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Non-profit city car insurer proposed


Baltimorean Edward Sommerfeldt pays about $1,000 a year to insure one car, but it wouldn't cost that much if he lived in the suburbs.

His 19-year-old son pays $3,000 a year for insurance -- just liability, without collision coverage for his own 1981 Oldsmobile Omni.

"The car only cost $3,000, so basically each year he pays for the car again," said Mr. Sommerfeldt, a Coppin State University computer science professor who lives on Argonne Drive in the city.

But the cost of car insurance for city residents might be lowered under a plan to establish a non-profit company envisioned by a group called the Citywide Insurance Coalition. A coalition consultant outlined the concept yesterday at a City Council hearing on a bill to create a study committee on the matter.

The coalition contends that insurance costs for city residents could be reduced by as much as 25 percent by setting up a non-profit insurance company.

The council chamber was was packed with supporters of the coalition like Mr. Sommerfeldt -- all clamoring for lower insurance costs. They contended that that city residents pay double and sometimes triple the amounts paid by county residents.

The higher rates paid by city residents prompted creation of the coalition two years ago, said its president, A. Robert Kaufman, who noted that it now includes 149 community organizations as members.

The proposed company would not base rates on age, gender, marital status or where a person lives, but on driving records, Mr. Kaufman said. He added that experience would also factor in, with every year of a clean driving record lowering the cost by 10 percent with a maximum reduction of 40 percent.

The company would need a loan of $9.5 million to start, and take seven to 10 years to repay the money, Leslie Ransom, a consultant hired by the coalition to produce a feasibility study, told the council members.

The money could be raised by having Baltimore businesses put upcollateral for the loan, or through a bond issue on the 1992 ballot, coalition members said.

But the funding of the company was a major stumbling block for Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, D-5th.

"We know we have this problem, but funding was not a factor in the study. The funding is a very important part," she said, urging more work by the coalition on dealing with the issue.

But Councilman Lawrence A. Bell, D-4th, said the problem of funding can be included in the issues tackled by the study committee his bill would have the mayor form.

A representative of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke told the council yesterday that he favors establishing the committee, and Councilman Bell noted that the mayor's office had paid about half the $30,000 cost of the coalition's feasibility study.

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