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Will Blackfoot sewer collapse damage claims fall to taxpayers?

After a sewer line collapsed on Monday, sending raw sewage gurgling into Blackfoot homes, our station asked who will foot the bill.

Because the sewer is a city utility, it is Blackfoot’s responsibility to cover the costs of damage to those homeowners impacted.

Will the burden fall to taxpayers?

Blackfoot mayor Mike Virtue has been splitting his time between city hall and the site of the collapsed sewer line west of town.

Part of his job this week is to keep track of damage compensation claims as they are reported.

On Tuesday he said the city knows of 6 or 7 claims, but more are possible.

The cost to repair the damage will be considerable, but Virtue said it’s not the responsibility of taxpayers.

“A number of years ago there was a self-funded insurance co-op that started out with the counties, and now most of the cities in the state of Idaho belong,” said Virtue.

That liability insurance co-op is called Idaho County Risk Management Program, or ICRMP for short.

“if it’s a valid complaint or claim then they pay it just like any other insurance agency,” said Virtue.

So, if ICRMP operates like insurance, our station asked if a claim as significant as the one Blackfoot is about to make, will cause premiums to go up, and does that eventually hit taxpayers?

“The fact that we have a relatively significant claim is important, but if we have, for example, 100 cities and other organizations and counties, you spread the risk,” said Virtue.

The short answer is, no.

Just like life insurance, said Virtue, the risk is spread out across a large pool.

“It’s not like an individual insurance policy when you have a large claim and sometimes your premium will go up,” he said.

At the Blackfoot City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, Virtue updated the council on the progress of repairs to the sewer line. He said he hopes crews will have the system running normally by 12 p.m. on Wednesday.

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