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Town’s insurer cancels coverage

Jeremy Hauck
The Gazette

(7/20) Thurmont’s property and liability insurer has informed the town that its policy will not be renewed on Sept. 1.

The news comes on the heels of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit judgment against the town and jumps in property tax, water and sewer rates.

‘‘Our insurance company canceled us," Mayor Martin A. Burns announced at a July 10 town meeting. ‘‘We’ll be looking for a new insurance carrier, and your rates are going to go through the roof again."

Chief Financial Officer Rick May said Tuesday the town’s carrier, Cincinnati Insurance Company, cited two reasons for canceling coverage — a history of vehicle accidents involving municipal employees and police, and the $3.4 million class-action lawsuit decision.

‘‘They made a determination that they were not going to renew [the town’s policy on Sept. 1]," May said. ‘‘Our claim experience was pretty high. We’ve had numerous accidents and things like that."

A spokeswoman for the Fairfield, Ohio-based company on Wednesday confirmed the company’s decision, without citing specific details.

‘‘The non-renewal notice has been sent for this account," Laura Hobbs said. ‘‘When we review any policy to consider whether or not we will renew it, we look at the entire account, including the account history and future outlook."

The Thurmont Police Department could not provide the total number of vehicle accidents its officers were involved in, in the last year, according to administrative assistant Carrie Stumpf.

Stumpf did say an officer totaled a police cruiser during a pursuit on June 3. May said another two non-police vehicles have been wrecked this year in accidents caused by human error.

The town’s staff and police drive a fleet of 25 vehicles.

May said the town is appealing the Ironmaster Court sewer lawsuit from May 17. He said it is not yet known how much the town will have to pay, and how much the town’s insurer will pay.

‘‘They’re still involved in the claim," May said, referring to Cincinnati Insurance Company.

Town officials are looking at several options for coverage beyond the current policy’s termination, including Local Government Insurance Trust (LGIT), a nonprofit that counts 132 Maryland municipalities among its members.

Emmitsburg, Walkersville, Brunswick, Burkittsville, Middletown, New Market and Rosemont have joined the trust in the 20 years since its formation by the Maryland Municipal League and the Maryland Association of Counties.

‘‘I can’t remember ever having turned away any town from the trust," said Jon C. Burrell, who has been LGIT executive director for 12 years.

Calling the insurance market ‘‘marginally soft," Burrell said ‘‘this was a good year for the buyer of insurance."

The trust recently provided counsel to Brunswick which defended itself against a lawsuit stemming from a sewage backup seven years ago, according to Brunswick city administrator David Dunn.

The town is appealing the $1.2 million ruling against it, and Dunn said Tuesday the trust would fully cover the town’s liability.

Burrell said the trust focuses on preventative measures such as training police, fire and rescue and municipal employees in defensive driving.

‘‘We teach [members] how to protect themselves; hopefully how to protect themselves from being sued," he said. ‘‘Every entity has a bump in the road somewhere."

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