City of Batavia accepted into flood insurance rating system
The City received notification yesterday from FEMA and the Insurance Services Office (ISO) that it will be accepted into the Community Rating System at a Level 7, becoming the fourth top-ranked community statewide. Beginning Oct. 1, residents and business owners in the City's Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) will receive 15-percent discounts on their flood insurance premiums while those outside the SFHA will receive an additional 5-percent discount on top of already reduced rates.
The total annual savings for residents today stands at $53,048, but Assistant City Manager and CRS Coordinator Gretchen DiFante is quick to point out that cost savings is hardly the sole benefit to being a member of the rating system.
"The purpose of the CRS is to improve flood mitigation efforts in a community," DiFante said. "The results of those efforts are better-informed citizens, enhanced public safety, a reduction to potential damage to property and public infrastructure, avoidance of economic disruption and protection of the environment. In addition, implementing some CRS activities, such as floodplain management planning, can help a community qualify for certain federal assistant programs."
City Manager Jason Molino, who three years ago proposed to City Council that the City set a target for CRS membership, reiterated that the system is an additional part of a comprehensive strategy to improve neighborhoods and the value of City homes.
"These efforts, coupled with our vacant homes strategies, code enforcement measures and focus on collaborative neighborhood efforts help bring together a comprehensive community development approach," Molino said.
While City staff consider the achievement of a Level 7 to be a cause for celebration, they also acknowledge the enormous amount of work on behalf of dozens of people and organizations necessary to maintain that rating and the level of collaboration inherent in ongoing success.
"As a non-coastal community with very little open space, we really had to look to some less-traditional activities to achieve our rating," says DiFante (See Attached Table A-1 for scoring breakdown). "The situation for Batavia was a little like being a runt and having to be creative and make intelligent decisions to catch up with the rest of the group; however we were very fortunate to be able to draw upon an enormous number of local, regional and state-wide resources for help."
DiFante and teammates Captain Bob Fix, Ron Panek and Meg Chilano cite the following individuals/organizations as being instrumental to the City's success:
- David Zorn and his team from the Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council;
- Joe Teresi and Sally Hoyt from Tompkins Insurance Agencies;
- Tom Turnbull from the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce;
- Tim Yeager from Genesee County Emergency Management;
- Lisa Gautieri from Bank of Castile;
- Robert Conrad, executive director of the Richmond Memorial Library;
- A local realtor group that met monthly and included Russ and Gillian Romano and Danielle Torcello from Nothnagle, Lois and Robert Gerace from Realty USA, WNY and Lynn Bezon from Reliant Real Estate;
- Tom Lichtenthal and the rest of the Town of Batavia Engineering Department;
- The Village of Mamaroneck, which shared its entire CRS application;
- John Gauthier, engineer from the Town of Greece;
- Jacob Tysz from Adkins Global;
- Janet Thigpen, Chemung County certified floodplain manager;
- Bill Nechamen, Mary Binder and Karis Manning from the NYS DEC;
- Michael Messerly and staff from the Batavia Daily News who were unrelenting and creative in their efforts at public service creation and communication;
- Mike Pettinella from the Buffalo News and Alecia Kaus from Video News Service, who were eager to communicate key messages to readers and viewers to help gain points;
- Howard Owens from the Batavian who allowed the team to publish photos that painted powerful pictures of the results of flooding;
- Dan Fischer and WBTA who helped with emergency communication tactics and will be an important ongoing voice of emergency communication;
- Felipe Oltramari, Derek Kane and Erin Pence from the Genesee County Planning Department, whose members the CRS team relied heavily on for quality mapping and advice.
DiFante believes it's important that the public understands the number of people and organizations needed to achieve such a success.
"We've all encountered times when organizations fail to work together towards a common goal, and we were amazed at the collaboration at all levels of government and in our community to make the CRS a success," DiFante said. "Not only were our partners in the city, town, county, region and state willing to help — they were all eager to learn, get involved, problem solve and do what needed to be done — even though we were truly learning together and had a few missteps along the way. This process could be a model for how many different organizations can achieve a common goal through focus, collaboration and hard work."
Molino acknowledges that the work has just begun and ongoing activities will be vital to maintaining the City's current level and to researching the readiness and ability to move beyond a Level 7 (something not yet achieved by any New York State community).
"We are all pleased with the benefit to the community thus far and with the cost reduction for our residents, and we're ready to keep improving," Molino said.