Stalled negotiations moving forward?
Confusion over insurance estimates was central to a commissioners’ workshop Tuesday, where the general feeling – at the least on the county’s part – was, “We’re not getting anything done. Just kind of spinning our wheels.”

That remark from Maintenance Director Mark Wimberley led off a perplexing meeting between adjusters, contractors, more adjusters, county financial staff and a frustrated Judge Carl Thibodeaux.

The repair of county building and properties saw a $300,000 difference between estimates from contractor KBR and adjusters for the Texas Association of Counties (TAC). 

Commissioners dealt with the same issues after Hurricane Rita and found no extra payment issues, so Tuesday’s workshop was a way of publicly raising some eyebrows. Thibodeaux said he regretted going public but felt like private negotiations had stalled.

“We’re not here to point fingers at anybody,” he said.

After some sparring between adjusters and KBR officials, new figures came to light after a lunch recess which knocked the difference down to about $100,000.

“If I can’t get the right numbers I can’t do my job,” Thibodeaux said just before he was handed newer, up-to-date information.

“We’ve got three pieces of paper now. How many pieces of paper you got?”

Larry Cowles, TAC claims managers, offered the county a check for $1.2 million, which commissioners eventually accepted.

However, both sides agreed the county will still be owed more and Tuesday’s payment should not be considered final.

Everybody offered their own discrepancy theories. Wimberley thought there was a difference in the programs used for estimates.

Another speculation was that KBR had figured in subcontractors’ percentages, plus their own percentage – adding up to almost 50 percent. 

KBR representatives disputed the claim. “If we did that, we’d never get any business,” one said.

Still another claims adjuster said problems came in because the county had not had flood insurance before Ike; and there were differences between Rita, primarily a wind storm; and Ike, a water storm.

Speaking for KBR was Patrick Eno, and for TAC were Renee McKinney, TAC claims examiner; Lori Wiggins, TAC field representative. Also speaking were Jim and Jean Baggett, owners of their own San Antonio adjusting firm who work with TAC. KBR stands for Kellogg, Brown and Root. 

“If you hire an interior decorator for your house,” Jim Baggett said, “there are certain things you don’t factor in.”

“Why wouldn’t you?” Thibodeaux asked. “That’s the way it works, at least to me. That’s why we pay insurance premiums every month to repair things the way we want them repaired.”

In the end, Thibodeaux was surprised to learn the adjusters and contractors had not toured the properties at the same time. 

“After Rita, everybody went through at the same time and there was no problem,” he said.

KBR and TAC representatives agreed to tour the areas together along with county-appointed officials or staff. 

Also, Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose, a certified public accountant; and Precinct 4 Commissioner Beamon Minton, who has an insurance background; agreed to meet with adjusters and contractors to help iron-out inconsistencies.