Insurance firm rejects Colonial Beach High fire claim
Five months after a fire destroyed the former Colonial Beach High School, the town School Board has not yet reached a settlement with its insurance company.
In fact, the School Board’s insurance company, Virginia Association of Counties Group Self-Insurance Pool, rejected its “proof of loss” claim.
In a recent letter sent by the insurance company’s attorney, VACoRP said if it had known about the building’s “vacancy and condemnation,” it would not have insured the building in the same manner.
There have not been any students in the building since September 2011, when Colonial Beach Building Official Dexter Monroe stated in a letter that the building was unsafe.
“I have determined that the use of the building shall cease until all temporary emergency repairs have been completed,” Monroe said.
However, he gave permission to School Board Chairman Tim Trivett for the school system to use the building for storage, Trivett said.
“We were never told the building was condemned,” Trivett said. “I’ve never seen a sign on the building anywhere saying it could never be utilized for anything.”
At the time of the fire in January, the school building held thousands of dollars’ worth of school materials, said Trivett, including more than 500 cases of copier paper, desks and other supplies used by school administration.
The cause of the fire has not been disclosed, and the state police, which is conducting the fire investigation, did not respond to inquiries.
Currently, the insurance company and the Colonial Beach School Board, represented by Trivett, are at a standoff, but will soon meet.
The reason for the meeting stems from the letter on behalf of VACoRP to the the School Board dated April 25, 2014.
In the letter, obtained by The Free Lance–Star, VACoRP’s attorney Bradford Stallard stated the $2,443,864 claim sought for the building and personal property was incorrect.
“VACoRP does not agree that the replacement cost of the school building that burned is the correct replacement cost. Rather, the replacement cost will be far less,” Stallard wrote.
According to Trivett, VACoRP was aware of the status of the building after a renewal with the insurance company in 2012–2013. However, VACoRP asserts they did not know the condition of the building and would not have insured it if they had known.
“There are substantial questions about the condition, insurability and value of the building as of the date of the renewal and the loss event. All of these issues must be fully explored and until adequately answered, VACORP must reject the proof of loss,” Stallard wrote.
VACoRP also has an issue with the gymnasium, which they said would not be included in the claim because it is a separate, reparable building. However, Trivett does not agree.
“The way I look at it, it’s all one building,” Trivett said. At the time of the fire, the gym held an office occupied by the PE teacher, and athletic equipment.
In order to make things right, Trivett and Tracey Tunstall, director of federal programs for Colonial Beach schools, will provide a deposition in a meeting with Stallard on behalf of VACoRP.
The date for the meeting has not been set.
Trivett insists he and the School Board have been truthful with the insurance company from the beginning and have the paperwork to back it up.
“Our position is that the building was fully insured, that there’s nothing we’ve hidden from the insurance company,” Trivett said.
The Free Lance–Star attempted to contact the insurance company’s lawyer and received the following statement:
“Colonial Beach School Board is a member of VACoRP. We respect the privacy of our members and are unable to make any information available publicly at this time.”
If the insurance money comes through, plans to build a new elementary school will begin.
The fire was so close to the elementary students’ modular classrooms that the displaced students are taking their classes at Oak Grove Baptist Church. They will move to the current high school grounds in September to continue classes in modular units.
Regina Weiss: 540374-5417