|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Thursday, 17 March 2011 00:00|
Area nonprofits are finding ways to continue serving free hot meals at Riverfront Park on Fridays at 5 p.m.
After Cottonwood gave meal organizers two weeks to arrange liability coverage for the event, several discovered the picnic is already covered under existing insurance policies, Mountain View United Methodist Church spokeswoman Carol Quasula said.
The city’s requirement the group have $1 million liability coverage in place for each event has been satisfied by all but two members of the group, Quasula said.
“Basically, it was just a matter of us showing the documentation they needed to satisfy their concerns,” Quasula said.
Known as the Friday Night Picnic, the meal, organized by members of Hearts for the Hungry and Homeless, feeds a free hot meal to about 120 people each week, according to Verde Valley Food Council Director Sandy Kravens.
Cottonwood City Manager Doug Bartosh met with representatives of the group March 1 to determine how the $1 million in liability insurance could be obtained.
“I was attempting to get the city to either waive the request or provide the insurance for us under their liability [policy], but there was no possible way to wiggle out,” Kravens said. “After three- and-a-half years of a great challenge to feed hungry people and create unity in the community, I’m not sure where this is all going to end up.”
The coalition of nonprofits, mostly churches, started serving free hot meals to homeless and needy people in 2007. Since then, it has had to negotiate more than once with governmental officials to keep the service going.
The city raised concerns about the gathering, which operates under park ramadas, because city ordinances require the host of such an event to have liability insurance to protect the city
“As you know, we live in a very litigious society,” Parks and Recreation Director Richard Faust said before the March 1 meeting. “It’s just rampant.”
The issue came to light after the Cottonwood Journal Extra published a story Feb. 9 about the availability of emergency food for the local homeless population.
The story prompted a call to Kravens from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department informing her the group needed to purchase liability insurance just like everybody else who hosts an event at the park, Kravens said.
“I know it was meant to inform the public on a service that is provided, but for the second time in my three-and-a-half years of doing this, I find that an article written by a well- meaning journalist at Larson Newspapers ... has gotten us into hot water,” Kravens wrote in an e-mail.
A previous story about the coalition’s meal service prompted inquiries from Yavapai County Community Health Services, which is charged with inspecting restaurants and other places that serve food to the public. The coalition was able to resolve those concerns after meeting with health officials, she said.
Faust said any one of the churches participating in the food service could add the city as an additional insured to the liability policy it already has in place. There should be no additional cost.
Comprised of several churches, Hearts for the Homeless is one of several organizations serving free hot meals in the Verde Valley. Others include Old Town, Bread of Life and the Lighthouse missions.