By Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic, Mitchell, S.D.
July 06--Mitchell home and business owners may not realize how the city's Fire Division rating can impact their bank account.
The city's fire rating is used in part to establish fire insurance rates, according to Mitchell Fire Division Assistant Chief Paul Morris and a local insurance agent.
The city is ranked a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, Morris said, with 1 being the best possible score. Mitchell has been a 4 for several years, he said; it was a 5 before that.
The Fire Division was recently inspected by representatives of the New Jersey-based ISO, which was formerly known as Insurance Services Office.
The city will receive its report in about six months, Morris said. He thinks the rating will remain a 4.
Morris said it's unclear if adding a satellite fire station by Lake Mitchell would raise the city's rating.
The City Council has discussed building a second station. Mayor Ken Tracy said he thinks a new ladder truck is a higher priority, and Morris and Public Safety Chief Lyndon Overweg are working to obtain a federal grant to add to the $350,000 the city has set aside for a new truck.
But would building a satellite station pay off sooner for the public if they saved money on their rates? Is that a better choice for the city to make?
"You know, that's a good question," Morris said. "One of the things that's hurting us is our response to the northern parts of the community. (A new station) can only help. It's only going to be good."
ISO ranks cities based on response time, dispatch services, fire hydrants and available water supply, and training, among other guidelines.
However, some insurance companies have decided to use additional pieces of information before setting rates, including fire losses in an area during a time period.
ISO rankings, once the standard for insurance rates, are now part of a formula, according to American Family Insurance agent Ron Beukelman, who has been an agent in Mitchell for 25 years.
"It can vary some based on the department ranking," Beukelman said.
He said if the Mitchell Fire Division ranking increased, rates could drop by $1 or $2 a month for homeowners.
People who live near Lake Mitchell, like Beukelman does, may even see a bigger drop.
Beukelman said he knows it takes firefighters, even when running red lights, 10 minutes to get to remote parts of the city. A satellite station could reduce that time.
Tracy said a new satellite fire station by Lake Mitchell would cost about $1 million, and the city has $200,000 socked away, he said, putting $100,000 into an account annually for the past two years. That means it may be eight years before the station is built, Tracy said.
(c)2012 The Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.)
Visit The Daily Republic (Mitchell, S.D.) at www.mitchellrepublic.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services