• 72°

Insurance measures in place

Suffolk city leaders Wednesday outlined the steps they have taken to ensure the city’s insurance policies do not get canceled again.

The city’s volunteer firefighters were forced to stop work from June 4-9 because the workman’s compensation insurance that covered them was canceled due to lack of compliance with an audit.

According to Ronnie Charles, the city’s human resources manager, the city was notified on the morning of June 4 the insurance policy had been canceled because the audit had not been completed. For their safety, the city’s four volunteer fire departments — Holland, Whaleyville, Chuckatuck and Driver — were told they could not respond to any calls until the issue was resolved.

After weekend meetings between city leaders and the volunteer fire chiefs, the audit was initiated June 7 and completed June 8. The volunteers began manning their stations again June 9. In the interim, the city’s paid firefighters covered emergency services.

“The weekends were a challenge for us to move people,” said Fire Chief Mark Outlaw, but added he was “not surprised” with the support of the volunteer departments.

Whaleyville VFD Chief Charles Brothers Jr. said the situation “stabbed every one of us in the heart” because they were not able to serve the community. However, he added he appreciated the support of the city working to get the issue resolved.

“We’re glad to be back on the job,” Brothers said.

To prevent the problem from arising again, the city has implemented new policies, Charles said.

From now on, the volunteer fire departments will submit rosters to the city monthly to aid in the completion of future audits. Beginning 90 days before any policy expiration, city staff will begin checking to ensure all requirements for the policy are met. Thirty days before the expiration, a status report will be submitted to the city manager showing that all requirements of the policy have been met.

In addition, Charles said, the city is seeking for a “qualified risk manager.” The employee who was responsible for oversight of the insurance policies is no longer employed with the city, spokeswoman Debbie George said last week.