2018-01-18 / Front Page

Town may qualify for lower flood insurance

Homeowners could save up to 45% under FEMA program
BY TIM RIEL

The state is encouraging the town to enroll in a voluntary initiative of the National Flood Insurance Program that will give homeowners discounted premiums on their policies.

The Community Rating System is an incentive program that benefits municipal management plans that exceed minimal requirements. Depending on a 19-point inspection administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, homeowners could save between 5 and 45 percent annually.

Town Administrator Andy Nota updated the town councilors on this rating system at Tuesday night’s meeting.

His report followed a Dec. 7 visit from Melinda Hopkins, a planner with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. Hopkins met with Town Planner Lisa Bryer, Building Official Chris Costa and Tax Assessor Christine Brochu to ensure the town was meeting its obligations through the National Flood Insurance Program. She gave a glowing assessment following her “thorough review” of all building permits and elevation certificates, reporting that no structures were in violation inside the Special Flood Hazard Area.

“Your community officials are quite familiar with administering regulations for development in the floodplain and each department has awareness and recognizes the need to administer sound judgement in monitoring development,” she concluded in her Jan. 5 report.

The town currently has 225 homeowners with flood insurance policies, accounting for $206,542 in premiums and $66.1 million in coverage. Since 1978, a total of 22 claims and $242,334 have been paid by insurance companies.

“We thought it would have been much more,” Nota said, “but we’re happy it wasn’t.”

According to Councilwoman Mary Meagher, the biggest threats in town is on public property, not on private land. She pointed to Zeek’s Creek on North Road and the Mackerel Cove isthmus.

Nota agreed. “Regardless of the doom and gloom we hear, because of the topography, we’re protected from a lot of the flooding,” he said.

While Hopkins said the town complied with the National Flood Insurance Program, she did recommend the rating system.

According to the FEMA brochure, while the basic program “offers reasonably priced flood insurance in communities that comply with minimum standards for floodplain management,” the Community Rating System recognizes community efforts beyond those minimum standards by reducing insurance premiums for property owners.

It is similar to the private insurance industry’s programs that grade communities on the effectiveness of their fire suppression and building code enforcement. The 19-point inspection includes outreach programs, floodplain mapping, open space preservation, stormwater management and routine maintenance of drainage systems.

“You’re probably already doing many of these activities,” FEMA says, “but to get credit, community officials will need to prepare an application documenting the efforts.”

Nota has directed the town’s staff to conduct a review of all costs and benefits associated with entering this incentive program.

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