The ferocity of nature’s storms can’t be controlled by our municipal governments, but the plans that towns put into place can help keep them from killing people and destroying property.
That’s the theory behind the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System, which gives discounts on flood insurance to residents of towns that take a proactive approach to storm management.
Southampton recently joined the program and, this week, East Hampton’s town government is also planning to join the program, while Riverhead, Southold and Shelter Island do not participate.
Natural Resources environmental technician John Botos, who also serves as the executive director of the sustainability-focused Peconic Institute, presented the program to the East Hampton Town Board at a work session Tuesday.
Mr. Botos said communities in the program implement public awareness campaigns and measures to reduce the risk of flooding. They are then rated on a scale of 1 to 10 based on what they’ve done to reduce risk. Residents of communities with a rating of 1 receive a whopping 45 percent discount on their flood insurance policies, while communities rated a 10 don’t receive a discount. They receive a five percent discount for each step up the rating system.
The federal government works with 90 different private insurance companies to offer NFIP-compliant flood insurance, which is required by mortgage banks of homeowners whose houses are in federally-designated floodplains, as many on the East End are.
Mr. Botos said Southampton, which recently joined the program, is rated a 10, but many communities start with a 10 and then move up the rating system as they acquire points. He said Long Beach is rated an 8 and its residents receive a 10 percent discount, while Freeport is rated a 7, and their residents receive a 15 percent discount.
Mr. Botos said he’s spoken with the people implementing the program in Southampton, who haven’t had the time to document the steps they’re taking to reduce the town’s flood risk.
“I think there has been just a lack of information,” he said of why more towns haven’t participated in the program, adding that the textbook is 600 pages long, but he’s already familiar with the Community Rating System through his work at the Peconic Institute.
“I do know this is something we can do here to benefit residents and businesses,” he said. “We can save money and risk to life and personal property by incorporating this into our daily routine.”
He plans to prepare a good deal of the documentation in his office, and added that the town is already doing many things required of the Community Rating System, but is not yet documenting them, including filing and maintaining elevation certificates, floodplain mapping, open space preservation and providing public information, which is as simple as making FEMA booklets available in libraries.
“Right now, we would fall into a class 7 if we documented and participated, a 15 percent savings,” he said. “That’s $392,000 in taxpayer dollars saved.”
Mr. Botos said it would take FEMA 18 months to process East Hampton’s application to the program, which would include a visit from FEMA representatives and notification to flood insurance companies that East Hampton is in compliance wit the program.
“The reduction is automatic. There are no next steps,” he said. “All the hard work is done by the federal government.”
Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell happily agreed to sign a letter of intent to participate.
“John, thank you for being proactive and bringing this to our attention,” he said.
Eye-Popping Airport Stats
Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, the liaison to the town’s airport, said at Tuesday’s work session that traffic at the airport is up 20 percent this year through July 28, over the same period last year.
She recently received figures from airport staff that show the number of helicopters using the airport is up 40 percent over last year, jets are down 13 percent, turboprop aircraft (including seaplanes), are up 30 percent and use by single propeller aircraft is up 10 percent.
The number of complaints this year has nearly quadrupled, she said, topping 10,000 through July 28, compared with just 2,800 complaints in the same period this year.
Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said the bulk of the complaints are from Noyac, Sag Harbor Village and Shelter Island.
To date, residents of 373 households have complained about airport noise this year.
Springs Forms Truck Work Group
The Springs community is putting together a committee of contractors and homeowners, who have been at odds for months over East Hampton’s proposed code changes regarding commercial trucks parked at houses throughout Springs, after a recent Springs Citizens Advisory Committee meeting described by Councilman Fred Overton as “raucous.”
Mr. Overton, the town board liaison to the committee, said a couple good things did come out of the CAC meeting.
“A contractor said, ‘We’re Springs. We have to come together to try to solve this problem as a community. We want to work together with the community,” he said.
Mr. Cantwell agreed.
“They seem all to want to find a resolution to this and to do it cooperatively,” he said. “Let’s see if we can’t find a solution to this longstanding issue that has been festering for many years.”