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FEMA could cut insurance cost

Federal Emergency Management inspectors toured Lawrence County’s floodplain areas Thursday, checking up on local efforts to regulate floodplain construction.

Saturday, September 11, 1999

Federal Emergency Management inspectors toured Lawrence County’s floodplain areas Thursday, checking up on local efforts to regulate floodplain construction.

And county commissioners hope what inspectors saw leads to a reduction in local flood insurance costs.

"We met with them to show what advances have been made and what strides in education and community awareness have been taken regarding floodplain construction issues," commission president Bruce Trent said.

The county has remained on probation with FEMA’s National Floodplain Insurance Program since 1996 when federal authorities identified numerous floodplain violations.

Because of the tour and information presented by the commission, Trent expects FEMA to drop the $50 surcharge on flood insurance policies within the next month.

But, there are no guarantees, he said.

"The county commission will encourage them to remove us from probation," Trent said.

Although FEMA can provide reasons the county should remain on probation, the county feels it has improved its regulation enough to convince FEMA otherwise, he said.

Doug Cade, the director of special projects for the Lawrence County Floodplain Management Program, said officials discussed with FEMA the county’s policies and procedures Thursday.

With the permit process, the county has provided informational flyers with each new title issued by the county, has developed new brochures and boosted its floodplain management workforce, Cade said.

"One thing the Ohio Department of Natural Resources commented on was they felt like we had one of the better programs along the Ohio River," he said. "We have really worked hard in the last three and a half to four years to bring the program to where it needs to be."

In addition, if someone is building without a permit, the county puts a sign in front of the structure indicating that it needs a permit, Cade said.

Last year, the county issued 182 permits, while so far this year 107 have been issued. The public is aware of the need to follow regulations, he added.

A group of community volunteers also formed the Build Smart Committee that provides educational programs for the public on how to build according to floodplain rules.

Trent said FEMA officials should see those actions as positive steps taken by the county to come into compliance with federal requirements, and a reason take the county off probation.

"There is no reason to penalize this county anymore," he said.

But during a similar review last year, NFIP officials informed the county they would recommend that Lawrence County remain on probation.

FEMA is likely to make its decision this year before Oct. 3 – the day a nationwide list of NFIP probation communities is published in the Federal Register.

Local floodplain issues came to a head in 1996, when FEMA made a list of floodplain violations and required the county to enforce its codes.

Some homeowners voluntarily made changes, while others took their cases to federal court, saying the county has no right to enforce codes it did not publicize.

Several cases are pending, but FEMA should see even that as a positive step because future court decisions will lead to action, one way or another, and that is progress, Trent said.