FEMA restores flood insurance discounts for Stonington residents

Stonington — The Federal Emergency Management Agency and town officials announced Tuesday afternoon that FEMA has restored the discount on flood insurance that homeowners here lost in 2015.

Not only has the discount been restored but it has been increased from 5 to 10 percent because of the work done by Town Engineer Scott Deledda and other town officials to make sure the town is in compliance with the requirements of FEMA’s Community Rating system. The discount took effect for homeowners whose premiums came due Oct. 1.

The increase will save the average policy holder $167 a year and those in high-risk zones $225. In all, 936 homeowners will save a total of $156,000 in premiums annually, according to Karl Anderson, a natural hazards specialist with FEMA’s Boston office who was at Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

After posing for a photo with Anderson and Deledda, First Selectman Rob Simmons hugged not only the new CRS compliance plaque given to the town but Deledda.

“Scott gets the credit for this along with Karl (Anderson) and FEMA for really working this problem,” Simmons said.

More than 1,000 homeowners lost the discount on their pricey flood insurance in the summer of 2015 because the town had not addressed deficiencies found in its flood planning by a FEMA audit. The audit found nine properties were not in compliance with requirements of the Community Rating Program.

A change in Town Hall personnel under former First Selectman Ed Haberek resulted in the oversight, as the flood plain manager position that oversaw the program was not filled. The borough was not affected and homeowners there kept the 10 percent discount.

Simmons pledged to solve the problem when he ran for office two years ago and after being elected worked with Deledda, who took on the job of flood plain manager, to discuss the issue with FEMA and negotiate with homeowners to bring their properties into compliance.

Simmons said he did not want to focus on who was to blame for the loss of the discount but how the town could meet the requirements of the Community Rating system and restore the discount.

The town spent $20,000 and also had the Highway Department do work to bring into compliance two properties that had received certificates of occupancy from the town even though they did not meet flood requirements.

Because they had certificates of occupancy, Simmons said the fair thing to do was not exclude the town properties from the program and spend the $20,000 to bring them into compliance and avoid the expense of any lawsuits.

Deledda said the town was able to not only restore but increase its discount by insuring compliance by all properties but also restructuring its internal permitting process.

The town also has developed a coastal resiliency plan and will begin developing a capital plan to fund improvements to protect infrastructure against sea level rise, Simmons said Tuesday.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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