Insurance claim mostly denied for Whitehall High School storm damage

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WHITEHALL, N.Y. (NEWS10) – After silence for the majority of last month, Whitehall Central School District got an answer last week on what kind of help they’ll be getting from insurance on their high school building after flood damage in August.

The answer is: Not as much as they would have hoped. And the district plans to fight it.

The damage to Whitehall High School is complicated. Flooding from a storm on Aug. 24 damaged sewage systems in the school building, which resulted in black septic backup water in every part of the building; an inch in many places, several feet in others.

Superintendent Patrick Dee said that New York Schools Insuring Reciprocal has determined the damage to be caused by flooding, and not by the septic water which flooded the building. That means NYSIR is denying most of the district’s insurance claim.

“We vigorously disagree with this assertion and will continue to discuss this with NYSIR,” said Dee in an email.

Dee said that NYSIR still needs to address parts of the damage that are categorized as “extra and added expense.” In the meantime, the district has been provided an advance of $1 million, which will allow the district to get to work on damage mitigation they have lacked the funds for during the last month.

The black water was removed from the building in late August, thanks to $500,000 in remediation funds NYSIR provided the school at that time. But that money wasn’t enough to begin any of the needed repairs, which included damage to the gymnasium floor, walls in areas mid-renovation, and mold and asbestos issues which developed since the flood.

Now, NYSIR and Whitehall are both waiting for a better look at the cost at hand. Both groups have engineering firms working on reports which will lay out the scope of the damage and how much it will cost to break away and redo new walls, fix floors, get rid of mold, and more. Dee said NYSIR has been working with the district on determining how much damage was caused by the flooding and weather, and how much was created by the black water that sat in the building after.

“NYSIR has offered this to try to come to an agreement on a percentage of the loss that they are willing to cover, which is a step in the right direction,” Dee said.

The reports from both NYSIR and Whitehall Central School District’s engineering firms are expected early this week. A previous estimation performed after the flood put the cost at between $10 and $16 million.

NYSIR did not respond to a request for comment on their decision Monday.

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