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Insurance Issue Threatens Ebbetts Pool Programs

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Rising liability insurance costs could kill the Murphys Dolphins swim program this year, and eventually threaten many other programs and facilities in the Murphys area.

The pool, just off Church Street, is owned by the Ebbetts Pass Veterans Memorial District. The district also is in charge of the historic school on Jones Street, the neighboring tennis courts, and nearby Lions Scout Hut on School Street.

The pool is used extensively by the Murphys Dolphins, a nonprofit team of about 100 swimmers who compete primarily with the Calaveras swim team, said Karla St. Louis, who has coached the Dolphins for the past 10 years.

No meets are held at the Murphys pool, because of its small size, but the team practices there Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and in the evenings 6 to 8.

This year, district directors told the Dolphins they would have to come up with their own liability insurance.

St. Louis said it´s difficult to find someone who will carry them for five to six weeks.

“It´s too hard for us to get a policy,” she said. “If we don´t get this policy or somehow be insured, there is no swim team.”

Veterans Memorial District Director James Carlin has pursued other options and has details on what alternatives are available.

He was out of town until Friday, but another board member, Director Richard Elliott, said the district´s present carrier won´t cover the facilities anymore, and told them they needed better coverage.

Last year the district required a waiver from each swimmer saying they would hold the district harmless in case of any injuries, Elliott said.

Since then the Calaveras County Counsel´s office has informed them that a hold harmless agreement does not hold up in court, Elliott said.

Previously the district paid just under $10,000 a year for coverage. It presently is in a grace period while it searches for a new carrier, and a new premium is estimated to cost $11,000.

While that may not sound like a hefty increase, Elliott said any outside groups need their own coverage as well to protect the district.

Just finding a company that´s interested is a challenge, district board President Al Napier said.

“There´s a lot of them that won´t even talk to us,” he said. “They didn´t want to take a chance on us.”

The issue will be discussed at the district´s next board meeting at 7 p.m. June 1 at the Lions Scout Hut. “We sure wish the public would attend,” Napier said.

While the Dolphins are in the most immediate danger, the district´s other services and programs might have to be curtailed, such as the day-care center that operates out of the old school house, and public use of the tennis courts.

Mark and Michelle Gill, who maintain and operate the pool for the district, said some of the swimmers´ parents have contacted the district to explore ways to fund the coverage.

The pool is open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m., and admission is going up for them as well. Price for an adult will go from $1 to $2 and a child´s price will rise from 50 cents to $1. A family plan is available at $10 per child for the entire season. “This is only the second year that we´ve charged,” Michelle Gill said.

Mark Gill noted that the fee doesn´t come close to covering the cost of chemicals used in the pool´s maintenance.

Everyone wants to find a way to keep the swim team afloat this summer. “We´re trying everything we can to get them covered,” Mark Gill said.

St. Louis has asked county Supervisor Tom Tryon for help. During Monday´s Board of Supervisors meeting, Tryon asked County Administrative Officer Tom Mitchell to see if there is anything the county can do, such as bring the team in as a community group under the county´s umbrella. “We´ll take a look at it,” Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, district directors are hoping this isn´t just the beginning of possible closures for all of its facilities. “We´re fighting desperately to prevent that,” Napier said.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Craig Koscho. For more Calaveras news, click: