Modesto council OKs hiring firm to help recoup fire losses

The Modesto City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution to hire a private company to help the city recoup its losses from a historic building that burned last month, taking many historical artifacts with it.

The cause of the Oct. 14 fire at the old John Muir schoolhouse on East Morris Avenue remains undetermined.

Mary Akin, the city's risk manager, and James E. Niskanen, director of the Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Department, encouraged the council to consider hiring The Greenspan Co./Adjusters International based on "glowing reports" from other public entities about the company's detailed and professional work.

In Turlock, Akin reported, the city received four times what it had expected to receive after a fire destroyed the city's historic Carnegie Arts Center in November 2005. The money Greenspan will be paid depends on how much the city is compensated. The company would receive 1 percent for the first $4 million paid to the city, 3 percent of $4 million to $6 million, 6 percent of $6 million to $10 million and 7 percent of anything more than $10 million, according to Niskanen.

Several council members questioned why the city considered no other companies for the project. No other companies expressed interest, despite widespread media coverage of the fire, Niskanen said, adding that timing played a role in the decision to focus on Greenspan. The city hopes to get its claim submitted as soon as possible.

Councilwoman Janice Kea-ting said she had received sev-eral phone calls from people who had been disappointed in Greenspan's work.

"It's sad not to be able to rely on our own insurance company whom we pay" to handle claims, Keating said.

Akin said she heard nothing negative from the six people she questioned about Greenspan, including a city manager. In addition to the city of Turlock, Modesto City Schools and local businesses have been satisfied with the company's work, she said.

Niskanen and Akin pointed out that claims on a historic building can be complex and that Greenspan, because of its broad experience, understands the value of older building materials.

Most of the building's bricks will be recycled, Niskanen said. A brick recycling contractor will save 20 pallets of bricks, or 10,000 of them, to use in "future fund-raising efforts."

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at href="mailto:eraguso@modbee.com">eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.