Harford city not covered in storm

Havre de Grace finds its insurance won't pay for Isabel-related claims

November 23, 2003|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Havre de Grace's rebuilding of a popular waterfront promenade has hit a significant snag after the city's insurance company told officials that it would not cover claims relating to Tropical Storm Isabel.

"I haven't given up yet. I have the city's attorneys working on that," said city Department of Public Works Director Arthur Doty.

The city finds itself in the same predicament as many other Maryland households and businesses that learned in Isabel's aftermath that they didn't have proper flood insurance to cover the storm's damage.

The well-known tourist attraction, which city officials have said could cost $2 million to replace, was washed away in the storm surge that followed the September storm.

"We thought the promenade was insured for $1 million, but when we filed the claim, [Local Government Insurance Trust, the insurance company] said, `Oh, no, you don't have a certain endorsement,' and we're still arguing about that," Doty said.

An LGIT adjuster contacted for comment did not return phone calls. But a letter sent to the city late last month noted that the city had purchased optional flood insurance but did not buy an additional endorsement covering properties along the waterfront.

Consequently, Doty said, seven storm-damaged properties from Tydings Park, next to the promenade, to the lock house north of downtown, are each subject to a $500,000 deductible.

And the promenade isn't covered at all, the LGIT letter says.

Although the debris has been cleared, much work remains before the promenade can be rebuilt. The shoreline adjacent to the promenade was battered: The surge bit away about 20 feet of land as it cut across the waterfront, Doty said.

The city has an easement for some sections of the half-mile-long promenade along the base of the shoreline, but the land is part of about 3 acres along the waterfront and Concord Street owned by the Bayou Condominium Association.

Doty and Wayne Bowie, president of the association, said estimates for the shoreline work range from $300,000 to $500,000. The 25 condo owners in the building "don't have the funds to do that," Bowie said.

"It's one that everyone wants to do," Bowie said of the shoreline restoration project.

Joe Klocek, a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman, said that the agency expects to receive the city's project worksheet this week. The worksheet is the document FEMA uses to determine how much it will pay the city for its repair projects.

Harford County has agreed to act as a project manager for the city until it is reimbursed by FEMA, Doty said. The county has paid about $150,000 to the city for demolition work on the promenade and engineering studies, he said.

Without the insurance the city had planned on, officials are on the spot to come up with the 25 percent of repair work not covered by FEMA.

"The city hasn't crossed that bridge yet," Doty said. "We're looking anywhere we can."

John J. O'Neill Jr., director of administration for Harford County government, said that when the boardwalk was built in the 1990s, work was done over several years. That may be the best option now, too, he said.

"That promenade is not going to be back there next year. Period," he said.

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