Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 01-10-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | JANUARY 10-16, 2019 NORTH COUNTY 15 backhoe. Brian Hunter, of Hunter Insurance in Lincoln, told The Breeze that nearly all insurance companies have pulled out of selling what's called "com- pleted operations coverage" for when someone slips and falls and claims the surface wasn't treated correctly. "It can get to be really expensive," he said. Motorists are prob- ably noticing a prolif- eration of signs along roadways advertising calls for plow opera- tors, said Hunter. That's because many plow owners are realizing the cost is just too great given the risk of losing all that money and are getting out of the business. "It's a problem," Hunter said. "It's getting awful." Just as a lot of snow can bring a boom year for a plow driver, a year of little snow is more of a bust than ever, as insurance professionals say there is no refund on an expensive policy if the white stuff fails to fall. The only drivers who are "kind of off the hook" here, said Hunter, are landscapers, as their existing insur- ance policies will allow them to do private driveways. Municipal or state work is getting very expensive, said Hunter, and many companies are getting out of it. "It wasn't a big issue until all the companies started deciding they didn't want to insure all the plow operators," he said. Lisa Hunter, also of Hunter Insurance, said many insurance companies started pulling out of such coverage last year. The cheap- est listed price for the insurance is $2,500, she said, "but I haven't seen anything come through that low" in some time. Instead, she said, the cost just for the completed operations coverage came in at $15,000 for one policy, and that was just to plow one 200- unit condo complex. She was able to get it down to $8,000 by going to another market, she said, but that cost plus $5,000 for general insurance still means a total bill of $13,000 for the year. Anything related to multi- family housing is leading insurance companies to seek more, she said. Brian Hunter said Progressive is one of very few companies still insur- ing commercial vehicles used for plowing under a business auto policy. Progressive does not offer completed operations coverage, he said. This is a separate policy from another insur- ance company. Hunter said he believes the increase in slip-and-fall claims (The Breeze wasn't able to find specific data) is due to heavy advertising by attorneys who specialize in promot- ing injuries as a way of winning money. There's more of that kind of marketing, he said, making society more conscious of windfall lawsuit settlements as a whole. "People are inclined to sue more," he said, and for many insurance companies, it's simply not worth it anymore to try to keep up with the payouts. Promotional efforts reviewed by The Breeze showed attorneys high- lighting the fact that most personal injury claims never go to trial and the fact that the average slip-and-fall accident costs $30,000 or more in hospital bills. Hunter said anyone can be sued if someone falls on their property dur- ing or after a snowstorm, whether it's a homeowner, business owner or municipality. Once you clear a drive- way, the liability goes up, he said. If a delivery person were to ever fall on someone's front steps and then sue, he said, it would actually be better for that homeowner if they had left the stairs untouched as "virgin snow." Municipal officials are reporting struggles finding plow operators. In Cumberland, Highway Supt. Frank Stowik said the town has lost many vendors due to the increases in insur- ance. The town is still well short of what it needs, he says, and continues to advertise for plowing services. The ultimate impact of this issue will likely be less plowing coverage during storms, said Stowik. More and more private developments are being accepted as public roadways in Cumberland, he said, meaning plow routes are getting longer even as help is falling off. "Hopefully we've got enough (operators)," he said. Other communities, such as Pawtucket, haven't felt the impact as much. Director of Administration Dylan Zelazo said the city hasn't had an issue getting enough plows on the road, but said he has noticed seem- ingly fewer plow drivers around. North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi said his community also hasn't had an issue, but said the town also has mostly weaned itself off of outside contractors for plowing. The way insurance works for plow drivers who cover municipalities, said Hunter, is that the operator must provide a certificate of insurance and must notify the city if he no longer has insurance. Municipalities will request that they be listed on the contractor's insurance as an addi- tional insured entity. Someone who is injured will then sue the town and operator, with the operator's insur- ance protecting both entities. The operator has to carry at least $1 mil- lion of coverage. Cote said dropping the Bellingham commercial account was only due in part to the insurance issue. In addi- tion to worrying about insurance, plow operators have many other factors to consider when deciding whether to even take on a client or stay in the business. If someone cares about their customer, they really have to almost babysit the lot during and after a snowstorm, he said. In his case, he was often trying to guess at where the "fine line" of snowy pre- cipitation was, as it could be raining in Lincoln but snowing heavily in Bellingham. He said he's maintained some of his other commercial accounts. Like Hunter, Cote also placed the blame for this issue on attorneys who make plow drivers and insurance companies the natural targets, as well as a society that seems to always be looking for the fast score know- ing that it's easier to settle than go to court. The insurance companies aren't at fault here, he said. "They don't want to lose money," he said. "Accidents do happen, it is what it is. They just want to make sure they're not liable." JOHN COTE, of JB Cote Construction, says it's simply become too expensive to pay the insurance for some large commercial lots. HUNTER PLOW DRIVERS From Page One Commission is actively involved in finding long-term solutions to resident complaints and safety con- cerns. He said the commission, not the police, makes decisions for new vehicular or pedestrian traffic pat- terns. School Committee member Cheryl Hirst-Hodgins said the report was important, but the district should continue to train students on safety to prevent any accidents. "I just worry about kids walk- ing and paying attention," Hirst- Hodgins said. In other business, the School Committee received approval from Town Engineer Kevin Cleary, regarding a request for proposals for baseball field improvements. The Town Council requested Cleary's assistance in the RFP as part of the approval for the School Committee to go out to bid. Supt. Judy Paolucci said the committee decided to go out to bid to find the lowest cost for the project. The baseball field improve- ments, which include new dugouts and fencing, are the first step in a 10-year athletics field capital improvement plan created by the Smithfield Athletic Facilities Committee. "Our athletic capital committee understands that planning must be combined with action, and biting off one project each year will lead us closer to our goal of improving athletic facilities," Paolucci said. Paolucci said the backstop fenc- ing for the field is on the capital project list for the Rhode Island Department of Education. She said many projects on the list extend beyond the financial ability of the town but are included on the RIDE list for potential reimbursement. She said it is "vitally important for the district to include any and all potential projects, since only those listed may be reimbursed." The baseball boosters club agreed to contribute $10,000 to replace the dugout. The deadline for comple- tion is April 2019. Also at the meeting, commit- tee member Richard Iannitelli requested an update on the bas- ketball courts in front of McCabe Elementary School, which were slated for completion in early sum- mer 2018, but are not finished due to a crack in the foundation. "We don't have 100 percent con- trol of what goes into a project. It's our job to keep an eye on things to make sure the final project comes out," Paolucci said. WALK ZONES From Page 4 Generations at Chopmist Hill hosts walking program SCITUATE – Generations at Chopmist Hill, 1315 Chopmist Hill Road, will host Walk Fit & Live Active, an indoor walking fitness pro- gram, every Monday at 11 a.m. Classes will be led by fitness trainer Raindrop Fisher. For more informa- tion, call 401-647-2662. North Scituate Library resumes story times Tuesday SCITUATE – North Scituate Public Library, 606 West Greenville Road, will resume its January story times on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Story hour for children ages 3 to 5 is held on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Toddler time for children ages 18 months to 3 years (with their caregivers) is held on Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. When toddler time is over, attendees are invited to stay until 11:30 a.m. to play. For more information, call 401- 647-5133. Monument Manufacturers INDOOR SHOWROOM Cemetery Lettering 91 Pawtucket Ave., Rumford 401-434-4064 www.stanleygranite.com Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m. • Sat. 9 a.m.-Noon STANLEY GRANITE CO. In your time of need, The Valley Breeze & Observer will print your loved one's full obituary for a small charge. The paper also places the obituary on our web site, valleybreeze.com, as soon as it is provided to us by your family's funeral director. Notification to friends and neighbors is also made weekdays on WOON-AM radio announcements. Should you desire our services, kindly inform your funeral director. The full charge is $90, or $125 for lengthy obituaries, in the edition of your choice. You may place the obituary in any of our other editions for $50 each. Thank you. OBITUARIES

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