Fire, wind rain on Port insurance policy

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WALLA WALLA -- Two major fires and wind damage totaling $2.5 million in claims over the last three years wreaked havoc on the Port of Walla Walla's insurance.

The public agency will be dropped from its insurance carrier this month and will have to pay at least triple its former costs to enroll with a new provider, officials said.

The exact amount the Port will have to pay and to whom had yet to decided.

The Port will lose its coverage under Enduris, a Washington insurance pool that covers Port, water, fire and other districts across the state.

Representatives of Seattle insurance brokerage Hugh Wood Inc. presented six proposals from carriers to Port commissioners at their regular meeting Aug. 25. The presentation showed the Port will pay significantly more to protect its properties.

The Port previously paid Enduris $77,138 a year for property and equipment coverage. Annual coverage now will likely cost the agency at least $300,000, depending on negotiations.

"Our three-year loss history is very unattractive basically to anyone who would want to insure us," Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz told the Port's three commissioners.

In July 2009 a fire at the Port's Burbank property that housed biodiesel manufacturer Gen-X Energy Group ripped through that building.

In April 2010 a morning warehouse fire at Reiff Manufacturing was fueled by chemicals used to produce its fiberglass shelters and tanks.

The third claim that added to the Port's costs in recent years came from the former Cliffstar juice manufacturing plant, now known as Cott, after wind destroyed the company's roof.

Port officials say they could not have anticipated the claims.

Nevertheless, the situation has posed a challenge in finding replacement coverage, and the relationship with Enduris over claims was likely irreparably damaged.

In the insurance provider's March 10 meeting minutes, the company listed five reasons for dropping the Port:

* undue exposure to the insurance pool

* a loss history disproportionate to the member's contributions

* failure to comply or cooperate with risk management requests

* decision-making that is contrary to good government and/or professional behavior

* failure to conform to Enduris' underwriting guidelines.

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