Leader Blues

Friday, December 01, 2006

TOP STORY >>Insurer says it will pay district

IN SHORT: Insurance company defends the length of time it is taking to settle with Cabot Junior High North.

By SARA GREENE
Leader deputy managing editor

The insurance company for the Cabot School District defended itself this week against charges it isn’t moving fast enough settling the district’s claim for Cabot Junior High North, that burned to the ground Aug. 10.

“This isn’t a car claim, this isn’t a $200,000 home, this is a multimillion dollar school. A settlement of this magnitude takes time but it shouldn’t be too much long-er,” said Ann Watson, vice president of Great American Insurance Co. of Ohio.
“We feel the timeline this process has taken so far is not unreasonable for a school of this size,” Watson said.

Cabot School District has a blanket policy of $100 million for all the school buildings in the district.

The policy covers full-replacement value of the buildings. Full-replacement value is what it would cost to rebuild any of the buildings at current construction prices.

For example, when it was built Cabot Junior High North cost $9 million. That same building today would cost $14 million to $15 million and that is how much money the district hopes to get from the insurance company.
The district pays $123,000 annually for the coverage from Great American. The policy also covers cost of contents and personal property.

abot School District comptroller Kelly Hayes said he didn’t even want to estimate how much those claims are going to be when they’re filed with Great American.

Watson said Great American representatives were on site immediately but their own examination of the building had to wait until the Cabot Fire Department finished in-vestigating the cause of the fire. Great American’s engineers concluded their study of the building Oct. 19. Now the company’s construction consultant is examining the engineer’s report to see if it is possible to save any of the concrete exterior walls or demolish the entire building.

Cabot School District Super-intendent Frank Holman’s concern is for the well being of students.

“Our community pulled off a miracle after the fire, getting the portables set up and getting students in the classrooms. Great American can rebuild the building or give us the money. We just want them to act in good faith to get our students into quality classrooms,” Holman said.

It is expected to take two years to rebuild Cabot Junior High North. Holman said what money the district has received from the company isn’t enough to make a dent in the costs the district has incurred since the fire.

“They gave a us a $1 million advance after we showed them we spent more than $1.5 million. So far we’ve spent about $2.5 million,” Holman said.

While Watson said the district has not filed a formal dispute with Great American, Holman says the district is running out of patience.

“We’ll have to look at other ways to get the school built back and deal with this legally if we have to,” Holman said.
Ignited by a faulty light fixture, the fire destroyed the 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. It is costing the school district $40,000 per month to rent trailers to house the displaced students.