BY GLENN PUIT
TRAVERSE CITY — Angry homeowners whose properties were damaged by Boardman River flooding unloaded their frustrations on leaders of the Brown Bridge Dam removal project Thursday night at an acrimonious public meeting.
Several homeowners said they are still waiting for insurance reimbursements for property damage to their homes a month after a mishap during the Brown Bridge Dam removal sent a wave of water into the Boardman River, swamping 53 properties. Pete Prouty, who owns a home on East River Road, said he suffered severe damage to his residence from floodwaters, yet insurance adjusters are haggling with him over "depreciated values" for the items in his home that need replacing.
Insurance carriers, he said, want to pay for items to be replaced at their depreciated price versus what it would cost to buy them new.
"When people start talking about depreciated values (for reimbursement,)....that gets me pretty upset," Prouty said.
Homeowner David Hoyt said he's having trouble even getting insurance adjusters on the phone because they are now dealing with claims from Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast.
"We are being completely disregarded," Hoyt said.
Hoyt said $25,000 to $30,000 in damage was done to his residence by the flooding and he's yet to be reimbursed. He's concerned about the long-term value of his home, which he believes will be impacted by the removal of the Brown Bridge Dam and the threat of long-term flooding.
"It's very frustrating," he said.
The meeting became so contentious at one point that three Traverse City police officers appeared about 40 minutes into the gathering at the Grand Traverse Civic Center.
Officials with the Boardman River Dams Implementation Team repeatedly asked for patience and understanding from the crowd but found little. A small handful of people in attendance repeatedly interrupted speakers from the team. One woman yelled out, "Who is it who has given you the authority?" Another yelled, "Let's stop the project until we know what happened!"
Yet another woman stood up and asked those in the audience to "please just give these people the courtesy...so we can listen to what they have to say."
An investigation into what caused the breach of a dewatering structure at the dam is ongoing. Officials say they still plan to remove two more dams on the river in a long-term project to restore the river to its natural state.
Don Chandler is an engineer with the firm AMEC, which is supervising the Brown Bridge Dam removal. He said the company is doing everything it can to try and reimburse homeowners as soon as possible, including putting pressure on the insurance companies involved.
"I know we've got a lot of people here frustrated in getting the money flowing to get things fixed," Chandler said. "We certainly appreciate your patience."
Chuck Lombardo, a spokesman for the Boardman River Dams Implementation Team, said the team will continue to do everything possible to address property owners concerns.