The Town of Register’s town hall, a historic former one-room schoolhouse, burned to the ground in early April 2017. GMA—through its GIRMA program—arrived the next day with a check in hand for $11,000 to immediately help the town.
GIRMA also took a hands-on approach to the long-term rebuild—from providing the funding to recommending preferred contractors that have many years of experience working with cities. In this case study, we’ll look at the initial challenge the town faced after the fire, what GIRMA did to help, and the positive results the town experienced after such a major catastrophe.
Likely due to an electrical fire, the City of Register’s town hall burned down on April 9, 2017. Happening on a Sunday between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., luckily no one was working in the building at the time. Originally constructed in 1902 as a one-room schoolhouse and owned by two previous cities, the city had used this town hall building since the mid-1990s. Now, the building was a total loss—with everything destroyed inside.
This fire put the city in a difficult position. Where would they relocate, both temporarily and permanently? And how would they be able to handle the unexpected costs of a rebuild?
As a member of GMA’s GIRMA program, the City of Register called GMA the very next day. Already starting to set up a temporary office in its community center, the town asked for GMA’s help with assessing their contents. Two days after the fire, GMA hand-delivered a check to the city for $11,000 that covered the town hall’s contents after GIRMA inspectors assessed the property damage. If there were any additional contents the town needed to purchase right away, they had the funds ready to go.
Next, GMA asked the city if the town had someone in mind to rebuild the town hall. They didn't, so GIRMA recommended a preferred contractor. To make sure the city felt comfortable, GIRMA brought the contractor to Register to meet with the mayor and talk about rebuilding options.
The mayor pointed out that the old town hall was off Main Street. If the town had to rebuild anyway, the mayor saw an opportunity to build the new town hall right on Main Street. Because the building was a total loss and the coverage applied to this situation, GIRMA could help the town do it.
After Register’s town council approved of the decision to build on Main Street, GMA helped the town take advantage of another fortunate incident. The town already owned a building on Main Street that will most likely be the structure for the new town hall. With the exterior walls of the new town hall existing in this building that they already owned, the town was also in the process of buying a building located adjacent to this new town hall. Once they purchase the adjacent building, the town plans to tear it down so that they don’t have to worry about any adjoining walls with another owner—giving the new town hall a less intrusive look and feel in the new space.
GIRMA made this kind of complex planning and financing possible. Overall, GIRMA worked directly with the city—all the way from the initial assessments to getting the town hall rebuilt. Most insurance companies are not this hands on with cities after cutting a check.
Financially, the Town of Register experienced the immediate benefits of $11,000 to cover the cost of the old town hall’s contents. Long-term, GIRMA’s property coverage allows the town to rebuild a new town hall projected to cost between $120,000 and $130,000. Plus, GIRMA provides cities more property coverage at no additional cost such as code upgrades. This coverage is important to cities when damage occurs to older or historic buildings.
Also, coverage with GIRMA does not include a co-insurance clause where the town may have to pay a share of the claim. Instead, the property coverage is written on a blanket basis to provide broader protection for cities. For example, if there was some reason the building was accidentally undervalued, there would not be a co-insurance penalty under GIRMA. The city would still receive the full replacement cost of the building.
Beyond the finances, the town experienced personalized, immediate help and coverage that ensured the city maintained business continuity with its operations. GIRMA’s small dedicated claims team—who knows how cities work and function—handled the claim every step of the way from short-term needs to long-term planning around the rebuild. With decades of experience, the GIRMA team is experienced working in tandem with each other and providing regular time estimates about how long each step of the process will take.
By contrast, there is no telling who will handle a claim at a typical commercial insurance carrier or what kind of preferred contractor will work with cities. For 30 years, GIRMA has focused only on cities. Cities are encouraged to talk to other cities that use GIRMA and suffered catastrophic loss. Ask how GIRMA handled the incident—from customer service to the competency of the team. And then compare those experiences with traditional insurance companies.