The City of Fort Scott hosted a public meeting for citizens who wished to ask questions and learn more about the storm, which hammered the area with strong winds and hail, damaging homes, businesses and vehicles in the process. Topics addressed included dealing with insurance companies and contractors in getting repairs made.
Codes Manager Brent Crays, who spoke at the meeting, said afterward he felt the gathering was important and "very informative." He said it was beneficial to discuss information and concerns with a large group of people at one time.
Crays said the idea was to keep the meeting "really informal" and "help citizens of Fort Scott get accomplished the things they want to get accomplished." He and City Manager Dave Martin said the meeting was not designed to discuss legal issues or promote particular companies. Crays also said the meeting was not a time for companies to solicit.
Martin said he wants to make sure citizens are protected and know what to expect from both local and out-of-town insurance adjusters and contractors who are drawing business in the area from the storm.
"We are not representing anybody," he said. "We wanted to have a forum to get questions answered because the city and contractors are overwhelmed right now and we have people with expertise in these areas."
Martin added he wants everyone to "work together" during the clean-up and repair process.
"To get this done, we need to work together; it's a long-range project," he said.
One question from a local citizen dealt with choosing a contractor and how it can be determined the company is legitimate and the company and its employees have insurance.
In response, Crays said citizens should make sure contractors have the proper licensing - a solicitor's license and occupational license. Citizens have the right to ask for those credentials, as well as any current liability insurance and workers compensation documents. Citizens can also contact the Better Business Bureau for background and information on companies, he said.
Fort Scott Fire Chief Paul Ballou said in one recent situation, a local contractor solicited an out-of-town company that didn't have the proper credentials. He said citizens who are in doubt should contact City Hall to make sure the contractor is on the city's list.
Another citizen question involved what to do if discrepancies are found in prices obtained for repairs. Brett Parrett, a project coordinator who spoke at the meeting, said costs should be approved through the insurance company.
"Don't do the work until amounts are agreed upon between the contractor and the insurance company," Parrett said.
Crays said Parrett was present at the meeting to answer questions "in regard to the way that people deal with a storm event to the contractor and insurance company, all the way through."
"He was acting on behalf of someone who could answer questions for citizens there and also be independent in the capacity that he was not there to support one particular entity," Crays said.
Another citizen question involved how to get price estimates - without conflict on prices - for roof replacement after speaking with several contractors.
Crays said several citizens have asked this same question. Parrett said contractors should get amounts approved - with all items to complete and price - and this doesn't affect the homeowner's "out-of-pocket expense."
Ballou said the contractor should work directly with the insurance company on price and come up with an agreed-upon amount. He said most contractors can get the price approved directly with the insurance company.
There was some discussion during the meeting about price estimates between companies, as well as insurance fraud. Parrett said it is possible for an insurance company to miss some additional damage during repairs that could cause a difference in price.
For those without insurance or who are underinsured, any loss not covered by insurance is tax deductible, which could help the homeowner who has damages. Parrett said he also recommends the homeowner get a lien waiver signed by the company owner, materials provider and any applicable contractors.
Crays said there are local volunteer groups of long-term disaster recovery teams who are working to determine if there is enough need in Bourbon County to help people who are underinsured or uninsured with repair assistance. These people can contact City Hall at (620) 223-0550 or Crays' office at 223-8118 and give their contact information so it can be passed on to the right people, Crays said.
The process for submitting insurance claims was also laid out for attendees of the meeting.
City Clerk Diane Clay said Wednesday that more than 200 contractors have picked up solicitor's licenses at city hall since the storm and more than 100 have obtained occupational permits. Contractors who go door-to-door to solicit services need both licenses. Clay said most of the licensed contractors are from out-of-state, some from as far as Memphis, Tenn., and Denver, Colo.
Crays said about 150 building permits have been issued since the storm hit. A majority of the work requiring building permits is roofing, glass and window repair and siding repair.
"Those are the biggest ticket items right now and the most common," he said.
Another story on this meeting, including comments from Bourbon County Emergency Manager Terri Coop, will appear in a future edition of the Tribune.