Minutes for May 8 Trustees Special Meeting

The meeting convened at 7 p.m. in the library. Present were Carol Wilson, Melissa Strayton (librarian), Rachel Kurland, Cindy Binzen, Curt Albee, Miriam Newman and Marty Frank.

Basement Flooding: Curt told the board that he had sent an email to Chuck Harvey of ServiceMaster, the company dispatched to deal with our flooded basement by the insurance company, notifying him that it will be receiving a letter from the board in response to the $6,581 bill we received. Among other things, the letter: requests clarification of quite a few items on the confusing invoice; notes that the $1,611 charged for the first day is essentially for a two-person crew that showed up unprepared and accomplished next to nothing; assesses charges based on a water level of 4-5 inches when, in fact, our own measurements determined there were 3 inches of water in the basement; omits mention of the basement trim that was mistakenly removed from the site and never returned. The board suggested a few revisions and approved sending the letter. 

Insurance Claim: Curt reported that an adjuster from The Hartford based in Kentucky has rejected our claim several times and sent him copies of sections in our policy that exclude coverage for damage resulting from groundwater intrusion. It is our belief that the water that flooded the basement entered through the bulkhead doors when a substantial amount drained from the roof during a heavy rain and was trapped over the bulkhead because of the accumulation of snow and ice. At the suggestion of Tom Scull, Curt also contacted Regina Werner at the Richards Group, our broker. She spoke with the Kentucky adjuster and the person who visited the library right after the flood and supported our interpretation of its cause. After reading our policy and trying to find something that might buttress our case, she concluded that we won’t be covered. 

Miriam talked to Paul Perkins, who was helpful but not hopeful about prevailing in the insurance dispute. He urged us to take all possible steps short of litigation. One possibility is hiring someone to conduct an an independent assessment of the cause of the flooding. He said we might also consider finding a lawyer to write a strongly worded letter to The Hartford. Rachel will get a copy of our policy if only to help us determine if our claim is being denied because the insurance company rejects our interpretation of the cause of the flood or because the wording of the policy makes it clear that water intrusion through the bulkhead, even if the water came off the roof, falls under the category for which coverage is excluded.

Miriam also reported on the research she did about the complaint process available through the state Department of Financial Regulation, which handles insurance matters. If we pursue that avenue, we would submit a written complaint to the department, which would then solicit a written response from the insurance company. Miriam was not encouraged about obtaining relief through this avenue. The department would not act as an advocate or arbitrator, but instead simply ensure that state laws and regulations are being followed. She was advised that some disputes can be settled only through litigation.

Failed Septic System: Curt reported on a visit by septic engineer Tom Otterman, his son and state engineer Carl Fuller. Otterman said that the state will allow nonprofits to install holding tanks — as happened at the Homestead — but only if a property’s limitations allow no other choice. Their recommendation is to install a tank with an integral pump chamber directly outside the building and pump to a leach field up in the area we recently cleared. Whether that system will be entirely in-ground or will be mounded will depend on the soil depth and distance from ledge and the water table. To determine that, we’ll need to hire someone with an excavator to dig some test holes. Otterman was going to mention our situation to Eric Thorpe, and Curt said he would follow up on that.

Our next meeting will be May 21 at the library at 6 p.m.

Submitted by Marty Frank