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Lewis County running into issues with NYSORVA being able to insure ATV clubs

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LOWVILLE — Recreation, Forestry and Parks Director Jacqueline L. Mahoney told the Lewis County Economic Development Committee about a letter the New York State Off-Highway Recreational Vehicle Association sent her in regard to not being able to pay the insurance premium for ATV clubs.

Mrs. Mahoney said she believes the letter is a result of one of the local ATV clubs pushing to get $25 for each permit sold back. She said she thinks the club went to the association saying it thinks club membership numbers are down because it is not getting enough money from the county.

Legislator Lawrence L. Dolhof, R-Lyons Falls, said he thinks the association was not able to pay its insurance premium because of the deficit the county was creating by selling permits directly rather than through a club.

In the past, the clubs would give the association $5 of the club money from the membership fees when it was required to join a club.

“Now they are not required to join a club, and all of the clubs are complaining that their memberships are down because people don’t need to join a club and NYSORVA is saying we are not contributing that $5 a permit that we used to get when they had to go through a club,” Mr. Dolhof said.

Legislator Neil H. Pepper, R-Brantingham, said the major reason the clubs need the association is that if the clubs want to hold a special event, the county requires them to hold their own liability insurance, which is provided through the association.

“Without the clubs going through NYSORVA, they can’t get a liability policy that is reasonable,” Mr. Pepper said. “We are kind of in a catch-22 — NYSORVA now crying the numbers are down and we can’t get the policy so we might not be able to do this anymore and the clubs are crying that if they can’t get the insurance from NYSORVA, they won’t be able to have the liability to run these fundraising events. That is basically the issue.”

Mr. Pepper said if the county did not require the clubs to have the extra liability insurance when holding events, it would not be an issue.

“If this is a matter of an individual that needs to pay $5 or $10 for their annual membership fee, they are just trying to push the button back down and it does not make any sense. $5, $10 for an extra fee for your annual membership so NYSORVA can get the insurance they need — that is just what you have to do,” said Eric J. Virkler, county director of economic development.

“People are riding $10,000 ATVs on a $20,000 trailer. Pay the extra fee.”

Mr. Pepper said the average club has become cash poor because it cannot compete with the county.

After someone pays $65 for the permit, he or she is not interested in paying the membership fee to be part of a club, which has caused the clubs to reduce membership fees to try to entice people to join.

“What Eric says about people coming up and having $10,000 ATVs and trailers is true, but the people that built this trail system were all local guys that lived here and they are not driving $10,000 ATVs. They are older retired guys that work on the trail system voluntarily, everything like that,” Mr. Pepper said.

“We all kind of took it personal when the county took away our discount. It was like, ‘Thank you very much for helping us and we don’t need you anymore, and that’s the end.’”

Committee members considered that the events held by the clubs could be covered under the county’s liability insurance policy, but it was decided that would be the start of a slippery slope; if the county did it for one, it would have to do it for all.

Mrs. Mahoney said the county is trying to address the issue, and if the association’s costs go up, the plan is to increase the amount the clubs are reimbursed.

“I don’t think Lewis County is the reason statewide numbers are down. I don’t think we are the driving factor in New York state. I think they are using us as an excuse to try and get their hand in. I don’t want to be a club. I don’t want to pay NYSORVA. I want the clubs to pay NYSORVA,” Mrs. Mahoney said. She said she thinks the county should wait and see how things go.

Her recommendation was to see where things stand next spring.

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