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
   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.

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.
  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.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

R&B NOTICE: Road Clearing Begins on 03.12.2014

On Thursday, March 13, 2014, Charlotte County Public Works will begin doing right-of-way clearing. This is in preparation of future road work, and for safety issues. This work will include a 3’ recovery area adjacent to the pavement on North Gulf Blvd, but will not include removal of palm trees.  If you have any questions please call Linda Cotherman at 697-0871. 


Yellow Flowering Tabebuia Tree
P.I.E. is  “planting a seed” so to speak in an attempt to beautify the Islands and give a theme identity to our streets.  P.I.E. has identified an easy-to-grow yellow flowering tree called the TABEBUIA.  

This tree can grow as high as 15 to 20 feet and if periodically pruned will fill out to a brilliant yellow tree.  P.I.E. will give each member household one free tree if there is enough interest from the members.  There is only one catch: the tree must be planted in the front yard of the participating member.

If you are a P.I.E. member and would like to participate, please email Dick Sadenwater at sadenwater150@comcast.netJust say “I want a tree” and include your name and email address, so we may contact you when the project is finalized.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Islandscapers Host Native Flower Arrangement Workshop

It was a beautiful day for an outdoor workshop, and Islandscapers Kjell Plotkin, Barbara DeYulio and Marcia Wilkins did not disappoint.
Members gathered at Marcia's home to learn tips on designing outdoor planters and indoor flower arrangements.  Bringing just a vase and scissors, the folks who attended were treated to a host of ingredients to cook up the perfect floral decoration.

Members learned how to mix foliage from their yards with store-bought bouquets to make striking florals in unusual vases.  Lovely arrangements were made in everything from an empty soda can to an old high-heeled shoe.

Kudos to the three hostesses for an amazing morning!

For more photos, go to our online Photo Gallery

Thursday, March 6, 2014

News on the Flood Insurance Changes from Valerie Guenther, Robin Madden

This is important to Islanders! Remember that it needs to pass the Senate without hitches before it is a done deal.  This is a very good Step 1.

The US House of Representatives has just passed H.R. 3370, “The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.”  This bill is expected to go straight to the Senate (versus go to “conference” with the flood bill the US Senate passed previously).  If it passes the Senate without amendment it will then go to President Obama for his signature.  Attached is a synopsis of what the House bill accomplishes:

  • Reinstates Grandfathering - This bill permanently repeals Section 207 of the Biggert-Waters Act, meaning that grandfathering is reinstated. All post-FIRM properties built to code at the time of construction will have protection from rate spikes due to new mapping – for example, if you built to +2 Base Flood Elevation, you stay at +2, regardless of new maps. Also importantly, the grandfathering stays with the property, not the policy.
  • Caps Annual Rate Increases at 15% – This bill decreases FEMA’s authority to raise premiums. The bill prevents FEMA from increasing premiums within a single property class beyond a 15 percent average a year, with an individual cap of eighteen percent a year. Pre Biggert-Waters, the class average cap was 10%. Currently (Post Biggert-Waters), the class average cap is 20%. The bill also requires a 5% minimum annual increase on pre-FIRM primary residence policies that are not at full risk. The updated legislation also states that FEMA shall strive to minimize the number of policies with premium increases that exceed one percent of the total coverage of the policy (e.g., 1% of $250,000 = $2,500).
  • Refunds policyholders who purchased pre-FIRM homes after Biggert-Waters (7/6/12) and were subsequently charged higher rates
  • Permanently Removes the Sales Trigger – This bill removes the policy sales trigger, which allows a purchaser to take advantage of a phase in. The new purchaser is treated the same as the current property owner.
  • Allows for Annual Surcharges - This legislation applies an annual surcharge of $25 for primary residences and $250 for second homes and businesses, until subsidized policies reach full risk rates. All revenue from these assessments would be placed in the NFIP reserve fund, which was established to ensure funds are available for meeting the expected future obligations of the NFIP.
  • Funds the Affordability Study and Mandates Completion – This legislation funds the affordability study required by Biggert-Waters and mandates its completion in two years.
  • Includes the Home Improvement Threshold - This bill returns the “substantial improvement threshold” (i.e. renovations and remodeling) to the historic 50% of a structure’s fair market value level. Under Biggert-Waters, premium increases are triggered when the renovation investments meet 30% of the home’s value.
  • Additional provisions: This legislation includes several other provisions including preserving the basement exception, allowing for payments to be made in monthly installments, and reimbursing policy holders for successful map appeals.
Stay tuned for word on when the US Senate will take up this bill.