If a private citizen was to be injured or, worse yet, killed at the city of Galt-owned firing range, the city’s insurance will not protect it against liability, City Attorney Steven Rudolph reiterated at Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting.
“The city would have potential exposure to the general fund,” he said, comparing the liability chance to a chess game. “We protect the general fund just like the king is protected. It is the holy grail.”
Without that protection for non-law enforcement users, he encouraged council members to limit the firing range to city of Galt sworn officers and other law enforcement officials.
Instead of barring private organizations – including the local Boy Scouts who have used the range for decades – council members Tuesday unanimously gave staff direction to do more research on potentially increasing the city’s insurance and finding out how other jurisdictions with firing ranges handle the insurance issues.
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“I want to make sure we have looked at every option possible to continue these programs,” Vice Mayor Barbara Payne said, adding that she thinks it’s invaluable for young people to learn how to handle a gun appropriately, but also wants to protect the city’s liability.
The issue came up last year when Rudolph and police officials took a look at who was using the range.
Among them was the Boy Scouts organization, which used the range to help Scouts earn their rifle shooting merit badges, among other things, according to instructor Todd Kimerer. He and now-retired Galt Police Lt. Jim Uptegrove had signed a seven-page contract for day use in May 2012.
But Rudolph told council members Tuesday, and at the last meeting when the issue was first addressed during public comment, that if the city council allows the use, the city will not be covered by its liability insurance.
“If you’re going to allow private use of the facility … you are willing to absorb this level of risk,” he said. “Our experts we retain to give us insurance advice recommended that the use not be allowed, but if you do, you require $10 million of coverage,” Rudolph said, adding that if there was a lawsuit, the city will currently only be protected up to $1 million as guaranteed by its insurance.
“One million dollars does not go very far in that arena.”
Kimerer said the group has always provided its own insurance through the Boy Scouts of America, but Rudolph says that may not be enough.
The Boy Scouts are not the only non-law enforcement organization that has used the facility.
“There’s been activity at the range for years that we did not know were covered,” Councilman Curt Campion said.
Mayor Mark Crews pointed toward a state fish and game hunter safety course that has, for at least a decade, allowed participants to use the range for the optional hands-on portion of the class.
“We need to go back and look for new insurance,” Crews said. “I don’t see a problem. I think we’ve created a problem.”
Rudolph said he understands there is a history of use at the range. “And, fortunately there have not been incidents. But if it does occur, what is the potential exposure?”
Earlier in the meeting, the Galt Youth Commission requested an ordinance be written that would require dispensaries of medical needles accept the used sharps back, free of charge.
The community project came about after the group last summer toured the Cal-Waste recycling center in Galt and learned about improperly dumped sharps and their potential to spread infectious diseases if workers sorting by hand are stuck by such a needle.
“Currently, we have no place to dispose these needles in Galt,” Youth Commissioner Andrew Klotz said, adding that local businesses contacted would be willing to set up a program to collect needles with support from their corporate offices.
Currently, residents are required to drive to a hazardous household waste disposal facility in South Sacramento to properly dispose of their sharps.
Following the council presentation, Campion complimented the commission on its research. “You brought to light something I think most people aren’t even aware of.”
At the recommendation of Rudolph, the council decided to wait on a report from him about other options before moving forward with an ordinance at this time.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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