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Letcher chief’s claim stirs disagreement

According to Letcher Fire Chief Gary Rogers, upgrades in ISO ratings are not being applied by some insurance companies in Letcher County unless the policyholder notifies the agency and forces the change. At the January meeting of the Letcher County Fiscal Court, Rogers told the judge and magistrates that several people in the Letcher Fire Department service area have told him that their insurance agencies have told them that they take ISO ratings on an individual basis and will not upgrade the rating unless “they are forced to.”

ISO ratings are fire protection ratings that are issued by the Insurance Services Office for the purpose of determining the cost of fire insurance to homeowners. The classification runs from one to ten, with ten the highest and most costly, and one the best rating. According to Larry Curl, who served as chairman of the International Association of Fire Chiefs Volunteer and Combination Officers Section (VCO,) and presented a 2013 seminar at the “Firehouse Expo” class titled “VCOs and ISOs, “When an ISO comes in to look at a fire department, all they are really doing is checking to make sure they are providing sufficient and adequate service for the people they protect. It’s that simple.”

With the numeric evaluation of the scoring system, fire insurance providers can set coverage prices for people who live in the community served by the fire department. Clients in a Class One rated community can expect to pay less than clients in a Class 10 rated community. Curl said that the ISO evaluation is not an adversarial process and recommended that when the ISO comes in, fire departments don’t make any changes to get ready for the evaluation, but let their dayto day preparedness tell the story. He said it is not necessary for departments to buy a lot of new equipment to comply with regulations, if their equipment is still in good shape, but, if “turnout gear” (protective equipment for firefighters) is old and worn out, it should be replaced or the department will not get a full score for that part of the evaluation.

According to Curl, ratings are based on several factors, and rely heavily on the resources provided by local communities. He said that 40 percent of the rating is determined by the water supply system in a community, and that even communities without any hydrants and only a static water supply can get good ratings. It is possible for a community without any hydrants to still get a full rating if it shows it can deliver adequate water from other sources. Fifty percent of the rating comes from examinations of the fire training, equipment, locations, and other elements controlled by the fire department. The final ten percent of the rating comes from the communications system. Then everything is factored in for the final rating.

Rogers brought a copy of county ISO ratings for each fire department and several magistrates suggested that the ratings be published in The Mountain Eagle so people will know theirs. However, in a Tuesday telephone interview with The Mountain Eagle, Kentucky Farm Bureau Agent Phillip Adams said that insurance customers receive an “Evaluation Page” with their annual policy renewal that has all the pertinent information about their property that goes into the cost, including the ISO rating.

Adams said that when a change is made in an ISO rating, for instance if water lines are extended into a community or some other change gives a fire department a lower or higher rating, the insurance companies are notified. He said he can only speak for Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB), but when those notifications are given, KFB immediately applies it to the policy and the cost. He said that anyone who has a question about the ISO rating or other factors affecting the cost of insurance coverage should contact the insurance agent and will have access to the information needed.

In other business, Fifth District Magistrate Wayne Fleming brought up the issue of increased prices for electric power. Fleming told the court that bills have gone up significantly this year and that some of his constituents are afraid they will not be able to pay them. Fleming said that as a result of the cost increases, some people on fixed incomes will face the difficult choice of either paying for needed medicine or paying their electric bill. He said that his bill had gone up considerably and that of the increases, $150 were for add-ons, and not costs directly related to the cost of producing power.

Fleming said he has just about given up hope on relief coming from the state legislature or governor’s office, but added that maybe with the new administration and some newly-elected legislators, some changes may come. Fleming said the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) has constantly ignored the needs of people in eastern Kentucky, who he said pay the highest rates in the state, and that the PSC commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, are paid $113,000 per year. He added that in his district, some people on fixed incomes don’t receive $13,000 a year in benefits. He said the court should do its best to bring the matter to the attention of the governor and state legislators, and people throughout the county should contact their state representative and senators and let the governor’s office know as well.

Judge/ Executive Jim Ward told the court it is time to re-appoint some of the members of the Letcher County Tourism Commission, but added that at this time, the commission has more members than its charter calls for. He said that some of the agencies in the county that are supposed to be able to appoint members to the commission do not have a representative, and that some of the members were not suggested by any of the agencies. Ward said he will write the commission a letter and ask for new names in compliance with state law.

Letcher County Court Clerk Winston Meade brought much welcome funds to the court with fi- nal settlements of excess fees for 2015 and 2016. The final settlement for 2015 was $3,285, following previous partial disbursements earlier in 2016. The partial settlement for 2016 was $34,000, leaving a balance of $4,317.38, which Meade said will be held pending the completion of the state audit. Gross receipts for 2016 stood at $5,197,483.78, against total disbursements of $5,159,166.40.

The court also accepted bids on specific supplies and materials for regular use, as well as the bids for supplying soft drinks and water for the Letcher County Recreation Center.

The court awarded the five-year bid for drinks to Pepsi Cola Bottling, which County Finance Officer D.J. Frazier said had the lowest cost and allowed the highest profit margin for the center.

The bid for fuel and petroleum products was awarded to Childers Oil of Whitesburg, which was the only bidder. Action Auto of Van submitted the sole bid for culverts, and the bid for crushed limestone was spilt between Mountain Aggregate and Bluegrass Materials, depending on which facility is located closest to the site of the work being done. Mountain Enterprises, with plants at Burdine, Shelbiana, and Cumberland, was awarded the bid for asphalt, and the closest plant to the work will supply the material. Greg Hale LLC. received the bids for electrical work ($30/hour), plumbing ($30/hour), carpentry ($15/ hour), and laying concrete ($20/hour). Wells Concrete was awarded the bid to supply concrete at $105.50 per yard and Breeding Electric was awarded the bid for HVAC at $40 per hour. The courthouse and recreation center were not included in the HVAC bid due to special equipment in both buildings.

The court also voted unanimously to pass a resolution to add the following names to the Blackey Veterans’ Memorial Board: Airman First Class Luther Adams, U.S. Air Force; Corporal Edd Vernon Rogers, U.S. Army; Private Curtis Holcomb, U.S. Army, and Seaman First Class Arnold Halcomb, U.S, Navy.

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