Insurance Crisis Hits Home in Jackson County

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The historic Russ House in Jackson County serves as a gathering place for folks who need space for events like business meetings and weddings, but the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce is having a hard time dealing with astronomical insurance rates.

Last year the Chamber paid about $4,700 in coverage fees, and starting in December 2006, they paid four times that amount. The Chamber's first option was to raise the deductible, but the insurance company had some limits.

"They wouldn't let us go any higher than $25,000, so that saved us $3,000 to raise our deductible that much, but that has some pretty serious risks," said Jackson County Chamber of Commerce President Art Kimbrough.

Another option was to drop the wind damage coverage, but insurance policies have limits on that too. They say it’s all or nothing. That leaves the Chamber with a third option, self insurance, which could be risky.

"We have to ask those kinds of tough questions if we're going to function as our role in the Chamber as opposed to just being an organization that's supporting this wonderful building," said Kimbrough.

Even with the alternatives, the Chamber's situation begs the question of how long will the crisis last, and how long until it takes a toll on surrounding businesses.

"It will frankly strangle many small businesses to have these kinds of increases."

Chamber officials are working with legislators Don Brown and Marti Coley to find a long-term solution to the problem.