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City awaits storm damage totals
Cost will be substantial, officials warn
city storm insurance claims
Shown is damage to a ball field at Veterans Memorial Park caused by the July 16 storm. The City of Great Bend is expecting a huge deductible when it receives the final damage totals. - photo by Judy Duryee

The sounds of hammers continue to reverberate around Great Bend and the site of uprooted trees is still common after the July 16 supercell ripped through the area. In the meantime, the City of Great Bend still awaits learning the toll the thunderstorm took on its many far-flung properties scattered around the community.

“Last week, a lot of our staff stayed busy taking (insurance) adjusters out from building to building” to assess the damage, City Administrator Brandon Anderson said, updating the City Council Monday night. “We’re just going through what all of our citizens have gone through. Certainly, that storm was unprecedented.”

“They came first thing Monday morning and they were here until probably mid morning Thursday,” said City Clerk/Finance Officer Shawna Schafer. “We did meet briefly on Wednesday and they did say the majority of our buildings are damaged pretty good,” among these are the Events Center front door all of the structures at the Great Bend Municipal Airport. 

Once a total damage dollar amount is determined, the city will know what its cost will be. Great Bend’s insurance deductible is based on 1% of the total loss.

“I’m hoping they’ll send me numbers, hopefully this week,” she said, noting that was an ambitious target. As of the end of the week, the totals weren’t available

It’s taking so long due to the number of buildings that have to be evaluated, she said. In all, the city has 170 structures that range from buildings to fences to bleachers.

“So it’ll be a big chunk,” said Ward 2 Councilwoman Jolene Biggs, who was an account executive at Insurance Planning and advised the city on insurance matters. “But you have to keep in mind that you didn’t have a huge choice but to go to that deductible.”

The city’s insurance company is Travelers and this marked the first year for the 1% out-of-pocket cost. 

The city did have the option to go with a lower deductible, Biggs said. “But when we talked it through, at the end of the day, that’s going to end up costing you more through the years.”

Travelers did offer what was called a “buy-back option,” Schafer said. After talking with Assistant City Administrator Logan Burns and consulting with Biggs, they decided it wasn’t the right fit.

“The theory was is that (Schafer) was going to set back money every year to kind of offset that when a storm did come,” Biggs said. This would have been the first year for the city to participate in this and there wouldn’t have been enough save to cover the cost anyway. 

“Then the other part of that is, can staff do some of this? Does all of this have to be done now? Biggs said. “I think you’ll have to go just building by building and prioritize, and determine what you need to do.”

“We just need to get those final numbers in and start making those decisions,” Anderson said.

Travelers also provides the city’s vehicle insurance. Schafer said the rolling stock has already been evaluated. Three vehicles were totaled and 22 more will either be repaired or replaced.