The Georgia Department of Insurance released an initial estimate Thursday after Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens visited Adairsville to view the damage himself.
“I saw businesses totally destroyed, I saw convenience stores totally destroyed, I saw manufacturing plants totally destroyed, I saw houses, I saw chicken houses, I saw hay barns destroyed,” Hudgens said. “It was just unbelievable the destruction that this storm did and it’s going to be expensive for all the repairs, but I also saw people coming to other folks’ aid and that was rewarding to see. People saw their neighbors in need and they went to work to help them and that’s exactly what they needed.”
As storm victims dig out of debris and downed trees, insurance claims adjusters have already gone to work. Any residents that have not contacted their insurance agency are urged to do so as soon as possible.
“The first thing they need to do is contact your insurance agent and have them send an adjuster out to estimate the damage and begin the claim damage process,” Hudgens said. “We saw many, many companies represented up there in Adairsville doing what they’re supposed to do, which is servicing their customers. We talked to Farm Bureau, Travelers, Allstate, we saw State Farm folks there on the ground. It’s important they respond to a storm like that.”
As work begins on homes and businesses across the region, Bartow County Building Official Tony Tidwell reminds all contractors and do-it-yourself homeowners that regulations must still be followed in the wake of a storm.
Permits must be obtained for qualifying repair and rebuilding projects, but due to the emergency situation, all residential permit fees have been waived for storm damage repairs.
“All repairs or rebuilds on a commercial site must be permitted. Residential permit requirements will depend on the scope of work being performed,” stated Bartow County building officials in an email to The Daily Tribune News. “Permit fees for residential buildings will be waived as long as the permit is obtained within six months of the damage. After six months, the fees will be back in place. Commercial permits will have permit fees regardless of when the permits are obtained.
“Permitting is absolutely essential as it not only verifies that your contractor has the appropriate business license, but that they are registered and licensed with the state of Georgia. Permitting ensures that the work being performed is inspected and is being performed according to current building code.”
To reduce fraud, the Bartow County Building Inspections Department also is requiring that all contractors doing work in the city of Adairsville be registered with the city. A temporary office is being set up at the vacant truck stop at Ga. Highway 140 and Interestate 75, formerly Patty’s Truckstop. Contractors doing any repair work must register in person at this location before completeing repairs. A registration form will be provided and contractors must present a current year’s business license, a state contractor’s license and necessary E-verify documentation. Specialty contractors, including roofers, landscapers and tree cutters, will not have to submit a contractor’s license.
Upon registration, contractors will be issued an emergency certification card, which must be kept on site as work is performed. For more information, call Bartow County Building Inspections at 770-387-5005, ext. 1.
“Anyone doing work in that area needs to register with the county and we will be setting up a post there in Adairsville, but any work that requires a permit they will have to come to the county office,” Tidwell said. “By having contactors registering with us, we will have a record in case somebody feels like they are being ripped off — we will at least have some information to go on.”
When it comes to choosing a contractor, Allstate Agency Owner Bruce Thompson suggests acting quickly and relying on a local business owner who has a vested interest in retaining a good reputation with local customers.
“The quicker you involve your agent, the quicker we can get an adjuster out and the quicker we can get a contractor out to start working on your roof or your house,” Thompson said. “And if you can’t live in your house, there should be money available for living expenses while you’re displaced.
“You can also ask your agent about finding a contractor, but ultimately that is the homeowner’s decision. Personally, I’m a firm believer in Buy Bartow and there are plenty of good, honest contractors in Bartow that we can help put back to work.”
Officials also urge residents to protect their damaged homes by using tarps and plywood to cover damaged roofs and windows, but keep receipts of all home repair purchases for reimbursement from insurance. If a home is not inhabitable, secure or remove valuables if the building is not a danger to enter.
For more information, questions or concerns, call the Department of Insurance Consumer Services Division at 404-656-2070.