Did Heemeyer do Granby a favor?
Each of the targets of the rampage went through its own unique processes in rebuilding. Some received fair insurance payouts while others didn’t. For some, the insurance dealings were acceptable, for others they were a nightmare. After rebuilding Granby ended up with new and remodeled buildings it hadn’t had before the rampage. But that came with a cost both financial and emotional.
There are those who think that Heemeyer did Granby a favor through the rampage. People jokingly, and some seriously, assert that he carried out a sort of forced urban renewal for a run-down town that needed a facelift. It’s true that Heemeyer did force a type of urban renewal for the town. It’s true the town needed a “face lift.” Heemeyer’s defenders say that his rampage helped Granby get an improved town “for free” because insurance payouts and charity paid for the recovery. It’s as if, they say, the town is really a whole lot better off, thanks to Heemeyer.
It’s true that parts of Granby look much better after the rampage. However, a tally of the real costs and longterm impacts of the rampage, offset by insurance payouts and charitable gifts, shows that Heemeyer succeeded in costing the businesses and people of Granby a lot of money, even with the facelift. Yes, insurance and charitable gifts paid for portions of the replacement of damaged property. But in almost all the cases, victims used the rebuilding as an opportunity to do more than merely replace what they had lost. They took on the added expense of enhancing and expanding what was replaced. These enhancements cost businesses, individuals, taxpayers and the public sector extra money above and beyond any insurance payouts or donations. The added costs, in some cases, are likely to continue until 2025.
Estimating the value of Heemeyer’s damage is an inexact science. For instance, numbers I published in the Sky-Hi News estimated the value of the damage at $7 million. That was higher than an estimate from a year earlier of $6 million. Six years after the rampage, taking into consideration new information, I’ve come up with a figure of $8.7 million for the total value of damages caused by Heemeyer. The main reason for this increase comes from higher estimates of damage to town streets, sidewalks and infrastructure not considered earlier and higher loss amounts for Gambles, the Grand County Library District and Grand County.
I’ve tried to break down the costs into the four categories. First there’s the actual value of the damage caused by the Killdozer. Second, I try to assess the value of that damage that was not reimbursed by insurance or charity. Third, I’ve put a value on all the improvements and upgrades from the rampage that exceeded what was in place before June 4, 2004. I’ll call that “enhancement value.” Finally, I came up with numbers that show the actual costs of the new buildings and improved facilities. This cost figure includes interest on money borrowed to make those improvements. As anyone who’s had a mortgage on a house knows, the cost of paying off the mortgage usually far exceeds the value of the house itself.
Looking at these numbers shows that insurance and charity partially paid to rebuild but that the funds fell short in covering even the costs of the rampage itself. Even more interesting, the enhancements that came about because of the rampage, while better than what the community had before, came with a very real price tag for which the community continues to pay.