensus support of the Council. In this case, however, it appears that the Council has placed the proposed change on the agenda in order to take a formal vote on the issue. Based upon questions and statements made during the discussion, a majority will most likely vote against the proposal.
Other items on the agenda included an update to the 2012 budget that will be on the August 15th agenda and an Executive Session to discuss City Administrator candidates.