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Insurance committee stays, with supervisor dissenting

Orchard Park Supervisor Mary Travers Murphy and the Town Board squared off Wednesday night over the town's Insurance Brokers Committee.

Travers Murphy had issued a report questioning whether the committee was a good idea, because its members are paid a commission on the insurance they recommend -- and one of the committee members handles the insurance through his agency.

The other four board members all supported the committee.

"I think the committee has worked well," Councilman David Kaczor said.

"And we authorized these guys to represent us in January," Councilman Mark Dietrick said.

Travers Murphy stood by her opinion that the process was the problem, calling for the committee to be abolished.

"It's nothing personal against the members of the committee," she said. "But given the fact no one else in New York State does it and there's even the appearance of impropriety, we should abolish the committee."

All of the committee's members were represented at Wednesday night's board work session -- which was called to order as a regular meeting.

After Travers Murphy greeted the committee, the board approved a "broker of record" letter, which extended the current arrangement, with Travers Murphy casting the only dissenting vote.

The letter cut Lawley Services out of any shot at this year's liability insurance contract. Lawley had helped spark the controversy by producing a quote that said the town could save as much as $160,000 on its $537,000 liability insurance bill by going with it.

The town's insurance is due for renewal May 1, and board members said it was too late to follow Travers Murphy's recommendations and get bids.

"There are only two choices, either work with the brokers committee or bidding," said Councilman Stanley Jemiolo Jr. "And on March 22 . . . it is impossible to put the specs together in time."

Travers Murphy disagreed, saying insurance consultant James Hood -- an Orchard Park resident -- had agreed to do it for free, since he already had donated his time in evaluating the town's offer.

Most municipalities pay consultants like Hood to put together insurance specs, then bid them out.

Richard Gernold, the member of the committee whose company handles the town's liability insurance, said the committee provides the same services as a consultant, and that his agency provides extra services the town wouldn't otherwise receive.

"We have three people in my office who spend not all their time, but a fair chunk of time -- handling the town," he said. "We do a lot of things other agents don't do. We've appraised every town building ourselves.

"And one of the reasons premiums haven't escalated is because of recommendations the committee has made."

Gernold also provided figures showing the town's insurance for 2005 was lower than it had been in 1988. The brokers receive 12.9 percent of the premiums.

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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