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WHRHS Hurricane Damage Expected to Top $750,000

Sandy leaves 68-item 'to-do' list for school.

After having a chance to check the entire building, Watchung Hills Regional officials found 68 repairs needed after Hurricane Sandy, repairs expected to total more than $750,000 to fix.

According to school Business Administrator Timothy Stys, the repairs include a damaged wall, heating units and exhaust fans on the school roof, and damage to the floor and interior of the old gym—which had the roof blown off in the storm.

"The known costs right now total $750,000—and that's sure to go higher," Stys told the Watchung Hills Regional Board of Education at Monday's meeting.

The school has already filed the necessary insurance claims for the damage with insurer School Alliance Insurance Fund, which announced Tuesday that Watchung Hills and four other Somerset County schools damaged in the storm would receive expedited settlements to enable repairs to begin quickly.

SAIF and Diploma Joint Insurance Fund recently received $5 million from Lexington Insurance as a down payment for losses that could eventually total $20 million statewide, according to Stephanie Voorhees, SAIF chairwoman.

Voorhees said the final figures will be based on inspections from insurance adjustors, who are checking claims for damaged roofs, solar panels, school equipment and grounds, as well as flood losses and food spoilage. Individual reimbursements will range from $1,000 to $7.5 million, depending on the severity of the claim. 

“The schools desperately need these funds,” Robert Carfagno, chairman of Diploma JIF, said. “This is by far the most catastrophic damage we’ve ever seen in New Jersey. Our hearts go out to all the schools, children, teachers and parents impacted by Sandy. A lot of work needs to be done, and we’re happy to be part of the rebuilding effort.”

Stys said Watchung Hills Regional has also registered for disaster relief with FEMA, which provides grants to schools for expenses not covered by insurance or falling within deductibles (the school has a $1,000 deductible).

Board President suggested the district look into the possibility of obtaining a short-term "bridge" loan to allow some work to begin sooner.

"I'm trying to get some money up front," Stys said. "I can't keep transferring funds from these accounts."

SAIF's expedited settlements will be paid out beginning Dec. 1. 

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