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Councilors grant insurance reduction request from Spurwink Rod and Gun Club

The Town Council on May 9, 2016 approved a request from the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club to have the amount of liability insurance required for its current operation reduced from $3 million to $1 million.

The club asked for the amendment to its operating license under hardship provisions in the town's 2014 shooting range ordinance.

The reduction will save the club $2,900 a year in insurance premiums, a savings that will be particularly helpful to members who are on fixed incomes, gun club officials told members of the council. "We have raised our dues almost 100 percent in less than five years," said member and past president Mark Mayone. "That is very painful for many members to have to absorb," he said.

Premiums for $3 million of liability coverage per incident comes to $7,100 a year for the club, $2,900 more than for a $1 million policy club officials said was the maximum offered by the National Rifle Association. The club prefers to get insurance locally, said club President Tammy Walter, but the $1 million cap appears to be a standard.

Club dues were most recently raised from $65 a year to $75, except for members older than 65, Walter said. An extra $13 a year would be required from each of the 222 members to accommodate a $3 million policy, but Walter said members have already given a lot - in some cases vacation time - to work on bringing the range to standards required by the new ordinance. "I know it seems like not a lot of money to ask people for, but we've asked them for so much," Walter said. "And we have a lot of people that are just on a fixed income."

The shooting-range ordinance, developed and adopted in 2014, establishes a licensing mechanism for shooting ranges in town and addresses decades-old concerns about safety voiced by neighbors of the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club, the town's only shooting range. Complete shot containment, as well as the $3 million liability coverage, are among licensing requirements.

Voting against the reduction was Town Councilor Jamie Garvin, who lauded recent improvements at the facility, but, "the whole notion of hardship here is what I'm really struggling with," he said.

Tom Leahy, town attorney, said 'hardship' as defined in the ordinance is subjective, but suggested the council look at the differences in insurance costs. He said he was unsure why the ordinance has a $3 million requirement, but that in his experience with Portland-area banks, the liability standard is $1 million.

Jessica Sullivan, a member of the council, said she believed $3 million was written into the ordinance because the gun club at the time had yet to meet safety standards. She, along with the majority of councilors, said they believed the amount of coverage requested was reasonable, especially since the club is currently operating only a 25-yard range and is meeting safety standards.

Sara Lennon, another councilor, said she's impressed with the improvements the club has made, and would like to see the insurance savings applied to more work. "It seems like a more practical use of funds to spend every dollar they have toward making those other ranges as safe and as quiet, so that this insurance will never have to be used," Lennon said.

The club's 50- and 100-yard ranges are closed pending safety improvements.

Next month, councilors may ask its ordinance subcommittee to review the $3 million liability licensing requirement as part of a general review of the shooting-range ordinance, and in light of pending state legislation governing local regulation of shooting ranges.