Debbie Rudd, Yampa Valley Pregnancy Center director, sits with a notebook and one of the pens she bought hours after the Country Mall fire that destroyed the center's office. She bought the notebook because she knew she would need to record a lot of phone numbers and the pens - which feature pictures of Winnie the Pooh - because she knew she would need a smile, she said.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Debbie Rudd, Yampa Valley Pregnancy Center director, sits with a notebook and one of the pens she bought hours after the Country Mall fire that destroyed the center's office. She bought the notebook because she knew she would need to record a lot of phone numbers and the pens - which feature pictures of Winnie the Pooh - because she knew she would need a smile, she said.

Up in smoke

Search for nonprofit's client, financial records leads to dead end

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— A notebook lies open on the desk in front of Debbie Rudd, Yampa Valley Pregnancy Center director.

It contains names and numbers of people Rudd has called in an attempt to locate client and financial records she lost more than four months ago in November's Country Mall fire.

The Pregnancy Center was one of several businesses displaced by the blaze, but the fire did more than displace numerous businesses and organizations.

It also could have erased the records that documented the people those groups served, including mothers who used the Pregnancy Center's services.

Confidential client records.

Last year's tax information.

Supplier records, fundraiser participants and other documents testifying to work the Pregnancy Center has done for 25 years.

All missing.

"We're kind of back to square one," she said. "It's so frustrating."

So far, Rudd said she has called area law enforcement and fire rescue officials, the building's owners and agencies outside of the area.

So far, no sign of the missing documents.

"I thought we were getting somewhere," Rudd said, the notebook still open in front of her. "Now, it's like we're taking a step back."

A long road

Rudd's search began as she watched the Country Mall burn on a late November night.

Rudd said the organization had two file cabinets in the building - one containing financial records, the other housing client records.

"We were all wondering if anything could be salvaged," she said.

Later that month, investigators concluded the fire was intentionally set.

Craig Police officers removed items from the site for evidence in the investigation, Craig Police Captain Jerry DeLong said.

But, because of the ongoing arson investigation, DeLong said he could not disclose what items or documents were taken as evidence.

After making inquiries at the Police Department, Rudd turned to Phoenix Investigations, an Englewood-based firm that participated in the investigation.

Don Peak, Phoenix operations manager, said he did not recall speaking to Pregnancy Center officials specifically.

"We talked to lots and lots of businesses (in the mall) about their records," Peak said.

Peak said he told business and organization officials that most of the records in the building had probably been destroyed, adding that no one could re-enter the building until asbestos was removed from the site.

Kingston Environmental Services Inc. has put in a bid to remove the asbestos from the site, said Roy White, the environmental service's western regional manager.

The bid is pending approval from the building's owners, Marvin "Red" Cortner and Veldon "Lop" Behrman, White said.

Rudd said Kingston officials referred her to the building's owners and their insurance company. The Pregnancy Center, which does not have insurance of its own, was covered by the building's insurance, she said.

And that's where the path ended for Rudd.

"I haven't been able to reach" the building's owners, she said. "I didn't know who the insurance company was."

Behrman said he did not recall receiving a call from Rudd. Cortner would not comment on the case.

Continental Divide Insurance Co., a Denver-based firm, insured the building, said Darrell Camilletti, Mountain West Insurance owner.

Mountain West writes insurance claims, Camilletti said, which it then sends to other insurance companies for processing.

Officials at Continental Divide said they were unable to release details about the insurance claim without a policy number.

The Daily Press was unable to attain the claim's policy number. Still, Tom Mortland, Continental Divide claims manager, said he believes the records aren't being held by the company.

"My initial response is (records that were in the building) are not our property," Mortland said. "We don't have the right to affect property."

More than four months have passed since the blaze first took the Country Mall, and Rudd still is looking for answers.

"There seems to be no end to the road at this point," Rudd said.

Moving on

Still, there's a chance Rudd and other Country Mall tenants may have a chance to reclaim some of what they lost in last year's fire.

Once the site has been of cleared of asbestos and if the hazardous material cleanup group grants approval, former occupants of the building might be able to salvage what's left of their records, Behrman said.

"We don't know when that's going to be," he said.

Rudd and others at the Pregnancy Center have continued providing services for area mothers.

It hasn't always been easy, Rudd said.

"My secretary/treasurer has been working frantically to piece together our financial records," she said.

Pregnancy Center workers have re-created client forms. The center temporarily relocated to an auxiliary building belonging to Faith Lutheran Church.

Some things, however, cannot be replaced.

"There's no way we can replicate or replace client records," Rudd said, adding that these records documented when clients had come to the Pregnancy Center.

Rudd hopes to find offices for the Pregnancy Center, she said, but does not know when that wish can become reality.

"We have just rebuilt," she said, adding that the Pregnancy Center has about as many clients now as it did before the fire.

"We count it as a do-over," Rudd said.

Comments

corduroy 6 years, 8 months ago

digital, off-site backups why in this day we still waste so much paper for records is beyond me

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424now 6 years, 8 months ago

We still have some work to do to get all industries into a paperless model. Still it is well worth the effort.

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