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City#039;s ISO rating rising

Homeowners in Andalusia may soon be fanning the flames more for their fire insurance, as the ISO rating for the city will go from a 5 to a 6 effective March 1 of this year.

ISO ratings, to a large extent, determine the amount of money homeowners have to pay for insurance - in this case, fire insurance. The conditions of fire departments and their equipment can affect the ratings. Ratings are based on a 10-point scale, with 1 being the best and 10 the worst.

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson announced the change of the rating Tuesday night at the regularly scheduled City Council Meeting.

"This is the first time we are announcing the change publicly," Johnson said.

According to Johnson, there are several factors which could improve the ISO rating. But those changes would be expensive.

"It will cost a tremendous amount of money to bring the rating back down," he said.

It may cost more than $500,000 just to bring the rating back to a 5, said Johnson. That amount, under ISO regulations, would pay for a new fire truck with a ladder and a substation.

An additional six firefighters would also be required – either volunteer workers or staffed by the city. If staffed, the salaries for the additional crew members would cost the city in excess of $180,000 per year.

"I don't think we should do that (pay the extra money) at this time," Johnson said. "That would be a huge chunk of our budget."

Johnson added it would be "up to the constituents" of each of the councilmen, or the citizens within their districts, to determine whether or not to pump the extra money into the fire department.

"We'll be listening to feedback in the upcoming weeks," he said.

Johnson said a survey was conducted, and an increase of $24-$40 per year for fire insurance could be expected for a homeowner of a house appraised at $100,000. The type of insurance would also be a determining factor in the increase, he added.

In other new business, the council unanimously approved pulling $7,800 out of its Contingency Fund for the Homebound Meals program through the Adult Activity Center.

The state recently has cut funding for the program by $40,000.

"People depend on these meals," Councilman Jerry Andrews said, before making the motion to restore money to the program.

Currently, 50 residents in Andalusia get meals through the city, which are delivered to them. Most of these residents are "shut-ins," or those who can't move around on their own.

Johnson said the additional $7,800 will allow the city to continue providing the meals to the same number of people through September.

"Hopefully, by then the state will have its problems (with funding/budgets) worked out," Johnson said.

Johnson had some good news for city employees and taxpayers in the city: there has been a reduction in the amount of worker's compensation filings.

Councilman Harry Hinson said worker's comp for city employees has been reduced by $30,000 for 2004, and by approximately $60,000 during the past three years.

"The standard is a 1-point rating," Hinson said. "And we're better than that – by being under the 1-point rating."

"This is good news for the taxpayers," Johnson added.

In other news, Johnson announced bids will be accepted until 10 a.m. on Feb. 13 for engineering work on the new skate park project at Johnson Park. Information on the bids is available through City Clerk Pam Steele.

Johnson also announced bids are being accepted for cemetery work to be done through the city. Information on the project is available by contacting Steele's office, he said.

In other business, Johnson announced an ADECA report on the current sewer grant project. He said the report, from ADECA Director John Harrison and Gov. Bob Riley, was a favorable one.

The council unanimously approved of taking $9,125 from the Contingency Fund to install a new gutter on the already-budgeted $40,000 project on Bluebell Drive.

According to Johnson, the road is in the process of being widened, but has had some problems with drainage.

Johnson also announced several city vehicles that were declared surplus will be auctioned off, and the deadline to place a bid on the automobiles is 10 a.m. on Feb. 25. Once again, information on the vehicles is available through Steele's office.