By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times
The Board of Supervisors has retained a public appraiser on a contingency basis to assist Webster County with its courthouse fire insurance claim.
Supervisors voted unanimously Friday to enter into a contract with Scott M. Favre Public Adjuster LLC to represent the county in regard to the fire loss at the courthouse that occurred Jan. 17 in Walthall.
The county will pay him the lesser of 10 percent of the entire adjusted claim or 20 percent of new money collected above that already paid by One Beacon Insurance, which is $2.19 million. Board President Pat Cummings was authorized to sign the contract on behalf of the county.
Cummings also signed an “Advice of Representation and Co-payment Notice” to be sent to One Beacon Insurance requesting a certified copy of the county’s policy with the company. It also requests that the insurance company communicate directly with Favre in all matters relating to the claim.
District 5 Supervisor Doug Burgess, who made the motion to contract with Favre, said, “Our main concern is to get the amount that we deserve and get the best building we can get. … We want to build this courthouse back and it not cost the taxpayers one penny.”
Favre, of Kiln, who was present at the meeting, discussed his firm’s past performance with other governmental entities and schools. He said his firm would work with the county to maximize its insurance settlement and consult with the county on grants.
“You’re looking at quantifying the damage, making our argument and getting paid,” he said.
Responding to a comment about his fee being high, Favre said, “Yes, but you’re looking at new monies. Everything we go after we feel like we earn it.”
The website for Favre’s firm states, “Through an array of professional staff, which includes engineers, adjusters, accountants, loss estimators and clerical support, we are expeditious in providing complete property damage recovery through a detailed analytical approach.
“Our understanding of policy language, coupled with our construction knowledge, enables us to be successful in all aspects of the disaster recovery industry.”
Board attorney Buchanan Meek Jr., after reviewing the proposed contract, asked Favre to leave the room while he talked to the supervisors before the matter came to a vote.
“I want you to understand the amount of money you’re obligating to this guy, but I don’t know what your alternatives would be,” Meek told the board during the ensuing discussion without Favre present.
The supervisors agreed that contracting with Favre would be good if he is able to increase the amount of the county’s insurance settlement. Cummings said Favre’s track record is “unbelievable” and Paul Crowley (District 4), citing the firm’s experience in such matters, said “They’re professionals.”
The board approved the motion to contract with Favre after he was brought back in.
During the meeting, Favre and the board discussed the condition of the gutted courthouse. Favre strongly recommended building anew instead of renovating the existing building.
“We’ll be proving that there is no value left there and it is a total loss,” said Favre, who added that his firm’s industrial hygienist and engineer had already looked at the building.
While acknowledging that the Mississippi Landmark has some architectural value, he said, “I think the building’s dead.” Favre also said, “You’re never gonna get the smoke smell out of that building.”
Also Friday, supervisors approved a motion to allow and direct that any member of the board may get as many trash bins as they wish from Golden Triangle Solid Waste by driving to the site near Columbus and retrieving them.
Additionally, they entered into an interlocal agreement with Clay County for the resealing of some roads there. Clay County will reimburse Webster for equipment and labor.
The board recessed until 8:30 a.m. Friday and will meet in the boardroom of the Webster County Schools’ Central Office Building. A budget hearing is set for 10 a.m.