Leader Blues

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

TOP STORY >>District seeks insurance help

Leader deputy managing editor

With no word yet from Great American Insurance Co. of Ohio on when or how much money the Cabot School District will get to begin rebuilding Cabot Junior High North, Cabot School District Supt. Frank Holman spent Monday and Tuesday in Little Rock asking legislators and state officials what can be done to speed up the settlement process.

The school burned to the ground Aug. 10, just two weeks before the start of school, but the insurance company still hasn’t paid the school district.

“We’re still trying to see what we (legislators) can do to help move the settlement along,” Sen. Shane Broadway, D-Bryant, told The Leader on Tuesday.

Broadway is the chairman of the Academic Facilities Oversight Committee and the Joint Committee on Educa-tional Facili-ties.

“Our goal is to get the children out of the portables as soon as we can,” Broadway said.
Matt DeCample, spokesman with the state attorney general’s office, said the school district hasn’t requested an official opinion in the matter.

“They shared some materials with us through the state Department of Education, but they did not seek an official opinion from this office,” DeCample said.

As The Leader reported last week, until the district knows how much money it will get from its Ohio-based insurance provider, nothing can be done to start the rebuilding of Cabot Junior High North.

All other construction planning hinges on how much money is needed to rebuild the school.

The cost to rebuild Cabot Junior High North has been projected at about $15 million and estimated construction time is two years.

The district was originally told the building was a total loss and a settlement check would be on the way by mid-October.
Since then, Great American has said 90 percent of the walls, the foundation and air conditioning units of the gutted building are usable.

That doesn’t seem right to Brooks Nash, chairman of the Cabot Board of Education’s buildings and grounds committee.
“That’s the craziest thing I ever heard of. I’m sure those walls were weakened by the fire. We can’t put kids in there because it wouldn’t be safe,” Nash said.

“FEMA is more decisive than these folks have been,” Nash said, referring to the Federal Emer-gency Management Agency’s slow response after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast last August.

The fire, started by a faulty light fixture, destroyed the $9 million, eight-year-old Junior High North building and delayed the first day of school five days for ninth graders and 10 days for seventh and eighth graders.

More than 30 trailers housing two classrooms each were set up between the tennis courts and the Cabot Junior High North gym for the 1,200 displaced students.

The trailers cost the district about $40,000 a month.
Great American Insurance did not return reporters’ calls Tuesday.