County Insurer

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 18, 2009

County selects new insurer for property

By Billy Davis

Panola County government has moved to international insurer Arthur J. Gallagher for its properties following a vote by supervisors Monday.

Supervisors voted unanimously to drop Whitten Insurance of Batesville in favor of Gallagher.

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Gallagher representatives Jeff Estes and Paul Mize told supervisors they will use Travelers Insurance for the county policy.

Whitten had used insurer Zurich.

Mize, based in Tupelo, is expected to work with Panola County. Estes is based in Jackson.

County Administrator Kelley Magee, attracted by the company’s work with other county governments, recommended the move to the new insurer.

 “I like their expertise in county government. The training they provide helps reduce your premiums,” she told The Panolian after the Monday meeting.

Gallagher is carrying insurance policies for 24 Mississippi counties, including neighbors DeSoto and Lee, Estes told the county board.

Traveler’s annual premium will undercut Zurich by about $100,000 annually – at least temporarily, Magee told The Panolian. That savings is realized because the policy is new, she acknowledged.

“Zurich had paid for a couple of lawsuits and vehicle accidents,” she further explained. “So naturally their premiums are higher.”

Gallagher will also oversee an updated appraisal of county property, which Magee expects will raise the county’s annual premium when it’s completed.

“I believe our buildings are undervalued,” she said. “So a more up-to-date appraisal will increase the insurance.”

Supervisors have not complained about Whitten but learned during recent budget meetings that county government overpaid the agency $76,700 in 2007 and $89,000 in 2008.

Magee discovered both overpayments, as well $21,914 in erroneous payments for the Rolando plant, after she was hired as administrator last August.

Approximately $187,614 has since been reimbursed to the county, budget figures show.

In other county business:

•Supervisors voted to appoint Frank Carter to the county land development commission. He is replacing long-serving member Jewel Titus.

Supervisors also voted to appoint Lana Douglas, who already serves on the commission. Supervisors have learned a board order could not be found that officially placed her on the commission. 

Board attorney Bill McKenzie also advised the board that many of the commissioners’ five-year terms expire November 1.   

Following up on that advice, board president Gary Thompson attended the commission meeting Monday evening, where he asked if they wanted to continue serving. Eight members were present and all said yes.

“I guess we’re all a glutton for punishment,” joked commission chairman Danny Walker. 

•First Security Bank won the bid for an annual tax anticipation note that partially funds the road department.

First Security bid 2.75 percent to loan $325,000.

The only other bid came from Bancorp South, which bid 3.48 percent.

•Supervisors approved an annexation by the Pope Fire District following a mandatory public hearing.

Pope Fire Chief John McCollum was present to field questions from the board.

“We’ve got a truck to put there when it’s approved,” the fire chief told supervisors.

McKenzie, citing state law, advised that the board vote represented “step two” in a three-step process. A final public hearing on October 12 is the next step, he said.

•Supervisors voted to hire a computer technician to assist with the November 3 supervisors’ race in District 2. 

The county uses Diebold voting machines, which require a Diebold-trained technician to oversee them and fix any glitches.

The hiring of the Diebold technician will cost $2,500, he said.

The election will cost Panola County about $5,000 because the secretary of state will not appropriate funds for the election, election commissioner Ronald McMinn told the board.

To save money, McMinn said supervisors could opt to revert to paper ballots if they turned down the hiring.

“But I don’t recommend it,” he said.