Contractor's Dispute Leaves Couple In Hurricane Damaged Home

Billie Brown recalls the October day as if it was yesterday. "There's the tree right there. It came in my bedroom. I was in there and it missed me about like that," said Brown as she held pictures of the storm damage.

Brown is fortunate to be alive, but she's had a series of unfortunate events. In January the Brown's used all the insurance they had, $50,000 plus $2,000 from FEMA to hire a Magnolia contractor, a neighbor of their daughter's. Brown felt good about hiring him. "He's registered through FEMA, he's got a contractor's license and we just believed him."

But it's turning out to be a costly mistake. The contractor hasn't shown up for three weeks. He finished one room, but bare sheet rock, unfinished electrical work and scaffolding can be found elsewhere. Since the home repairs haven't been made in a timely manner the Browns lost their home insurance. The only plumbing is in a bathroom. Brown stood in front of her bathtub and said, "I have to use this as my dishwasher, my bathtub, my lavatory. Everything I do, this is the way I have to do it right now."

The Browns have visited with a Nacogdoches County Sheriff's deputy and Texas Ranger, but no charges or legal action have been filed. In the meantime they have requested an itemized statement. The contractor responded with a letter claiming changes that Mrs Brown change orders ran costs up. This is something she denies. "He built things like he wanted them. Not like I had asked." The contractor offered to fulfill the original agreement for $4,000 dollars more, ending with 'have a great day'. That's something Brown hasn't seen for months. In between sobs Brown said, "And we've exhausted about what we got. I'm sorry it's just upsetting."

As overwhelming as it is for the Browns the Disaster Relief Council is optimistic East Texans will come thorough with needed help. Director Cindy McReynolds said, "We came together as a collaboration with Red Cross, Salvation Army, Love In the Name of Christ and the Catholic church." Caseworker Sheree Stutzman says the case is the worst they've seen. "We will be going back and calling contractors and asking them to volunteer their services." Any group wanting to offering their services with needed repairs should contact the Nacogdoches Disaster Relief Council at 568-0996.

The entire ordeal has sent Brown into depression. One thing will make her happy again. "I would like to get my house back. It's been since October in dealing with this. I just want my house back."