Conn. Town Hall Destroyed by Fire Found to be Uninsured

January 5, 2006

A fire on Tuesday destroyed the town of Griswold, Conn.’s historic former Town Hall, which led to the discovery that the $2.1 million insurance policy on the building expired in October.

The fire reduced the structure to a smoldering brick skeleton.

First Selectman Anne Hatfield told the Norwich Bulletin said the insurance problem was the result of “gross negligence” by town officials. Hatfield replaced Paul Brycki in November.

“You don’t drop property from a policy until you sell it,” she said. “This is totally unacceptable.”

Hatfield summoned selectmen Bill Stetson and Brycki to an emergency Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday afternoon to question them about the insurance policy.

Brycki said it was difficult to find a carrier to insure the vacant 100-year-old building, and the insurance was moved to a separate policy from other town properties.

William Donovan, the town’s finance director, said a three-month, $14,000 extension policy was added in July when the previous policy expired, but he said the extension policy with Webster Insurance was never renewed.

Donovan said town officials likely thought the 18,116-square-foot building would change hands within that 90-day period.

Hatfield called for an audit of all municipal priorities and contacted the town attorney about the insurance carrier’s policy in sending expiration notices. Brycki and Donovan said they received no expiration notice.

Hatfield hoped state and federal funding would be available to cover cleanup costs.

The cause of the fire, which was reported at about 4 a.m., remained under investigation.

Town officials had been in the middle of negotiations with a developer who had proposed to create residential units for people older than 55 at the old Town Hall.

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