By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD The Diocese of Springfield is in the same position that many area homeowners find themselves: fighting with an insurance company over claims due to the June 1, 2011 tornado,
Marks Dupont, spokesperson for the diocese, explained to Reminder Publications the diocese has entered into an arbitration process with its carrier, Catholic Mutual, as specified by state statue.
The discussion by a panel of attorneys representing both sides will determine how much funding the diocese will receive to repair and rebuild Cathedral High School and St. Michael Academy Middle School.
The repair of the two structures has been "literally frozen in place," Dupont said.
Dupont said the gap between the award offered by the insurance company and the amount the diocese believes it needs is "very significant."
Dupont added the insurance company has shown "no willingness to reevaluate its assessment." He said that due to the "vast amount of analysis that has been done" the diocese is confident as it enters into these negotiations.
He said the school officials in the diocese have done their "due diligence" in polling parents and teachers about the needs of the two schools in the rebuilding effort, but can only go so far in making plans for the future without the settlement.
He said the diocese has had similar issues previously with insurance companies but "have never seen such obstinance in the past."
"It's like a cloud hanging over head," Dupont said.
Referred in state law as a "reference procedure," the panel is comprised of two members, one nominated by the diocese and one by the insurance company, Catholic Mutual. The panel then select the third member.
The diocese selected John G. Bagley, a partner in the Springfield office of Morrison Mahoney, a Boston based law firm. The insurance company selected Anthony Zelle, a partner in the Boston law firm of Zelle, McDonough & Cohen, LLP. Those two referees selected Paul Finn of Commonwealth Mediation as the third member of the panel.
Hearings will be conducted on Sept. 10, 11, and 21 and Nov. 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8. The diocese should learn the result of the process within a month of the last hearting date.