Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Church finally sees the light of reconstruction
The Daily Astorian

Six months after the violent December storms devastated Jerry Conklin's church off Lewis and Clark Road, reconstruction work has finally begun.

It took until late May for Conklin, the Clatsop County Building Codes Division and Conklin's insurance company to agree on repair costs. But workers from Helligso Construction began hammering away at the damaged building in early June and are expected to finish construction by October.

Conklin said he thinks repairs could cost more than $750,000. The Dec. 2-3 storms ripped through Lewis and Clark Bible Church on Seppa Lane, off Lewis and Clark Road, tilting its walls and tearing off part of and leaving a hole in the northwest corner of the roof. As rain continued to fall, the church sanctuary, kitchen, library and some bathrooms - all underneath the north side of the building - suffered extensive water damage.

The Building Codes Division and Conklin's insurance company both sent engineers to assess the damage, drawing out the repair process to months instead of weeks."If they were just building a new building, it would be faster," said Conklin. "It's just very tedious."Since the disaster, Conklin and his congregation have moved services to the basement, where the Building Codes Division said it would be safe to meet. The church formerly used the space as the children's "play room" and is about half the size of the sanctuary. "We're very excited to have work going on," Conklin said.

After Conklin filed a claim with his insurance company, Church Mutual of Merrill, Wis., in mid-December, the company approved initial work. Helligso Construction crews then began tearing out wet carpet and wet sheet rock ruined from rain damage.

The church met in Lewis and Clark Elementary School for the rest of December, before the basement was approved as a meeting location.

Jim Byerly, the acting building official in the Clatsop County Building Codes Division, and local engineer Bill Marczewski, assessed Conklin's church shortly after it was damaged. But the insurance company's staff disagreed about some of the initial assessments, Byerly said, so it commissioned a second engineer to assess the damage.

"Part of the reason for the delay is waiting for the insurance to get estimates on the work," said Conklin.The insurance company approved 100 percent of the repairs in May, Conklin said. "We appreciate that things are getting done," he said.

Byerly said the Building Codes Division has worked with more than 60 homeowners to help them assess damages."We're helping the homeowners talk with the insurance agents," said Byerly. "It's been a lot of leg work. It's actually been a lot of negotiations with the contractors, the homeowners and insurance agents.

"The Clatsop County Long Term Disaster Recovery Committee, which assembled in the months after the storm, has also been working to help find volunteers to help victims clean up after the disaster, as well as helping victims understand how to work with insurance companies, according to the committee chairwoman Charlene Larsen. Conklin did not contact the committee to help him work with his insurance company, but the committee has close to 60 other cases it is working on.

The parties involved in Conklin's case are developing final estimates for repair costs, which Ryan Helligso of Helligso Construction said should be finalized by the end of this week. Conklin said he hopes the repairs will be done by Oct. 12, when the church celebrates its 50th anniversary. Helligso said he thinks the construction will meet that goal.

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