Businessman Questions Insurance Payment

Crews clear a lot in downtown Falconer in February after a fire ripped through a building that housed several businesses and apartment units. The owner of the property claims he has not been fully reimbursed by his insurance company based on his policy. P-J file photo

FALCONER — The owner of a building in downtown Falconer that was destroyed in a fire earlier this year claims he has not been properly reimbursed by his now former insurance company.

Brian Nelson, who owned the Falconer Vac Shop, believes he is owed more than $100,000 based on premiums he has made to a locally based insurance company for more than 20 years. The Vac Shop, along with two other businesses and six apartment units at the 15 W. Main St. location, was destroyed in a massive fire Feb. 13. The cause of the blaze was never determined due to the severity of damage and the need for an emergency demolition.

Following the fire, Nelson said a representative from his insurance company — which he wished not to publicly identify — came to the site to appraise the damage and take photographs. He said he received an initial check for $172,000 to help pay for the emergency demolition and debris removal that took place in the days after the blaze.

Though the insurance company has paid on the claim, Nelson said the payment was more than $100,000 less than what his policy should have covered. The longtime Falconer businessman said he was told by his insurance agent that he was “over insured” on the property.

The former building was last appraised six years ago at $287,000 while Nelson said he received about $7,000 in rent from his tenants monthly, all of which he noted went into calculating his annual insurance premium payment.

“I paid the premium every year for 20 years and never once was I told that I was over paying,” Nelson told The Post-Journal. “I think it’s unfair. I never went online and looked for some insurance company out of town or anything like that. I wanted to keep the business right here in town.”

When contacted, the CEO of the insurance company said he was unable to discuss Nelson’s claim.

Upset over the disparity in compensation, Nelson said he has spoken to state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, and also canceled two other policies he had with the company for properties owned in the village.

In the meantime, Nelson said he has “no plans yet” for the empty lot on West Main Street. Not long after February’s fire, he had a trailer delivered to the location to serve as a temporary shop to sell furniture and vacuum supplies. He said he’s waiting to see what the village does with the site of another fire that broke out nearby on March 2017.

At a recent Village Board meeting, Falconer Mayor James Rensel provided an update regarding the March 22, 2017 fire at 42 W. Main St. that was eventually ruled arson. According to WRFA radio, Rensel told the board the village has been working to remove the debris, part of which involves using land fill credits gifted from surrounding municipalities.

According to WRFA, village attorney Greg Peterson said the village was also working with the Chautauqua County Land Bank to help with funding for the debris removal once ownership of the lot was settled. The Land Bank’s assistance is necessary because the property owner reportedly didn’t have adequate insurance to cover the remediation costs, Peterson said.

Jamestown-area resident Jonathan Young is accused of setting fire to the building. He is currently in Chautauqua County Jail following extradiction from Warren County, Pa., and is facing several arson charges for allegedly setting a dozen fires last year.