City of Woodburn Seeks Mediation with Insurer over Burned High School
Two years after the local high school burned, leaving large portions of it damaged and unusable, the city of Woodburn in Oregon has decided to proceed with expensive repairs despite the final settlement with their insurance company not being defined. The fire left much of the school with fire and water damage. Although portions of the school were re-opened for use, students and teachers have been suffering through on bare concrete walls, barricade corridors leading to more damaged areas of the school, and severely cramped conditions.
The city’s insurer, Property and Casualty Coverage for Education (PACE), has not yet approved a final settlement due to a disagreement over how to handle the school’s air ducts and HVAC system. The city insists the ducts must be replaced entirely, while PACE asserts the ducts can be cleaned at a much lower cost. The city has stated it considers replacing the air ducts an issue concerning the health of its students.
After two years of fruitless negotiation, the city has requested the matter be tendered to mediation while it goes ahead with a $1.3 million renovation that includes replacing the ducts. It has stated that it will pay the difference if necessary, and has not ruled out litigation if the mediation process doesn’t yield an acceptable settlement agreement. The renovation will begin when classes let out in June, and will only cover the area of the school still in use and in need of the least work.