Risk aversion and local loyalty trumped $35K of premium savings in a 3-1 vote by the Nebraska City City Council on Tuesday night at City Hall. Council members picked up a tabled discussion regarding the awarding of a bid for the city’s general insurance.
At the start of the discussion, there were four bids on the table. Two bids had unacceptable terms and had been eliminated. That left two bids, one from OneBeacon, a company with corporate headquarters in Minnesota, and another from the local firm of Miller Monroe.
The OneBeacon bid was the low bid and offered the city $35K in annual premium savings over Miller Monroe, which was the incumbent insurance provider of the city.
As council members parsed the details of the competing proposals, differences in deductible versus premium were at issue. Discussions were then had regarding the specifics of certain types of coverage.
Scott Miller was on hand representing Miller Monroe while Erin Ball and Marcie Hasty were on hand to represent OneBeacon.
Commissioner Vic Johns said at the start of the discussion on Tuesday that he would be abstaining from the vote due to his relationship with Miller Monroe. Johns did not take part in the discussion. Other members of the council and Mayor Bryan Bequette went on the record with their thoughts on the insurance question.
Mayor Bequette said it was difficult to determine the exact value of Miller Monroe’s many years of service and the company’s solid record of performance with the city when comparing bids with a company that offered lower premium costs.
Commissioner Gloria Glover said the $35K in premium savings in the deal offered by OneBeacon could be used for other line items on the city budget. She said she felt the differences in coverage might cause the city to take on risk that it had not taken on before but said that she didn’t feel there was a great deal of discomfort associated with taking on those enhanced risks.
Commissioner Patrick Wehling voiced solidarity with some of the mayor’s observations about the performance of the Miller Monroe company in past years but also voiced his interest in the savings that the OneBeacon offer represented.
Commissioner Paul Davis, who ended up being the no vote in a 3-1 final decision of the council, said he felt the savings of the OneBeacon offer were simply too much to pass up.
In talking about their proposals, both Miller Monroe and OneBeacon addressed the issue of risk.

Scott Miller, speaking both as the current insurance provider for the city and as the representative of a firm hoping to retain the city’s business, said he felt the issue came down to the risk that the city was willing to take on going forward.
He said he felt the OneBeacon  policy would leave the city exposed. Miller said a loss of property, for instance, could result in financial exposure that would be greater than the premium savings OneBeacon was offering.
In countering that argument, OneBeacon representatives said that their company had a track record of success insuring municipalities and that the company would work with the city to increase coverage areas if needed, at additional premium cost, and noted that they had worked hard in making a proposal which would fit city needs and provide savings. Grayson Path, city administrator, said that he had spoken with one municipality which had submitted claims to OneBeacon and reported that the municipality was pleased with the performance of said insurance product.
At one point, it appeared that a vote would have resulted in a tie with two members seeming to lean toward the Miller Monroe bid and two appearing to prefer OneBeacon.
Changing the bid agreement from three years down to one year moved at least one vote into the Miller Monroe column.
Commissioner Glover said she was more comfortable with sticking with Miller Monroe for one year and then letting for bids once again.
The council and mayor indicated their interest in hiring an unbiased third party risk specialist to advice the city about its best course of action prior to a vote next year.
Administrator Path said he took on the task of explaining the insurance to the council in this round of negotiations. While Path said he felt the bid package was a solid one, Path also said he felt that he didn’t have the expertise in the specifics of insurance which would allow him to fully explain all of the details of the competing plans. A risk specialist would be able to do that.
Erin Ball with OneBeacon said she felt the one year arrangement between the city and Miller Monroe was not about picking the best plan but said rather than she felt the city was attempting to put pressure on Miller Monroe to lower its premiums. She added that insurance providers don’t like being a part of such arrangements because of the labor cost involved in generating a bid.
Ball said going with Miller Monroe for a year might have a chilling effect on future bids and negotiations in that competing companies might decide it wasn’t worth their time to bid. The representatives of OneBeacon did say that they would entertain the same discussions next year about submitting a bid for city business as they had prior to the current negotiations.

A public hearing was opened regarding the one and six year road and street plan which the city had voted to approve back in February.
Construction and Facilities Manager Marty Stovall said the plan had not changed since February and was coming up for discussion only as a matter of aligning the plan with the calendar position of the budget process of the city. Completed plans on the one and six year plan included the 4th Corso viaduct and the North 11th Street bridge, mill and overlay project. On going projects included the 6th Street improvement project and bridge maintenance projects. Stovall noted that one street improvement project was in the design phase. Projects on the six year plan included mill and overlay projects and further bridge maintenance work. After closing the public hearing, the city voted to once again approve the one and six year plan.
Members of the council voted to approve a liquor licence for a beer garden at the Taste of AppleJack event, set for Sept. 22 at the Fox Center at 424 Central Ave. The vote approved a street closure from Central Avenue north along 5th Street to the alley. The closure would be made in a manner not to restrict access to the post office.
Amy Allgood of the Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce was on hand in support of the liquor license and also in support of a number of requests that the AppleJack committee was making in support of its major fall festival. Requests included street closure for an expanded carnival presence extending down to the post office, and also for a flea market, the annual Applejack parade and the 5K AppleJack Run in the neighborhood of Steinhart Park and Arbor Lodge Park. Those requests were granted by a vote of the council. In a separate issue, but also related to AppleJack, representatives of the Shriners requested that their organization be allowed to park their parade vehicles in the parking area on 7th Street, which is the concluding point of the parade. That request was also granted and the Shriners promised the city they would take precautions not to create traffic congestion in that area.

Andrew Danner of North Star Housing was on hand for the Tuesday meeting to discuss the possibility of adding single family dwellings near the recently completed Senior Patio Homes. Danner said the Senior Patio Homes were at full capacity at this time and had a waiting list of 85, over 50 of which are current Nebraska City residents. Danner said the new single family houses would be offered to those in certain lower income qualifications and also to the general public regardless  of income. The city voted to approve a letter of support for the project and Administrator Path said the process for the project would follow similarly with the way the city and Northstar had successfully collaborated on the Senior Patio Homes project.

In other action, the city council:
Approved an ammendment to the Architect Professional Services Agreement with Leo A. Daly for an HVAC and Electrical System Upgrade Study, Phase I, for the Veterans Memorial Building CDBG Project in an amount of $7,600. The vote authorized the major to sign said agreement.
Tabled a request by Charlie White for the city to purchase land until such time as the city gets feedback on an insurance question.
Approved a revised fee schedule for building and zoning.
Authorized a grand application to the Steinhart Foundation for a total of $137,500 for the Library Exterior Restoration and Preservation Project.