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What does it take to get a contractor around here?

Date: 2/6/2012

February 6, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

I’d like to brag a little bit. The Independent Free Papers of America, a large trade group to which Reminder Publications belongs, recently awarded us first prize in its news competition for our coverage of the June 1, 2011 tornado.

We also received two editorial awards for PRIME. I was certainly proud of what we did as a team and it was gratifying to receive that recognition.

The tornado is still very much a part of my life and the lives of many people who lived or worked in its path. The recent visit by Sen. Scott Brown to Milano’s in the South End pointed out how many businesses have bounced back after the storm’s devastation. I know it was part of a campaign swing, but I was glad where he made it.

Not to be a glass half-empty guy, but the senator and any other elected officials should visit homeowners and businesses that have not been able to regain some of what they lost.

I am actually a glass half-full kind of guy. The damage to our home was certainly not as bad as suffered by many of our neighbors and I will be forever grateful the storm zigged instead of zagged. I am getting a bit concerned, actually very concerned, about one thing.

I’ve yet to get more than one contractor to give me a quote on the damage to my home. Talking with other people whose homes were damaged I’ve learned this issue is common.

I’ve been waiting for months for a quote from a well-known business that regularly advertises on television and whose representative assured me that he wouldn’t string me along as other contractors have done and then disappear.

Since he has done just that, I want to lob something at the TV when one of their commercials comes on.

In my neighborhood, there are still homes with the red X painted on them, there are still piles of rubble from destroyed homes and now there are piles of illegally dumped trash on lots that have been cleared. One of the abandoned homes suddenly had all of its windows and doors removed recently and stood open to the elements for days before plywood also finally appeared.

At night I hear the wind whipping the loose sheets of housing wrap on a nearby abandoned home. I still can’t get over the treeless vistas.

The rebuilding of two of the homes on Clark Street in my corner of Springfield has given me some hope. It’s great to see them rise up, but the parcel that separates them is filled with huge piles of tornado debris.

I’ve done little to restore my yard, figuring the contractors who have to fix my roof, windows, back porch and siding will make their own impact on my property.

All I want to do is to find someone who wants the thousands of dollars I’ve received from the insurance company in exchange for making the repairs to my home. Sounds simple, yes?

I’ve been fortunate that my wife and I have received some financial help and I certainly will apply for whatever assistance is available to us.

I know all of the big improvements to Springfield and other communities are still years in the making. In my neighborhood, we need a permanent replacement for the Brookings School. We need a new park because the only one in the neighborhood has been taken up as the site of the temporary Brookings School. These two vital improvements are years away.

In our neighborhood there is now a kind of odd acceptance of how the area now looks. The initial burst of cleaning now seems stalled. The new houses for sale on Central Street near my house worry me: will people be willing to invest in a neighborhood that still looks like the site of a bombing raid?

My hope is to find someone soon who will do the repairs to our home so we can move forward and I know others share this same concern.


I love my Facebook friends who regularly provide me with laughs, assurances and political commentary that causes a private torrent of obscenities in response. I have a suggestion for them and for of you who are on Facebook.

If you’ve “liked” the Reminder Publications Facebook page, then you might be aware we are running a Valentine’s Day contest that will give one of our lucky friends a great $50 gift certificate to Leone’s restaurant.

Come on, you read our ‘papers so be our “friend” or “like” us, whatever the current Facebook lingo is — boy, that sounds a bit junior high now doesn’t it? A simple click could win you $50 to a great eatery.

Let me make you another offer: I’ve got a lot of Republican friends who post remarks about Elizabeth Warren on my own Facebook page. Other friends question Sen. Scott Brown’s record. I’m working hard to arrange sit-downs with both of the candidates, so I would appreciate if post your questions to The Reminder’s Facebook page. Instead of retreading something that has been reposted three million times or calling a person a nasty name, ask a question that might actually shed some light on the candidates.

It’s Facebook’s world and we just live here.

Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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