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Is the village of Brookfield finding another way to reach into the public's pockets, or are some simply overreacting to a routine village requirement regarding insurance coverage for organizations seeking to utilize public property?
It depends on who you ask.
This year, Brookfield officials have begun asking all organizations who use public property - whether it's a business that wants a sidewalk caf or a registered organization that wants to participate in the Fourth of July parade - to provide the village with both a certificate of insurance and an "additional ensured" endorsement naming "Brookfield, its officials, employees, agents and volunteers as additional insured."
According to Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral, the requirement is nothing new. The policy has been on the books since at least 1996, he said. However, the requirement hasn't been consistently applied.
That inconsistency was point out to the village by the village's risk management agency, IRMA, during a recent management assessment program, something that's conducted every three years.
"We want to make sure we're doing our part to reduce liability and be proactive in reducing risks and liabilities," said Michelle Robbins, the village's human resources director.
For most corporations and registered organizations, getting an insurance endorsement is a routine matter and one that doesn't entail additional cost, since it's typically rolled into the company's insurance premium.
But Josh Jones, a local businessman who runs a nonprofit charity called JM Foundations, says the requirement is keeping him out of the parade this year.
"Our lives are governed by lawyers," said Jones, who has represented both his employer, a national banking institution, and his local charity in the Brookfield Fourth of July Parade for the past seven years. But, he says, his corporation isn't insured and he can't ask his national banking HQ to handle the insurance issue.
"On my end, I have to deal with a huge corporation, and it's a big deal for me to get that," said Jones. "So after seven years, I can't be in the parade."
Jones actually could be in the parade if he purchased event coverage from the village's risk management provider, IRMA. The cost is about $85. He could also march in the parade simply as a private citizen. The village is requiring the insurance endorsement from corporations and registered organizations, but not from ad hoc citizen groups.
"It takes the spirit out of the whole day, having to get insurance to participate," Jones said. "It takes extra effort to participate and gets to where it's too cumbersome or, in my case working with a big corporation, it's impossible."
Jones said a village employee told him the requirement has had a chilling effect on the number of people participating in the event. He's heard the number pegged at 25 groups. But Sbiral said that's not the case, as far as he knows.
"We have no list of people who've said anything yet," Sbiral said, noting that the parade application deadline was June 4. On May 24, the village had just six applications in, but that's not unusual.
Sbiral said "two to three" participants had told them they weren't participating this year for various reasons - from the village's inability to pay them to appear any longer to the fact that group was disbanding.
"The number's way smaller than ," Sbiral said.
Jones will still be marching in the Riverside Fourth of July Parade. That village doesn't require the insurance paperwork to participate.
"We just lump it under our insurance umbrella," said Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera.