County Shop fate up in air

Decision whether to condemn structure still pending

— The County Shop's fate still is undecided, with no definite timeline for when a decision whether to condemn the building will be made.

A Nov. 25 fire at the Shop damaged several Moffat County Road and Bridge Department vehicles and totally destroyed the county's road sign inventory, grass seed storage and some heavy tools.

Investigators believe an industrial coffee pot malfunctioned and started the blaze.

Moffat County's insurance company, County Technical Services, has been investigating the damages since then.

So far, that investigation is inconclusive as to whether the building will be condemned for lack of structural support.

"There is no engineer willing to walk in there and stick their neck out and say, 'Yeah, this building's OK,'" Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said.

A structural engineer out of Steamboat Springs is the only person hired by the insurance company to look at the building, Road and Bridge Manager Linda DeRose said.

Factoring in the loss from the building if it were condemned, County Technical's adjuster came back with a figure of more than $150,000 in total damages. That demonstrates a claim large enough that the insurance company reviews the report with its own insurance company, Lexington Insurance Company.

"Once a claim hits a certain amount of money - $150,000 or higher - the insurance company turns it over to excess," County Risk Manager Ute Murray said. "Then the two companies work with the same adjuster, prepare a new report and discuss what their next step is."

In the meantime, County Technical issued a check for $149,500 to help Moffat County maintain its Road and Bridge Department services.

That means the county has been reimbursed for costs to get its road graders and snowplows up and working for wintertime, DeRose said.

The money also will go a long way toward restocking all the inventory contents lost in the fire, she added.

The Moffat County Commission is not set on letting the Shop building go, members said at its Thursday meeting.

"If that steel (the Shop's frame support) isn't damaged, it makes no sense to tear it down and put up a new one," Gray said. "Then we're doing what we always say we hate being done, and spending money just to spend it when there's no cause."

Commissioner Tom Mathers remarked the insurance companies would get a hoot out of a county saying it did not want a brand-new building. But, he saw Gray's point, too.

"I know where you're coming from, I do," Mathers said. "It's a waste of money if that's the case."

Gray said he would push for a second opinion from a different structural engineer if County Technical and Lexington decide to total the Shop.

Commissioner Saed Tayyara disagreed. It's important to have a County Shop built sooner than later, he said, and added it wouldn't do much good to have a Shop the insurance company would not insure.

"I don't want to drag my feet," Tayyara said. "If the insurance company says do it, I want to do it."

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