Brick Officials Against Flood Insurance Changes

Mayor John G. Ducey, center, speaks about the federal flood regulations. He is flanked by township attorney Kevin Starkey and business administrator Joanne Bergin. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  BRICK – Townships like Brick who have done the hard work needed to get into FEMA’s Community Ratings System (CRS) should be exempt from recent changes made to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

  So said Mayor John G. Ducey during a recent council meeting before the governing body voted on and passed a resolution that urges legislators to oppose and seek changes to the reauthorization of the NFIP.

  On June 12, the House Financial Services Committee unanimously approved a bill that includes significant reforms that would result in flood insurance rates going up 18 percent (and allowed to double every four years) to primary homeowners, and those who have flood insurance on a second home would see an increase of 25 percent a year (and allowed to double every three years), Ducey explained.

  The next step is the bill gets sent to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

  “Everybody should be worried about this,” the mayor said. “We were working on [getting into the CRS program] for years.”

  In order to get into the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s CRS program, the township had to formulate and complete flood mitigation actions, such as preserve open space, upgrade building codes, design stormwater management and vegetative management, create seawalls, bulkheads, elevated roadways, and much more.

  “We finally got in, and we actually got in at a very high level – which is a class 6 rating,” Ducey said, which has resulted in Brick residents getting a 20 percent discount off the cost of flood insurance.

  The township has worked hard to make flood insurance affordable for residents and all of the hard work would be lost if this new rate schedule is approved, Ducey said.

  The flood mitigation efforts have resulted in making houses safer and thereby making sure residents do not lose their houses, property or lives in a flooding event, he said.

  “This [bill] goes against that…and now here’s the federal government saying ‘well we’re still putting it up 18 percent a year or 25 percent,’” he said.

  The resolution would be sent to NJ Congressman Andy Kim, and to Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker to ask them to vote against the bill and “at the very least” rescind the flood insurance increases to communities that are in the CRS program, which should be exempt from the raises, Ducey said.

  The mayor spoke with Congressman Kim personally and said the NJ Congressman knows how important it is to Brick Township and that he would be speaking to his colleagues about the bill.

Council President Andrea Zapcic hands over council members’ cell phones that were put into the pink bin being held by township clerk Lynnette Iannarone. In previous meetings, a few residents complained that council members were looking at their phones and texting during meetings, so Zapcic said they would have the opportunity to surrender their phones for the meeting if they wished. Everyone complied. Councilman Jim Fozman gave his phone to his wife, who was seated in the audience. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

  “Congressman Kim pointed out that none of the members of the House Finance Committee live in flood or coastal areas, so they don’t have any skin in the game so to speak, as Congress people,” Ducey said.

  Councilman Jim Fozman asked that the resolution “go a little further, as they did in Berkeley Township,” to send certified copies of the resolution to elected officials in districts that have significant waterfront property, including Camden, Atlantic County and Ocean County.

  Fozman, who is the lone Republican on council, made a motion to include the additional legislators, but no other council members seconded the motion (Council Vice President Lisa Crate, Councilman Art Halloran and Councilwoman Marianna Pontoriero were absent).

  Later in the meeting, Ducey said “I think there’s some confusion – it’s Congress, it’s a federal bill, the National Flood Insurance Plan, not state, so we need our congressmen and our senators onboard,” he said.

  “It would be a lot of money for us to send certified copies to everyone…we want to send it to the people who make the decisions – congressmen and senators – that’s who can actually influence this and has votes on it,” Ducey said.

  Fozman said that at least Senator Steve Sweeney from Camden should get a copy, as should Senator Chris Connors and Senator James Holzapfel from Ocean County.

  “The more backing, the better,” Fozman said.

  The next council meeting will be on Tuesday July 23 at 7 p.m.