The Washington Times-Herald

February 26, 2013

Another partial settlement in levee suit reached

By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — A settlement has been reached on the south breach of the Bennington Levee.

Monday, the Daviess County Commissioners and Council voted in a joint meeting to accept a settlement of $200,000 from four defendants, including Indiana Farm Bureau President Don Villwock and the Bennington Levee Board.

The settlement was negotiated during a meeting with the defendants on Wednesday. The total the county was suing for was $292,000 for the March 2011 levee breach.

The commissioner vote was unanimous, but the council vote 4-0-1. Council member Mike Sprinkle abstained because he lives in the levee territory. Council member Jo Arthur participated via teleconference but could not vote and council member Jo Ann McCracken was absent.

The county’s insurance company, according to County Attorney Grant Swartzentruber, has paid $40,000 in claims, leaving the county an outstanding $54,000 on the south breach.

That money is included in the $645,000 the county has to pay in total foe repairs to the Bennington Levee. The Bennington Levee board, according to state law, has to send all its unpaid bills to the county.

Swartzentruber said in a release the county has not reached an agreement with the levee board on repayment of the funds, but negotiations are ongoing.

The board and the county have been at odds publicly about the repayment of the funds. Currently, the bills are being paid from the county’s Riverboat Fund, but the fund is going dry.

Swartzentruber said he is not sure if the levee board has more bills for the county to pay. The commissioners did accept for appropriation a legal bill for the board for $8,887 on Monday.

Insurance

The commissioners heard bad news on its property and casualty insurance renewal. Paul Williams, the county’s insurance consultant, said premiums were going to go up substantially because of the number of claims the past two years.

“We’ve got a trend going the wrong way,” Williams said. “Hopefully, we can turn it around.”

Many of those claims were from natural events like hail storms and the Bennington Levee breach. Williams said if the county were to accept higher deductibles, the premium hike would be mitigated.

The commissioners all voted for a policy for a total premium of $176,000, up $37,000 from the year before.

The county did hear good news on the county’s workman’s compensation insurance.

The county is looking at lower rates for its coverage due to good years with few claims.

“History has been very, very good,” Williams said.

Ambulance Advisory Board

Want to know more about the county’s ambulance and emergency response service? The commissioners are looking for two people to join the Ambulance Advisory Board.

The board meets quarterly, and discusses issues related to Southwest Medical’s EMS service and other emergency management issues.

The commissioners did appoint Daviess County Sheriff’s Chief Dispatcher Jennifer McWilliams to the board.

Anyone wishing to be on the board can contact the Auditor’s Office.