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Norfolk stung by premium increase

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Norfolk County is wondering what it has to do to catch a break on its insurance rates.

Risk mitigation has been a priority in Norfolk for the past several years. The result is a reduction in claims. Yet – with 2020 looming and the time come to renew – the county’s insurer has served Norfolk with a 10.6 per cent premium increase.

“This increase is significant,” Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus said at council’s year-end meeting on Dec. 17. “I’m sure the taxpayers of Norfolk County won’t appreciate it.”

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Frank Cowan Company of Princeton is one of the few comprehensive providers of municipal insurance in Ontario. Norfolk’s policy with Cowan this year cost $1.39 million. The price Cowan quoted for 2020 is $1.54 million.

Council grudgingly accepted. But the county will jump to another provider in 2020 if someone offers a better deal.

“Norfolk has significantly improved its loss ratio as the amount of insured losses has decreased significantly over the last three years,” Jan Phibbs, Norfolk’s interim supervisor of risk management, says in her report to council.

“It was thought that the performance improvement since the last request-for-proposal would have modified the increase to a greater extent.”

There is a consensus on council that market forces have short-circuited somewhere on this file.

“Our premium is not consistent with our current history,” said Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele.

Simcoe Coun. Ian Rabbitts agreed.

“It does seem like a slight to Norfolk County and the taxpayers here,” he said.

Norfolk will incur a break fee if it terminates the 2020 contract early.

The cost at six months is $154,000 while the cost at eight months is $113,000. Still, Mayor Kristal Chopp said the charge is worth it if the savings are greater.

“We could technically have something better in six months,” the mayor told council.

“To me, I don’t see a downside to this. Our premium just went up $150,000. Surely, that’s out there to be saved.”

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Chopp suspects Norfolk’s premium went up so much because the county is grouped with other municipalities that haven’t been as diligent in managing their risk.

Phibbs suggests the same in her report. Cowan Company has advised Norfolk that underwriters “are demanding increases due to significant losses within the municipal liability market.

“Staff did canvass a number of municipalities to better put into context our increase. Based on this market research, Norfolk County’s increase compared positively to many other municipalities, as many experienced more significant increases.”

Norfolk’s policy with Cowan covers a wide range of contingencies. Phibbs’ report lists these as “protection against financial loss of assets, including buildings, structures, contents, equipment and vehicles.

“Insurance also provides protection for negligent acts attributed to employees, council members, volunteer firefighters and volunteers while conducting their activities as directed by Norfolk County.”

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