Talks underscore insurance concerns – The West Side Index & Gustine Press-Standard: Local News

GUSTINE – Recent City Council discussions on waiving fees for community or school events have included a new wrinkle as liability insurance costs were added to the mix.

The issue came to the forefront earlier this year, City Manager Doug Dunford said, when the Gustine Unified School District notified the city that it would have to provide its own insurance for events using district facilities.

In some cases, Dunford told Mattos Newspapers, the former district superintendent also asked for rental fees for school facilities.

“In March I was notified that we owed room rental (for a Zumba program) and were to pay for insurance,” Dunford explained.

The city was billed at one point, he added.

“We never paid for it,” the city manager said. “I presented (the superintendent) with a bill for (city) services if he wanted to look into it….nothing else was said about it.”

In May, Dunford said, he directed Recreation Coordinator Tiffany Vitorino to cease the use of any school facilities which may incur rental or insurance fees until a joint use agreement could be worked out between the two agencies.

The idea behind that pact, Dunford said, is to streamline the process of sharing facilities and to formalize an agreement stating that neither entity will charge the other for use of its facilities.

The City Council approved an agreement earlier this summer. But with the district in an administrative transition through recent months, the proposed accord has not been brought to the school board for its consideration.

In the meantime, Dunford said, the issue has impacted programs ranging from city-sponsored open gym sessions to the ability of Y-Lead members to play basketball on district courts.

“Our rec department is sitting here. Our hands are tied,” Dunford recently commented.

Dunford told Mattos Newspapers that he hopes to meet with new interim Superintendent Dr. William Barr in an effort to iron out details and move the use agreement forward.

Barr advised Mattos Newspapers recently that the district is still working on the agreement. The item was not on this week’s school board agenda but could go before the board for consideration in November, Barr stated.

Fee waivers

Concerns about insurance costs also have the council taking a closer look at fee waivers in general.

In September, the City Council approved a fee waiver request for an Oct. 19 Gustine High homecoming parade and downtown rally – with the acknowledgment that the approval includes a $521 liability insurance bill which the city will pick up. That is in addition to $660 in police and public works services which the city will absorb.

While a joint use agreement between the city and school district may eventually cover such events without going through the fee waiver process, non-school groups also go before the council occasionally to request waivers.

The council, for example, recently approved a Friends of the Gustine Library waiver which will leave the city picking up a $200 insurance tab, Dunford said.

Future staff reports on fee waiver requests will include any insurance costs involved as well as personnel so the council knows the full financial impact, Dunford explained.

“There is a bigger picture. We have been absorbing this,” Dunford commented. “The council may look more closely at fee waivers in the future. They don’t want to just start charging people cold turkey, but I think we need to get the word out that if you are asking for a waiver, you may get it for public works or police but be asked to pay for insurance.”

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