BROCKTON – The devil was in the details when it came to a report on insurance for recreation facility users. There were too few details to convince council.
Mark Coleman, director of community services presented a recommendation to council for the municipality to require all recreation facility users to have insurance, and provide them with a low-cost option through the municipality.
A motion to approve the recommendation was defeated, with Mayor Chris Peabody casting the tie-breaking vote after attempting unsuccessfully to have the matter tabled.
The municipality presently requires major users to provide insurance coverage. This includes organized groups and renters such as minor sports groups, community service clubs and events involving alcohol.
Not all facility renters have been required to provide insurance – small, private rentals and informal sports groups, for example, where the risk of something going wrong is considered low.
Colman stated in his report that “as a best practice for municipalities and within the insurance industry, it is recommended that the municipality request insurance coverage from all facility and property users and renters.”
This would cause some prospective users to not rent the facility or run an event – or to contact council and ask that the insurance requirement be waived.
Staff contacted the municipality’s insurance broker, CMR Insurance, and insurer, Frank Cowan Company, to see what options might be available to address this. The Frank Cowan Company provides a separate supplemental policy through its Facility User Solution program (FUG) that provides low-cost insurance through the municipality for users who don’t have their own insurance.
Large groups would still be able to provide their own insurance, but smaller users would have a simple, low-cost option to meet the insurance requirement.
Coleman said that since the municipality is named in the policy, municipal interests are covered if there’s a claim due to the facility user’s negligence – important because of Ontario’s joint and several liability model.
In that case, the policy directs liability away from the municipality’s main general insurance policy.
The FUG program is geared toward small facility rentals like birthday parties, weddings and meetings, and is not intended for large events like concerts.
There is an additional premium involved with the FUG, the cost of which would be recouped from users.
Staff recommended that the municipality implement the insurance requirement for all Brockton facilities and renters starting June 1. With the extended closure of facilities due to the lockdowns associated with the COVID19 pandemic, it would be an opportune time to implement this new policy for bookings to coincide with when facilities are allowed to reopen.
Councillor Steve Adams said he found the report “complicated” and added, “I always thought we had insurance. Why do we need supplemental coverage?”
Coleman said the idea is to make sure all users have insurance, not just the major groups. The municipality has not required small users to provide insurance.
Under joint and several liability, uninsured users expose the taxpayers to risk.
“We need to make sure everyone is covered,” Coleman explained.
There were a number of questions about individual users, and about discouraging rentals.
Some council members approved of the measure. Coun. Dean Leifso said, “I’m surprised it’s not in place already.”
Coun. Kym Hutcheon said, “This would be a convenience,” explaining it would eliminate a last-minute scramble to find insurance.
However, others didn’t like the idea.
“I’m not against insurance,” said Coun. James Lang. “I’m against another fee. Let’s include it in the rental.”
The complicating factor there is the insurance costs would vary.
Peabody was apprehensive about more red tape, although Coleman said it would be simple for the user.
When the matter was put to the vote, it was defeated.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times