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Council waives insurance for road closures; let the block parties continue

POSTED July 23, 2013 9:57 p.m.

Residents wanting to obtain a road closure for future block parties will be able to do it without paying a dime, for now.

On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council voted to waive the requirement for insurance for street closures.  The requirement for insurance has always been a part of the city code, but city staff was not aware of it until June. According to the Municipal Code, all applicants for street closures must provide proof of general liability insurance in the amount of $1 million.

“The direction council gave was not to have an insurance cost associated, but use a 'hold harmless' agreement,” said City Manager Roy Wasden. “By the time it would take us to change the ordinance, it wouldn’t have allowed us to get this accomplished by the time of National Night Out.”

National Night Out is a night when residents lock their doors, turn on outside lights and spend the evening outdoors getting to know their neighbors and local law enforcement.  Neighbors are encouraged to host special events such as block parties, cookouts, ice cream socials, or neighborhood gatherings. Turlock Police and Turlock Fire officials visit each area that registered their party with the Turlock Police Department.

According to Turlock Crime Prevention Officer Michelle Backeroff, there are at least 26 block parties planned for this year's National Night Out event, set for Aug. 6.

The newly enforced policy has already resulted in many flustered Turlock residents, according to city staff, who were hoping to host block parties for Fourth of July festivities.

“The time frame was so compressed that we could not do anything this evening,” said Councilmember Bill DeHart. “Before the block parties begin next year we will have the flexibility to revisit the ordinance and consider additional input.”

Two Turlock residents voiced their concerns on Tuesday night, saying that requiring insurance for a road closure was putting “obstacles” in the way of neighbors  connecting with neighbors.

“It’s important for neighbors to come together and get to know each other,” said Turlock resident David Larson. “Block parties are instrumental in our neighborhood. One of the things that make Turlock great is that it encourages the community to connect as neighborhoods. Any fees and insurance policies become sticking points and obstacles.”

For now, the City of Turlock will use a hold harmless agreement and revisit the ordinance in the near future.

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