Public meeting at Henleyfield Volunteer Fire Department discussed homeowners’ insurance rates

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 10, 2015

PUBLIC MEETING: Fire Chief Scott Sullivan shows residents a map of Henleyfield District 9 to explain which areas will be affected by the rating change. Photo by Ashley Collins.

PUBLIC MEETING: Fire Chief Scott Sullivan shows residents a map of Henleyfield District 9 to explain which areas will be affected by the rating change. Photo by Ashley Collins.

Saturday, the Henleyfield Volunteer Fire Department held a public meeting at their station to inform the community about the department’s insurance class rating and how it affects local homeowners’ insurance policies.

Fire Chief Scott Sullivan gave a PowerPoint presentation to dozens of local residents to inform them about a recent change in the insurance rating system and how it could raise the cost of their homeowners’ insurance rates.

“The reason for this meeting is to let you know what you’re up against and what we can do to solve the problem,” Sullivan said.

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For the past 14 years, the department has held a class eight rating on a scale of one, the best rating, to 10 from the Mississippi Insurance Rating Bureau, Sullivan said.

“When the bureau looks at a fire station they look at how many active members are at the department and what is the average number of members who respond to structure fires,” Sullivan said. “They also look at maintenance, training and communications.”

Recently, the rating bureau made changes to their mapping system and homeowner insurance companies have started writing class 10 ratings outside the five road miles from the station, Sullivan said.

He also said this change could cause an increase in homeowners’ insurance rates.

“But there are some solutions to this problem,” Sullivan said.

One of the solutions is for residents to shop around for different insurance, he said.

“The expensive and slow solution would be for the department to build a sub-station on Rock Ranch Road near George Ford Road,” he said. “But before we can start the project, we need community support from the area.”

He said the project would entail recruiting, training and outfitting a minimum of eight active volunteer firefighters, constructing the sub-station and purchasing a new tanker and apparatus, which costs money.

“We could also use volunteers for our fundraising events, administrative work or sweeping the floors of the station,” Sullivan said.

In order to qualify as a volunteer, Sullivan said they must fill out an application, pass the drug and alcohol test, and do an interview. In the end, the department as a whole will decide whether or not to recruit them.

“We’ve all got work and a family. Something like this takes time but we’re asking for people to take that time if they want and participate,” he said. “We wanted to have this meeting to let you all know what was going on and let you know why we’re building a sub-station.”

The crowd responded positively to the sub-station idea.

At the meeting, District 40 State Sen. Angela Burks Hill, R, mentioned another option homeowners could utilize to lower their insurance rates. She said the Mississippi Insurance Department will help residents who experienced an increase in their homeowners insurance.

“If your insurance has gone up more than 15 percent, and you know it’s because of the fire rating, contact Commissioner Cheney,” Hill said. “We can help and get your rate reduced.”

Mississippi Insurance Department Commissioner Mike Chaney can be contacted at (601) 359-3569, Hill said.

Among the attendees were Hill, Steve Simkins, who deals with legislative work with State Farm, Mississippi State Fire Coordinator Brad Smith and Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown, among others.

After the presentation, the floor was opened up for questions.