Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dressed for the Holidays!



PIE is sponsoring holiday decorations at the beach easements and on the bridge.  Our thanks to Dick & Kathy Sadenwater for draping the holly & taking the photos! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

PIE sends up a flag

On December 1st, a letter from Jim Gordon, President of PIE, was circulated to various known real-estate agents who represent Island properties. Jim sent the letter to Pat Bieneman, who forwarded the following email to the others:

Dear Realtor,

While Palm Island Estates Homeowners Association (PIE) is not taking a position on the subject of signs in the county right-of-ways, we felt an obligation to inform you that many island residents have contacted us to complain about such signs on Palm Island

We just wanted to let you know what we are hearing and advise you of the possibility that some residents may be contacting County code compliance.

Respectfully submitted,
James D. Gordon Jr. , President

Palm Island Estates Homeowners Association

PIE raises a flag

It's old news but good news: on October 29th, 2014, PIE held a flag-raising ceremony at the ferry landing for the new flagpole installed there.  Board member Ray Smith organized the project and subsequent event.  He invited the veterans present to participate in unfurling the flag, and decorated veteran Peter Bieneman helped him raise the flag.  More than 30 Islanders turned out on that beautiful afternoon to enjoy the ceremony. Check out the photos @ the PIE website Photo Gallery.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Roads & Bridges Advisory Committee Report: September Meeting

ED. NOTE: These meeting minutes are DRAFT minutes only.  They will be approved (with amendments, if any) at the October meeting of the committee.



MEETING MINUTES
DON PEDRO & KNIGHTS ISLAND STREET & DRAINAGE MSTU ADVISORY COMMITTEE
September 10,2014 - Regular Meeting
2:00 P.M. - San Casa Conference Room

Attendees: Linda Cotherman, Jeffery Jacobson, and William McNulty

Absent: Timothy Malone (excused) and Donald Milroy (excused)

County: John Elias, Mike Dallenbach, Dawn Harrison and Sandy Wright

Guests: Sign-in sheet attached

The meeting was called to order at 2:00 p.m. A roll call was taken. A quorum was present. 

The minutes from June 4,2014 were unanimously approved as amended.

Citizen Input on Agenda Items Only (3 Minute Limit):
• None

Old Business:
Cut grass, trim weeds, clean debris from Kosinski and Ann Marie Bridge Approaches - Nothing needs to be done. This can be tabled.
Signs for Golf Cart Ordinance - There was discussion posting signs with the ordinance number on them, additionally the Committee requests the 14 age requirement in larger letters. Mr. Elias reported that 2 new signs were recently installed. The committee agreed to wait to order additional signs.
Beach Parking - A map of the new beach parking was distributed for review and discussion. Mr. Logan is checking and will let Ms. Cotherman know if the work on the parking areas can be done in 2 phases (the north and south sections) if the sand roads are not ready. The funding is available to proceed.
Hardscape in the ROW, New Permits - Ms. Cotherman met with County staff regarding new permits to plant in the row. There has been one person that objected to removing items and installed additional items in the ROW. 18 notices were sent requesting removal of items from the ROW; 9 residents removed their items. 2 new people have put in rocks and palm trees without a permit. Code compliance got involved and one owner refused to remove the items. There is a meeting scheduled tomorrow with County staff to discuss how
to move forward.
Contract Prep Road Work - Mr. Elias stated that the contract with Gator is done. General Contracting has been told not to do any further work. That contract will likely be cancelled.

New Business:
Speed Limits - A number of citizens have requested the speed limit reduced on the roads. The request is to post 20mph on the sand roads and 25mph on the paved roads. An ordinance is required for a speed limit change. Emails will be sent out to the public.Ms. Harrison asked for a copy of all responses to be forwarded to her. A sign will be placed as you come on to the island stating "Speed Limit 20mph unless posted". Mr. McNulty made a motion to make the speed limit 20mph on all roads except North Gulf Blvd. which should remain 25 mph; the motion was seconded by Mr. Jacobson and passed unanimously.
New Contract - Ms. Cotherman reported that Mr. Quick suggested a design/builder for the rest of the road work. Mr. Elias met with purchasing and he agrees that they would like to move forward with Mr. Quick's recommendation. The type of work requested by the Committee will determine the new contract. A design/build contractor may have an engineering team on board and it could include comprehensive ROW landscaping/improvements and the removal of hardscapes from ROW. A resident contacted Customer Service requesting the removal of the Australian pine trees in the ROW. The Committee agreed that this should be included in this project along with the yucca plants and rocks.


DON PEDRO & KNIGHTS ISLAND STREET & DRAINAGE MSTU ADVISORY COMMITTEE
September 10, 2014 - Regular Meeting
Page 2

Mr. Elias stated what is rolled into the design/build plan will be critical; with the road work being the primary concern, then some tree removal and possibly some plantings. Mr. Elias stated that M&O will be the project managers over this contract. County staff will deal with the vendor and will be the inspectors over the contractors. Mr. Elias asked for the committee's input as they move through the process. With the new contract being a design and build contract, the confusion that occurred during the last contract should be eliminated. Ms. Cotherman made a motion to give Public Works authorization to move forward with the design/build; the motion was seconded by Mr. McNulty and passed unanimously.

• Mr. Elias stated that grading will be done next week by county staff. M&O will work with the Committee as far as when the grading should be done.

Financials - The reports were distributed for review and discussion.

Open Discussion:
• None

Citizen Input on MSBU Related Items (3 Minute Limit):
• None

The next meeting was previously scheduled for Wednesday November 12,2014 at 2:00 p.m. in the San Casa Conference Room.

The meeting was adjourned at 3:09 p.m.

Submitted by:
Sandy Wright
Public Works Department

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Island Roads: Update from the R&B Advisory Committee Chair

Linda Cotherman had a meeting on 8-5-14 on the island with Commissioner Truex and Dan Quick, Director of Public Works. Dan will attend the next road committee meeting in September. 

At this time, the contractor will finish grading the roads, then we will begin the final phase of road work.  This phase will include the committee working directly with a "construction manager" to produce a scope of services to include additional prep work, placement of shell and sand, and future grading and maintenance. Working with, and having  a "construction manager" reporting directly to the committee will enable us to be very site specific with our requests for future road work and allow for accountability. 

This process will take a number of months to put in place but this extended time frame will ensure that construction and inspections are done correctly and that regular long term maintenance of our roads is provided for. In the meantime, grading can be done as needed until the more permanent solution is finalized.

Online write-up about the Island

Thanks, Jeanne Ryskamp, for sending this along:


My friend sent me this....nice article about our little island.  Jeanne

1 Boat and 4 Islands in 8 Hours: Part Three – Palm Island | Michael Saunders Real Estate Blog
http://www.thesaundersblog.com/1-boat-and-4-islands-in-8-hours-part-three-palm-island/

Monday, July 28, 2014

Local Beaches Declared Critical Habitat

Our thanks to Valerie Guenther and Pat Bienemann for sending this along:

On the Florida Waterfront - Local Beaches Declared Critical Habitat

On Thursday, July 10, 2014 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopted new regulations designating portions of Florida's sandy beaches as "Critical Habitat" for the Loggerhead Sea Turtle.  Local beaches affected by this designation include Longboat Key, Siesta Key, Casey Key, Venice Beaches, Manasota Key, Knight Island, Don Pedro Island, Little Gasparilla Island, and Gasparilla Island.  Beaches of Anna Maria Island and Lido Key were not included.
The direct effect of this designation is that any coastal development requiring federal funding or federal permits, will be reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether or not the proposed project is likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, or destroy or adversely modify the designated critical habitat.  The construction and remodeling of existing residential structures does not require federal permits. Therefore, this recent action should not have any direct effect on the local housing market.  However, federal permits typically are required for beachfront seawalls and beach renourishment.
As sea levels continue to rise, this is a matter that will need to be readdressed sooner than later.  To learn more about coastal construction and Loggerhead Sea Turtles,
check out my website at  www.FLwaterfront.com
Regards,
David M. Levin, Esq.
Waterfront Property & Environmental Law
dlevin@icardmerrill.com
941-833-9244
www.FLwaterfront.com

Icard/Merrill
110 Sullivan Street, Suite 112
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
2033 Main Street, Suite 600
Sarasota, FL 34236

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

You're gonna need a bigger boat.

Shark Week is coming to your TV in August, and one of the programs has a bit of special meaning for us Island old-timers.

Kelly Hayward-Smith is the daughter of John M Hayward, Don Pedro Island pioneer.  Johnny was a commercial airline pilot, and “discovered” the Island while aloft.  In fact, he even picked out his property from above, circling in his plane! He built his home and guest house on a double lot on Bocilla drive, and remained there until he passed several years ago.

Daughter Kelly is a twice Emmy-nominated editor with decades of experience in TV production.  She was editor and post-producer for “Great White Serial Killer” which premiered on Discovery’s Shark Week in 2013.   Now she is editing “Air Jaws: Quest for Colossus" for Shark week 2014. (there may have been a late title change to “Air Jaws: Fin of Fury” so keep a look-out!) Tune in starting Sunday, August 10th.


By the way, Johnny’s Bocilla Drive estate is now inhabited by his stepson, Kris Doubles, and partner.  It’s good to keep the Island ‘all in the family’!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Public hearing for fire service coming up

A notice was posted in the Englewood Sun yesterday regarding a public hearing on July 24th to establish the annual rate for the fire protection MSBU. 

The Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing at the Tringali Recreation Center, 3460 N. Access Road, Englewood FL on 7/24/2014.
According to the ad, "The maximum and proposed schedule of assessment for the Unit is:



Proposed Maximum:
Proposed rate for FY 2014-15



A. Residential Properties


1. Residential homes, apartments, condominiums, mobile homes, barns, etc. per ERU
$509.42
$509.42
2. Residential vacant lots accessible by road, per lot
$216.96
$216.96
3. Residential vacant lots inaccessible by road, per lot
$4.38
$4.38



B. Commercial, Industrial and Institutional Properties


1. Commercial, Industrial and Institutional Properties per Square Foot
$.66
$.66
2. Commercial, Industrial and Institutional Properties, per lot or, where applicable, per acre
$216.96
$216.96



C. Acreage


1. Acreage/parcels that abut or are accessible by road, per acre
$216.96
$216.96
1. Acreage/parcels that do not abut or are not accessible by road, per acre. Not to exceed $3,175.00 per parcel
$4.38
$4.38


Public input will be taken at the hearing.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Proposed rates from Charlotte County for fire protection MSBU

Reprinted from the Englewood Sun:

Charlotte to review Knight-Don Pedro fire rates
By STEVE REILLY
   STAFF WRITER
   MURDOCK — Charlotte County commissioners on Tuesday will consider what to assess Knight and Pedro islanders for fire protection services.
   County staff is proposing island homeowners pay a municipal service benefit unit assessment of $509.42, 66 cents per square-foot for commercial properties and $216.96 for “vacant lot-accessible” property. The commissioners will consider the rates at a 1:30 p.m. budget workshop Tuesday.
   The proposed assessments are slightly lower for homeowners and slightly higher for commercial property owners than what the county proposed in 2011.
   Once county commissioners set a ceiling for the proposed 2014-15 MSBU assessment rate, they do have the option of adopting lower rates at a public hearing in the fall.
   Since 2011, the Englewood Area Fire Control District has provided fire protection on the bridgeless Knight and Don Pedro Islands. The fire district serves the islands from its mainland stations during the operating hours of the Palm Island Transit barges and with volunteer firefighters during the off hours.
   However, that was no longer an acceptable arrangement for Englewood Fire Chief Scott Lane, who wanted to staff the island firehouse with paid professional firefighters around the clock and to make capital improvements on the island firehouse and replace equipment.
   Lane proposed island MSBU assessments of $760.68 per residential unit, and $1.54 per square foot for commercial properties. Islanders then decided to turn to the county for fire protection.
   The islanders had been paying the fire district $140.57 per residential unit, 20 cents per square foot for commercialproperties, $54.47 for vacant lots and $11.81 for other undeveloped properties.
   Originally, the islanders were served by a volunteer fire department, but it folded and islanders sought help from the Englewood fire district and Charlotte County.
   In 2011, former Charlotte County Fire Chief Dennis DiDio recommended staffing the island full time with paid firefighters. He proposed MSBU assessments of $511.88 for residential properties, and 42 cents per square foot for Palm Island Resort and other commercial properties.
   Islanders turned the county down, preferring the more economical rates from the fire district. But now they are ready for the county to provide fire service.
   In February, Bill Peterson, an island resident representing the island’s Fire Study Group, told fire district officials how islanders praised the “top-notch” service they received from the fire district, but they were going to the county for a cost advantage.
   Whatever the assessments, Englewood fire district officials expect to turn over fire protection to the county at the end of the year.
   Email: reilly@sun-herald.com 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Info Central Presents: Q & A with Bill Truex

Bill Truex, County Commissioner with Sally B. Johnson,
Coordinator for Info Central
Islanders gathered on Wednesday April 23rd to listen to Bill Truex give updates and field questions on various Island topics.

He started with some general commentary about how he is trying to balance the County’s responsibilities with the needs and wants of the community.  One new County priority is working to hold people accountable in their departments for the work that is accomplished (or not). Because certain County departments are afraid to take responsibility for past mistakes, he has often been called in to intervene. It was noted that the former director of Public Works is gone, and there is a new Director of Community Development. Another priority is to get Charlotte County Utilities up to par.  Truex mentioned that he was disappointed that the deal to buy surplus water from the County to serve the Island did not work out.

The audience got an update on the Rotonda lawsuit: Charlotte County lost the suit but is now involved in negotiations to set the formula for establishing cost from the 5-year settlement period. After that, a jury trial will set the values for the formula.  Truex acknowledges that the lawsuit will affect the bottom line for CC.  There is pressure on revenues, but the message from the electorate is to NOT increase overall millage rate.  There was a slight increase last year for school safety. He directed the audience to an online download about how our County general tax is distributed.

ROADS: good news

Linda Cotherman, Chair of the R&B Advisory Committee, introduced a start date of May 19th for road work.  Gator Paving is the contractor that won the bid. They will be bringing a large milling machine to the Island to churn remnants of asphalt and marle. They will then shape & define a maximum 18’ travelway in the rights-of-way.

The message was: be prepared. “It’s going to be dirty, dusty, noisy, uncomfortable” Truex said.  Both Bill and Linda pointed out that utility lines will invariably be cut during the process.  The budget for the project was discussed, and it was asked why the large discrepancy between the bids for the project. Basically, the higher bidders had concerns with cutting the utility lines and were afraid of lawsuits. 

It was stated that the roads mil rate for next year will be reduced. Going forward, the Islanders will need to work with the Roads Advisory Committee to figure out what size reserves should be kept in the taxing unit.  Reserves will be needed for road maintenance and bridge maintenance. Following the road improvements, General Contracting has the contract for road maintenance. Complaints were made about the job General did and the material they used on the roads.  “It wasn’t the contractor, it was Public Works” said Truex. He reminded us that the old PW Director is gone now.  “At this point in time, I feel very good about this going forward” he said.  

Some compared down-Island roads to the Resort roads, wondering why the south roads were so much worse.  Constant maintenance, lack of car and truck traffic and other factors keep the Resort roads in better condition. Resort owner Jeff Jacobsen said, “There is no panacea given the roads we have.  You have to rely on continual good maintenance.” Added resident Dennis Johnson: “If you want to help, get everyone that you know to slow down! That will go a long way to stop it.”
Linda spoke about getting more frequent, “on call” as-needed maintenance. The bid process for road maintenance will include the question “How many hours to do you need to respond to a maintenance request?” Hopefully, that will keep the road in good condition after the upgrading.

FIRE/EMS: a pleasant surprise

Charlotte County is in the process of getting ready for the contract takeover on January 1st. One concern was about capital improvements needed to bring the firehouse up to spec. CC is required to maintain all of it's firehouses in comparable quality condition. Truex stated that his goal is NOT to have to do a tear-down.  He is hoping the station will only require updating, such as replacing the stairs and improving the interior.  The audience was told that the funds for these improvements will come out of countywide general funds. This information came from Ray Sandrock, County Administrator.  “Ray told me this twice, so if he didn’t tell me correctly, you can shoot me.”

Truex mentioned that the interim fire chief is now officially the new County fire chief. Her intention, when CC takes over the contract on Jan. 1, is to place at least one fire/medic on every team. Rick Burnett mentioned that this is important because last year we had 36 medical calls and only 4 fire calls. Since paramedics are part of the County’s medical services, some portion of the salaries/wages for Island coverage may be absorbed by the County EMS tax. This would be a cost-savings to our MSBU.

Charlotte County is still working on the new MSBU rate. The Finance Dept. wants the rate finalized by May 1st.  According to Truex, the Board is very aware of public safety, while trying to get more life out of the existing fire equipment to save money. The life expectancy remaining is about 2-3 years, if there is to be any trade-in value left in the vehicles.  When asked why the  EFD cost estimate for fire protection was so high compared to CC, Truex told the audience that “they don’t have an option to go into other funds to cover Island needs.  That’s why they would have to pay for everything (from the MSBU funds).”

PLACIDA ROAD: moving along
The bike path plans are still in the drawing stages.  There were issues with the piping & retention with Lemon Bay Conservancy property that they’re working out.  The project should start sometime in the fall, maybe in 4 months or so. They will also be starting Gasparilla Road improvements, but Truex indicated that he doesn't want them both torn up at the same time. These plans are for improvements from Rotonda W. Blvd. to the Boca Causeway, and they include a turn lane at Lemon Bay Golf Course, a decel lane for Bantry Bay, lane improvements at Panama Blvd. intersection, and widening & resurfacing the whole road.

WINCHESTER BLVD.: life in the slow lane
So far, CC has accomplished the tear down and the debris burns. Utilities are being moved and they are now working on the intersection at 776.  Until there’s a final design, they won’t know what the mast size for the traffic lights is going to be (it could be pretty big). The current intersection at Winchester and  776 is a very bad intersection; it’s a mess without a traffic light. People are impatient making the turns a hazard. Truex expects it to be around 18 months to completion. "it’s going to be a rough summer for road work."

STUMP PASS: steady as she goes

The coastal management project will begin with a rock groin, at the south end of the State Park on Manasota Key. This is the structure that the state has determined will reduce the cost of dredging. The Pass will still require maintenance dredging, but not as frequently. From there, the experts will be studying the down-drift effects of the rock groin, and what it does to the downstream beaches. “If we see down-drift effects, they’re going to have to do something about them” said Truex, indicating that they will look for solutions after the groin goes in.

The type of permit that the County will have is an ‘open’ permit so they can take the project in stages: put in a rock jetty at the park, then see what needs to be done next. Plans include the possibility of 2-3 "T-groins" at the north end of the beach. All of the rock groins will be seen above the water line. It will take time and flexibility to resolve the beachfront issues. According to Truex, “That project is going to be an ever-ongoing thing.” 

Truex met with Rep. Albritton to discuss legislation to get funding. “There’s multiple ways to pay for this.” including federal (EPA), State (WCIND, SWFWMD) and local taxes. Charlotte County will be asking for funding from the state for the project.  There are 4 county-wide dredging projects going on right now.  If you want info about dredging, contact Chuck Mopps at CC. 


 MISC

Several topics were briefly touched on, including FEMA’s reinterpretation of “accretion” on the beach, and how a coastal “A” zone will be treated like a “V” zone. Also, considering that the 1% sales tax is about to sunset, Truex ran through a list of projects that will be budgeting through the “penny tax” if it is approved.



Friday, April 25, 2014

Announcement from Charlotte County Public Works


 April 22, 2014
Contact:  Linda Cotherman, Chair
       Don Pedro and Knights Island Street and Drainage
               MSTU Advisory Committee
Phone:    941.697.0871

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

Right-of-Way Work

Please be advised that the Charlotte County Public Works OR 85-43 and Muni Code(s) 3-6-21 require that all work done in the County rights-of-way require a permit from the Charlotte County Engineering, Building and/or Zoning Departments. This work includes, but is not limited to, planting of trees and shrubs, change in ground elevation and installation of signs or any structure or topographic feature.

The Island “Roads and Bridges” committee (appointed by Charlotte County Board of Commissioners) has been working with the Charlotte County Public Works Department to better maintain our roads.

A Public Works crew has been on the island clearing vegetation in anticipation of future road work.

Charlotte County personnel have observed numerous violations of county ordinances pertaining to private structures placed in the rights-of-way.  In order to facilitate safety and road maintenance, it is desirable for a “recovery area” along the roads to be free from non-permitted vegetation, and hardscape (rocks, pilings, fence, signs, etc.) to accommodate pedestrians, bikes, strollers and golf carts.  If you could remove such items from your right-of-way yourself, it would be appreciated, as this would be the fastest and most economical way to handle it.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Linda Cotherman at 941.697.0871.

Sandy Wright
Charlotte County Public Works Department
7000 Florida Street
Punta Gorda, Florida 33950
Phone: 941.575.3692
Fax: 941.637.9265
E-Mail: sandra.wright@charlottefl.com
www.CharlotteCountyFL.gov
“To Exceed Expectations in the Delivery of Public Services”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Superboat races at Manasota Key










by Bill Dunson
Well the sounds of the monster offshore racing boats are still thundering in the background just across the road from our house on Manasota Key. It has been an exciting day for observers of this new phenomenon in this area. There were certainly large numbers of fans watching from the beaches all along the lower key and soaking up the aura of the bizarre, exciting and sometimes baffling scene that is super fast powerboat racing. One thing for sure it is a new sensory experience watching and listening to the powerful 
rumbling of these amazing boats and thrilling to their almost unbelievable
speeds across a picture perfect calm blue sea under a few puffy white clouds. 



















Ed. Note: Check out Bill's nature blog, "The Island's Better Nature". It's terrific!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jerry D. Jones (1950-2014)

Jerry Jones at the 2012 F.A.R.T.
Tribute & Reunion Party
We were saddened to hear about the passing of Jerry Jones, long-time Island resident and former Island F.A.R.T. (Fire & Rescue Team) volunteer.  Jerry built his unique, barn-style home on Kettle Harbor Drive in 1990 on a lot that he purchased ten years before. He lived there with his wife Joanie until her passing two years ago.
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, April 9th at 11:00 AM at:
West Coast Church
240 Pine St
Englewood, FL 34223 
All are welcome to attend.

Friday, March 28, 2014

From the Island Fire & EMS Study Group: an article in the Sun

Charlotte County to take over island fire duties from Englewood in 2015
By STEVE REILLY
   STAFF WRITER
   ENGLEWOOD — After receiving fire protection from the Englewood Area Fire Control District for the bridgeless Palm Island Resort, along with Knight and Don Pedro islands, property owners will be turning to Charlotte County Fire/EMS in 2015 for the service.
   Englewood Fire Chief Scott Lane told Englewood fire commissioners Wednesday that Charlotte County Fire and Public Safety Interim Chief Marianne Taylor intends to take over the fire protection in January 2015.
   “At this time, Charlotte County does not agree to the (fire district’s) request to terminate the agreement on April 1, 2014, and expects the district to honor the terms of the agreement, and (to) continue to provide the fire and rescue services for (the barrier islands),” Taylor stated in a letter to Lane, dated March 10. “If the county is in a position to assume fire/rescue services to the island earlier than (Dec. 31), you will be notified in writing.”
   Volunteer firefighters provided fire protection on the islands for decades. Charlotte County paid for and maintained the island’s fire station and equipment through a Barrier Island Fire Services Municipal Service Benefit Unit. That all ended in 2011, when the volunteer department folded.
   To replace the volunteers, former Charlotte County fire chief Dennis DiDio proposed in 2011 manning the islands with paid firefighters 24/7. DiDio proposed MSBU assessments of $511.88 for residential properties, and 42 cents per square foot for Palm Island Resort and other commercial properties.
   In 2011, former Englewood fire chief Brian Gorski offered the islanders a more palatable alternative. Gorski’s proposal called for the fire district to serve the islands from its mainland stations during the operational hours of the Palm Island Transit barges. During the off hours, two of the fire district’s trained volunteers man the island station. That arrangement proved far more economical for the islanders. Their present MSBU assessments are $140.57 per residential unit, and 20 cents per square foot for commercial properties.
   Charlotte County, however, continued to provide ambulance and emergency medical service to islanders.
   Lane, however, has stated he feels that arrangement bears liabilities for the fire district, and proposed providing 24/7 service with professional firefighters. He also recommended a $1.03 million budget that also included capital improvements to the island station and equipment replacement.
   Earlier this year, Lane proposed island assessments of $760.68 per residential unit, and $1.54 per square foot for commercial properties. Islanders then decided to turn to the county for fire protection.
   Charlotte County staff has not yet recalculated MSBU fire-protection assessment rates for 2015. However County Budget Director Gordon Burger said he doesn’t expect those numbers to be much different than what DiDio originally proposed.
   Email: reilly@sun-herald.com 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

INFO CENTRAL PRESENTS: Claire Jubb, Charlotte County's Flood Insurance and Community Rating System Specialist

Claire Jubb, speaker (L) and Sally B. Johnson of Info Central
A talk about flood insurance legislation could have been a snoozefest, but Claire Jubb wowed the audience Wednesday, March 19th with a fascinating presentation on the changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program.

She began with a historical overview of flood management, and the shift in emphasis from controlling water on floodplains to reducing flood losses. 

Prior to 1968, there was no flood insurance available and homeowners’ insurance did not cover flood risk. So, in 1968 the NFIP began as an agreement between local communities and FEMA, to regulate development in floodplain in exchange for assistance with identifying areas at risk and providing flood insurance.

Risk areas were mapped as the Special Flood Hazard Area, defined as where there is a 1% chance of a flood to a specific level happening in any year.  These areas are identified by letters: A= risk of sheet flow, V=risk of sheet flow plus wave action of more than 3’.

[An informative explanation from Ms. Jubb on why the ‘breakaway’ regs for structures under our homes: water stopped by an impediment speeds up when it goes around it. This increases the scouring & damage on your home and other homes. Hence, the ‘breakaway’ mitigation.]

Claire then reviewed some important factors in RATES:
  1. Rates are set by the NFIP. This is a national rate for flood insurance premiums.
  2. Rates depend upon the elevation of the structure, whether it is built higher than or lower than base flood elevation.
  3. Another factor is, was it in compliance with flood regulations when it was built? In Charlotte County these regulations did not exist before 1976
  4. NFIP provides a limited level of coverage: maximum $250K for the structure and $100K for the contents.
  5. Rate can be affected by the deductible: you can now opt for a deductible up to $10K.
  6. Flood insurance is required with a federally backed mortgage.
So why the big changes in flood insurance? Because the NFIP is heavily in debt. Due to a combination of huge storm damage payouts, starting with Hurricane Katrina, and the subsidized flood insurance premiums provided for pre-FIRM (built before 1975) structures, the premium inflow was not covering losses.  

THE BIGGERT-WATERS ACT OF 2012 was designed to help make it solvent again.  Since the legislation rolled out in stages, the impact wasn’t felt until October of 2013.  The biggest impact was the 25% per year increase in premiums until the policy reached actuarial rates.  This affected structures built before 1975, with an elevation below base flood. The lower the structure, the higher the premium.

The immediately impacted structures are:
  1. Non-primary residences, including secondary residences, rental and investment properties. FEMA defines a primary residence as a home lived in by the owner or spouse more than 80% of the year.  This home cannot be rented. You will be asked to declare this policy for a primary residence on the application form.
  2. Non-residential structures, including commercial and investment properties.
  3. Severe repetitive loss structures: structure with a history of flooding, general 2 or more flood events.
Florida was particularly hard-hit by B-W2012.  The state has nearly 40% of all flood policies, and pays 30% of the insurance premiums, but has collected on only 7% of the claims. In addition, the average home price of pre-FIRM houses is $122K, which made the premium increases overwhelming to most homeowners.

THE MENENDEZ-GRIMM ACT OF 2013 repeals certain increases for primary residence properties.  The most important elements are:
  1. New purchasers for primary residences can assume the previous owners flood insurance policy.
  2. Restoration of grandfathering: if your home was built (after 1975) in compliance with the flood insurance maps at the time, you will not see the series of 25% increases come into effect.
  3. Limits annual premium increases to no more than 18% per year.
  4. Strives to keep maximum premium rate to no more than 1% of the insured value of the property (max $2500/year)
  5. Requires FEMA to refund premiums that were paid under the B-W Act increases, but they were given 8 months to come up with a way to pay the refunds.
  6. FEMA is allowed an annual premium surcharge of $25/year per residential & $250/yr per commercial property effective 10/2015. This will be applied to the FEMA reserves.
  7. Allows for a monthly installment plan outside of an escrow account to pay the premium.
  8. Adds an optional higher deductible (presently maximum of $5K) up to $10k, but on mortgaged properties the lender must agree.
  9. Accounts for flood mitigation by giving credit for improvements that help to minimize losses. 
  10. Reinstates the 50% rule (substantial improvement limit) which had been reduced to 30% by B-W2012. If you remodel more than 50% of the value of your home you must bring it into full compliance.
  11. Allows FEMA to request a 5% increase on top of the 18% annual cap for the catastrophic reserve fund.
  12. FEMA must conduct an affordability study within 18 months, and was given 2.5 million to conduct the study.
WHAT TO DO:
  1. Talk to your insurance agent. Each policy must be reviewed individually for how the new regs impact your premiums. Claire suggested that if you are looking for what your long-out rates might be, make sure you have your base elevation, your flood zone letter (A, V) and the height of the first floor of your house.
  2. Get an elevation certificate for an ACCURATE insurance quote. Without it, you are getting a worst-case estimate.  If your home was built after 1983, Claire can get a copy from the County files. (before 1983 might be sketchy, but you can contact her anyway) It costs $150-$300 to get a flood elevation certificate.
  3. Consider remodeling or rebuilding for compliance. Talk to the County Mitigation staff – contact information is at the end of the powerpoint handout.
Ms. Jubb then spoke about the point-based rating system, whereby counties and local communities get discounts on flood insurance policies in their areas.  Much of this has to do with the regulation of development in the floodplains. Charlotte County mitigation programs like demolishing structures in flood-prone areas, and buying land to dedicate to open space, help increase the discounts given on flood policies here. In fact, CC is one of 16 counties in FL with a “Class 5” distinction, earning a 25% CRS discount.

Claire ended her presentation with a description of mitigation grants available to homeowners to help them upgrade their homes to comply with flood regs.  These are competitive grants that are disbursed by the County based on a cost-benefit analysis. For more information, you can contact Claire at the County.

From our membership:
"What a good presentation!  Thanks to PIE for bringing it to us."
Jeanne Ryskamp

Read more about it:
Presentation Handout (.PDF of Powerpoint presentation plus summary of changes to the National Flood Insurance Program)
Presentation Powerpoint (.PPTX only, for use with Powerpoint software)
Article with summary of changes to the NFIP: “Senate Approves Bill to Curb Flood Insurance Hikes” March 13, 2014 from Insurance Journal online.