A substantial improvement in the city's fire service rating means Mineral Wells property owners may soon see a reduction in their insurance premiums.
Fire Chief Mike Pool on Tuesday told city council the city's ISO rating dropped two points, or classifications, from a 5 down to a 3.
ISO is an acronym for Insurance Service Office, a New Jersey company whose recommendations are used nationally to make public protection classifications. The city's recommended Class 3 rating will go to the Texas Department of Insurance and the State Fire Marshall's Office for approval.
"This is good news for the citizens and businesses of Mineral Wells, and for future businesses," Pool said.
Pool said the two-classification improvement could result in as much as a 14 percent reduction in property insurance rates – though he and City Manager Randy Criswell cautioned that individual policyholders are not likely to see that much of a break.
"I can't guarantee that ... but it should be good news for everyone," Pool said. "I think everyone in the community should pat themselves on the back."
Criswell said a number of factors go into property insurance rates, and every insurance company is different. He said if property owners don't see some reduction in their rates in the near future, or at the time of renewal, they should make inquiries with their agent.
"An ISO rating of 3 is a really good rating for a city of our size," Criswell said. "This is a really good thing and something to be proud of."
Retired firefighter and Ward 4 Councilman Doyle Light, who has advocated for public safety improvements the last three years, said, "This truly is an amazing feat for Mineral Wells."
Pool said the new rating puts Mineral Wells in the top 10 percent statewide. Criswell went a step further, saying the Class 3 rating would place it in the top percentile nationwide.
A number of factors were cited for the improved rating. One is increased department staffing aided by the SAFER grant. Increased training, flushing of and repairs to fire hydrants, and 911 communications and timely response.
According to the Texas Department of Insurance, ISO rates communities on a scale of 1-to-10, with 10 being the worst. The ratings are based on a Fire Suppression Rating Schedule, which looks at water distribution, fire department equipment and manpower and fire alarm facilities.
The score from that Fire Suppression Rating Schedule is translated into a public protection classification. A perfect score in Texas is 104.26. It consists of 50 points for fire department capabilities, 40 points for water supply and distribution, 10 points for receiving and handling fire alarms and up to 4.26 points for "Texas Exceptions" that give extra credit for compressed air foam systems, certified volunteers and attending or teaching at the annual firemen's training school at Texas A&M University.
City council unanimously approved permanently closing N.W. 1st Avenue between N.W. 3rd Street and N.W. 4th Street – the block behind the Crazy Water Hotel, which is under renovation.
The move is to accommodate replacement of electrical transformers from poles to the ground. Their size will cause them to protrude into the right of way and street.
City Manager Randy Criswell said the closure will also fall in line with the vision of an urban park that could include a parking garage behind the hotel. The closure would allow pedestrians to walk to and from the parking garage and hotel without crossing a street. He said said it would make for a good entry point on the north end of the envisioned park.
The matter did not pass without some controversy. Resident Terri Blevins complained that the work began before the request was recommended for approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission and Tuesday's city council review and action.
"Why has work already happened?" Blevins asked.
Project architect Tim Hopkins said overhead power lines needed to be removed out of safety concerns with cranes and other work.
Councilman Brian Shoemaker said the hotel project accepted a potential risk of the request being rejected when it went forward with the work and would have had to make and reparations.
Mayor Christopher Perricone said approvals from P&Z and council should have occurred first.
"I think maybe the process didn't happen the way it should have," Perricone said.
Rhonda Wilkinson and Terry Lundy also complained to council about the process and allowing the work and closure to begin prior to receiving approvals from the city.
"As council people we aren't aware of the day-to-day operations of code enforcement," Shoemaker said. "The city manager and his employees under him run the day-to-day operations of the city."
With that, council approved the street closure request by a 7-0 vote.