Fort Worth easing insurance requirements on volunteer groups

Posted Sunday, May. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Topics: Fort Worth

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Fort Worth is easing insurance requirements for volunteers and groups that want to help maintain city-owned common areas and medians.

The city’s requirement that volunteers provide proof of insurance for work involving power equipment and irrigation has long irritated some neighborhood groups.

The city staff, in a report last week to City Council members, said it is implementing new rules that will require volunteers to sign waivers releasing the city from liability for injuries to themselves or damage to their equipment.

The city also will waive the proof of insurance requirement for volunteer groups working with nonriding power equipment and “irrigation operation within appropriate limits.”

The city has required $500,000 of liability coverage for work with power equipment and $1 million of coverage for any kind of irrigation project.

The city will continue to require insurance for community groups that hire contractors to maintain and do landscape work on city property.

James Mauldin, Fort Worth assistant director of financial management services, said the staff believes the changes limit the city’s exposure while stepping out of the way of volunteers.

“There’s been almost no claim activity related to this type of activity,” Mauldin said. “We’re willing to take that risk.”

Libby Willis, president of the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association in north Fort Worth, which has been pushing the city to ease up on the insurance requirements, said “we’re real happy” with the city’s change.

Oakhurst has five city-owned medians and, “at some point, we fell off the city’s mowing schedule,” she said.

To meet the city’s required $500,000 in liability coverage, the neighborhood association would have had to spend $700-$900 per year per median, she said.

The neighborhood also wanted to be able to operate irrigation systems on city property, but was blocked by the city’s liability requirement, she said.

The association has hired a landscaper with insurance who has helped with some of the median work, but “we couldn’t afford to do all five,” Willis said.

The change doesn’t require City Council approval. The staff is getting ready to send it out to neighborhoods, implementing it “as soon as possible,” Mauldin said.

The city is self-insured for liability claims that arise when its employees are involved in accidents.

The staff considered extending blanket coverage to volunteers, but wanted to do it with a private insurance product that limited the city’s exposure, he said.

Officials couldn’t find an effective option, Mauldin said.

The city still has exposure for injuries to third parties caused by volunteers, but state law limits that exposure, he said.

Scott Nishimura, (817) 390-7808 Twitter: @JScottNishimura

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