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Traffic Patrols Halt As Insurance Lapses

January 2, 1986

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ Traffic patrols and other services were halted in several Wisconsin counties Wednesday in the absence of liability insurance.

Sheriff Thomas Kocurek of Manitowoc County ordered a reduction of operations as of midnight Tuesday, including forbidding visitations at the jail.

Traffic captain Ray Fullmer of Marquette County said only he, the sheriff and the chief deputy were traveling on the road ″unless it’s an emergency.″

Florence County deputies were told to work by telephone out of their homes until the matter was resolved.

Mark Rogacki, executive director of the Wisconsin County Association, said an insurer’s refusal to continue a group policy left 23 of the state’s 72 counties without automobile and general liability insurance with which to begin 1986.

Many counties ″are scambling to find coverage wherever they can″ so they can continue to patrol highways, plow snowy roads and resume ordinary operations, Rogacki said.

″This is a crisis,″ he said. ″We have been flooded with calls from county officials seeking advice.″

Some counties, however, said they had supplemental coverage. Sheriffs offices in most of the 23 counties said by Wednesday afternoon they had received no orders to curtail services.

The Oconto County sheriff’s office said its deputies were told to park their vehicles until getting assurances by midday that they were insured.

Ed Ahlers, chairman of Taylor County’s Board of Supervisors, said officials had ″the option of operating our highway department without insurance and become liable for any accidents or damage.″

″Or we can shut down the highway department and still be liable for accidents because we didn’t do anything to make the roads safe,″ Ahlers added.

″It’s a lousy choice of options,″ he said.

Rogacki said a Madison insurance agent handling the counties’ policies told the association Tuesday that its carrier, Colonial Penn, had discontinued the coverage.

The news was surprising because the agency had been ″99.9 percent certain″ that coverage would be continued, he said.

The counties may have to organize a mutual policy of their own, Rogacki said.

″It’s a drastic measure, but it may be our only hope,″ he said.

Earl J. Simon, chairman of a Board of Supervisors’ committee responsible for Waukesha County’s insurance, said his was one of the counties using funds from other accounts to maintain insurance on its own.

But that alternative, or buying an independent policy, could ″cost the county a bundle,″ Simon said.

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