ISO to cut cost of insurance

Published 11:02 pm Monday, April 6, 2009

Nearly 2,500 structures in this city will soon see about a 50 percent reduction in the cost of homeowners insurance as a result of improvements made in fire protection.

Mayor Tom Lee said the city’s ISO Public Protection Classification dropped from a 9 to a 6.

“It’s as good as we could possibly hope for,” Lee said.

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ISO collects information on a community’s public fire protection and analyzes the data using a fire suppression rating schedule. Then, ISO assigns a public protection classification from 1 to 10. Class 1 generally means superior property fire protection, and Class 10 means the area’s fire-suppression program doesn’t meet ISO’s minimum criteria.

Fifty percent of the overall grading is based on the number of engine companies and the amount of water a community needs to fight a fire. Valley Grande ranked high here because its residents now have at least 5-mile access to fire stations across the board.

“We spent a lot of money getting to this point,” Lee said. “We have spent over $300,000 on salaries, buildings and positions.”

The city is nearly ready to post a bid notice for construction of another fire station on Alabama Highway 14 W. Those residents should have the same Class 6 rating as others by the time the ratings change on July 1, the mayor said.

Other departments are at Summerfield, the Public Safety Building and the existing fire department, he said. The 5-mile radius stretches over into the police jurisdiction and other unincorporated areas near Valley Grande.

Lee said generally a premium is about $1,100 per year. The drop because of the rating is about 40 to 50 percent. “It’s starting to run into some money,” he said, “for homeowners.”

Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard called the savings “our own little stimulus plan,” meaning homeowners will see a little more money in their individual pockets. And this is a continuous thing, Ballard added, with Lee and those working with him continuing with the foresight that will pay off for people who live in that area.

Lee said he hopes people will spend that extra money they save on insurance shopping in Dallas County, helping retailers and putting those dollars into circulation.

Benefits from the reduced rating could come from other retailers wanting to locate in Valley Grande, said Wayne Vardaman, executive director of the Selma-Dallas County Economic Development Agency and president of the Centre for Commerce. One of the first things a retailer looks at is the cost of doing business and those higher insurance rates can dampen a retailer’s enthusiasm for a site.

“There’s a big upside to doing this,” Vardaman said of the drop in the fire rating.