BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County Insurance Committee approved a claim of up to $35,000 for the freeze-drying and restoration of court records that Circuit Court Clerk Pam Venerable found damaged on Oct. 8.
Venerable, who was named Interim Circuit Court Clerk following the mid-term retirement this summer of former Clerk Gail Davis Jeffers, is the only candidate for the office in the Nov. 6 election.
She reported to the Greene County Records Committee on Oct. 11 that an individual's request for a divorce judgment from the 1970s prompted her to look for the document in the former Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services building on West Depot Street.
The building is located behind Casper's Body Shop and Wrecker Service, LLC, and has been in use as a storage area for some county government records.
Venerable said that she had never been in the building before, but knew that some of the Circuit Court, Juvenile Court and Criminal Court documents were stored there.
When she arrived, she said she found water leaking out beneath the door, and opened it to find what she described as some areas with three inches of standing water, and heavily-damaged boxes of court records.
She later said this included 149 "Banker's Boxes," containing a rough average between 60 and 80 files per box.
The county does not yet know the actual cost of the restoration project because the Michigan-based company, DFD Document Restoration Services, is just now sorting through the documents, according to Dan Jackson, the county's insurance advisor.
Jackson said in an interview after the Insurance Committee meeting that the company has estimated that a small leak had possibly caused damage to a couple of boxes for up to two or three months.
Such a little leak would have only been visible during the rain and would have likely dried up quickly once the rain stopped, he noted.
The more significant leak, which occurred when the metal roof shifted away in an area near a skylight, allowing water to "pour" in, probably occurred within the last two weeks, Jackson said the company has estimated.
"But they don't really know," he added, noting that the county received significant rain on the weekend before the damaged records were found, but not for some time before that.
The damage so far does appear to be "a little bit worse" than the company's representative had first believed, Jackson said.
Of the 149 boxes, there were eight with enough water damage that the bottom fell out and the files had to be reboxed, he noted.
Between 25 and 30 of the boxes were smaller, with accordion-style folders containing folded papers. Jackson said that DFD would not give any indication if these papers could be restored.
"[DFD] didn't want to talk about those," he said.
RISK VS. PRACTICALITY
An item that was a topic of discussion for the committee on Wednesday was recent wavering policy recommendations from the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA).
The policy applied to the recommended motor vehicle insurance limits that an individual, such as a parent or teacher, must have on his or her private policy before they can transport other children.
Such circumstances arise nearly every day when parents and teachers take children to club meetings and competitions, the committee noted.
Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk explained the change in an email following the meeting:
"TSBA had sent out a recommended policy recently that required maximum tort liability for insurance limits. These rates made it virtually impossible to find anyone who could transport [due to the higher costs]," Kirk explained in the email.
"I suppose TSBA had many complaints about this, and reverted back to something similar to their former policy, which allowed directors to set the liability limits.
"I wanted the recommendation from the Insurance Committee since they are ultimately responsible."
County Attorney Roger Woolsey explained during Wednesday's meeting that most people do not carry policies over "100/300" because of the general lack of affordability.
The 100/300 policy represents insurance coverage of $100,000 per individual, with a $300,000 maximum per occurrence, according to John McInturff, of McInturff, Milligan & Brooks.
Setting the minimum required above 100/300 could be impractical, resulting in potentially interfering with daily educational activities and extracurricular activities, Woolsey noted.
The committee agreed, but financial advisor Dan Jackson did caution the committee that the county's Self-Insurance Fund could be left to pay the difference between the $100,000 individual maximum and the county's $300,000 catastrophic claim limit.
At Woolsey's recommendation and with Kirk's agreement, the committee voted to maintain the 100/300 insurance requirement.
The committee also continued to hear reports concerning high claims that were made earlier this year that could be driving up the county's self-insurance costs.
Budget Director Mary Shelton noted that the Employee Insurance Fund, which began with about $800,000, now has about $540,000 in its fund balance.
As a result, Woolsey requested that Shelton provide future reports showing month-by-month fund balance comparisons.
"We need to keep a real close eye on this," he said.
"Yes, and I am," Shelton agreed. She credited the decrease to several weeks of higher-than-average claims.
While claims had been averaging about $60,000 per week, several weeks passed with claims at $148,000 to $178,000 in claims, Shelton explained.
Insurance Broker Jim Jordan agreed that claims have shown some increase in the first three months of this fiscal year.
He presented a claims comparison of $3,480,917 from October 2010 to September 2011, as compared to $4,225,227 from October 2011 to September 2012.
This represents an increase of over 20 percent, Jordan noted.
In addition, he informed the committee that the county's average insurance cost per employee is at $10,522 per year.
Following the trend set in the first three months of this fiscal year, however, that average will increase to $11,881 per employee and is projected at $11,188 per employee in 2013.
There are around 350 employees on the county's insurance plan, he added.
The nationwide average cost is $10,522 per employee, and the county's rate should be averaging "a little lower," Jordan said.
However, he noted that the county offers "low premiums and high benefits" that drive up the county's average cost per employee.
Finally, Jackson gave his report of the county's Self-Insurance Fund, in which committee members noted that the property tax levy for the fund was listed at 3.25 cents per $100 of assessed value.
However, the county only budgeted 2.51 cents per $100 for the fund in this year's budget, the same as in last year's budget.
Jackson said he had wondered why the amount per penny he believed to have been coming into the account was only at about $112,000, rather than the $138,000 normally reported.
However, he said that the 3.25-cent rate was supposed to have been set for the fund in 2007.
Woolsey agreed that an increase to the rate had been discussed at that time, but he could not recall specifics about whether such a resolution passed the Greene County Commission.
County Mayor Alan Broyles agreed to research the matter before the committee's next meeting in November.