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flood insurance program

March 2, 2018 - 9:04am

Press release:

The City of Batavia has received notification from FEMA and the Insurance Services Office that it has met recertification requirements for its continued participation in the Community Rating System. The City will maintain its current Level 7 rating, according to Fire Chief and CRS Coordinator Stefano Napolitano.

This rating will enable those residents and business owners in the City's Special Flood Hazard Area to continue to receive 15-percent discounts on their flood insurance premiums, while those outside the SFHP will receive an additional 5-percent discount on top of already reduced rates.

In addition to the financial benefit, the CRS aids in improving community flood mitigation efforts. These include: better informed citizens; enhanced public safety, reducing potential damage to property and public infrastructure; avoidance of economic disruption; and protection of the environment.

Also, implementing some CRS activities such as floodplain management planning can assist a community in qualifying for certain Federal assistance programs.

This recertification maintains the ground work previously laid out by City management and continues to be an integral part of the City's comprehensive strategy to improve neighborhoods and the value of City properties.

Chief Napolitano acknowleged that there was a tremendous amount of work to recertify and maintain the Level 7 rating and wanted to acknowledge the efforts of all members of the CRS recertification team, which included himself along with: Fire Department Capt. Bob Fix; Floodplain Manager Ron Panek; Inspection Bureau Secretary Meg Chilano and Confidential Secretary Lisa Casey.

Napolitano also wanted to acknowledge Erin Pence from the GC Planning Department, who assisted with recertification process with mapping services.

Lastly, Napolitano points out that the annual CRS recertification process is ongoing and continual. Throughout the year, there will be activities which are vital to maintaining the City's current level, but also involves researching the readiness and ability to move beyon a Level 7.

April 22, 2016 - 9:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in flood insurance program, batavia, news.

Press release:

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.

April 8, 2015 - 4:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, flood insurance program.

After a decade of disastrous hurricanes and floods along the eastern and southern coasts of the United States, FEMA is flooded in debt, and that's going to lead to higher insurance costs for Batavia residents.

Assistant City Manager Gretchen DiFante said that as many as 300 local property owners are being hit with flood insurance premium increases of up to 18 percent, plus a new fee designed to circumvent a Congress-imposed cap on rate increases.

The good news is, the city can help, DiFante said.

Properties in the city's designated floodplains that were developed prior to 1982 may be eligible for a reevaluation of their flood status by going through a process that will yield flood elevation certificates.

In some cases, the properties may be taken out of the 100-year floodplain, significantly reducing insurance costs for those property owners.

The city is also working with FEMA on getting a community rating, which could reduce local premium rates across the board.

The number of points -- more points, lower rates -- that will be awarded to the city won't be know until mid-June, a month after a scheduled FEMA audit of the city's flood preparation efforts.

FEMA is $24 billion in debt after paying out on insurance policies in flood-ravaged areas of the U.S.

Many of the policies were subsidized by FEMA, which just meant reserve funds for payouts were even lower than if not subsidized, and the subsidies have just encouraged development in flood-prone areas.

In response, Congress authorized rate increases, and then pulled back after fielding constituent complaints, capping the rate increase to 18 percent.

FEMA subsequently came up with the $25 annual surcharge, but that surcharge is $250 for multi-dwelling properties and properties that are not owner-occupied.

The most immediate form of insurance relief for local property owners is getting an elevation certificate.

The engineering study costs money, but there are grants available through the city for low- and moderate-income propery owners.

While subsidized policies -- which property owners without the certificates are usually receive -- cost less in theory, the certificate can still mean lower rates.

If the certification process doesn't lower rates, insurance companies are legally bound to offer the lower rate -- subsidized or tied to the certificate, whichever is lower.

"The only risk is the cost of having it done because it may not move you at all, but it's not going to go up," DiFante said.

If you have questions about your flood insurance, call Gretchen DiFante at (585) 345-6330.

Our news partner WBTA contributed to this report.

September 9, 2014 - 12:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Gretchen DiFante, flood insurance program.

Here's what residents living in flood-prone areas in Batavia need to know: The city can help lower the cost of flood insurance, but nothing can stop it from going up.

Assistant City Manager Gretchen DiFante, hired primarily to help the city get a comprehensive flood insurance program going, said the cap on annual insurance-rate increases is 18 percent (it used to be 25 percent). If the city's program works as intended, the best result would be 15-percent lower premiums for local homeowners.

Rates will rise, she explained after the Monday City Council meeting, until an insurance company reaches 100-percent coverage for an individual property according to its actuarial tables.

"Not everybody is going to go up and not everybody will go up at the same rate," DiFante told the council.

This is an important issue, she said, because the rising cost of flood insurance will make it harder and harder for property owners to sell their homes. That leads to more sub-par rentals, more abandoned houses, higher crime and less tax money for local schools.

"When you look at the map, you have to realize, this is more than a thousand homeowners who are not going to be able to sell their homes if something doesn't change," DiFante said.

"I don't care where you live, it ought to be a concern," she added. "If it's not, it should be."

DiFante's job is to work with FEMA to get the city into community rating system (CRS) of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Cities accepted into the program get class ratings. A Class 7 community gets a 5-percent reduction in flood insurance rates, and a Class 9 community gets 15 percent.

There are two main components to the ratings:

  • Reduce a community's flood exposure through mitigation activities;
  • Obtain individual flood insurance reductions for residents in flood map areas.

But the process is far more complex than those two simple points, DiFante said.

"It is a daunting process, which is why I think there's only 27 communities in New York who have taken this on," DiFante said. "There's so much information you have to put together and in such a specific way you have to do it. Then every time you've got different reps from ISO who come in, everybody's kind of got their own way interpreting what you've done."

On a broad scale, the city will need to review zoning and building codes and make adjustments to mitigating flooding issues.

On an individual homeowner basis, the city can provide guidance and perhaps secure grants for elevation certificates that could lift some homes out of the flood map, or improve an individual property's rating.

The elevation certificate process can also provide property owners with guidance on improving their property from a flood exposure perspective.

It will be at least 16 months before the city realizes any benefits from its flood insurance efforts.

Red areas are floodplain.

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