MUNCY – A second flood summit meeting was held in the East Lycoming area on Saturday afternoon that brought several important legislators and county officials to the table. Even though some changes have been made to the Biggert-Waters Flood Act of 2013, there is still a lot to be done according to Jeff Smead who was affected by the new increased rates in order to keep his property.
As many other residents in the Muncy area were affected, others from Northumberland, Jersey Shore, and Sullivan County, came to hear what can be done and what assistance can be provided. For years FEMA has been subsidizing two thirds of flood insurance but many Americans have not been aware of this and now homeowners were notified to pay the increases.
Digital maps were used to make provisions based on elevation benchmarks which range between 500 and 1,000 feet. In order to get a reprieve or a LOMA. Chris Johnson from Muncy said that he had to issue a letter of Map Amendment to show that his property was above the flood plain. “They used GPS equipment to determine that my house was close to a stream, but it sits way up on a hill,” he said.
Brian Miller, a surveyor, said that benchmarks do have expiration dates. “Muncy and the borough have quite a bit in the flood plain elevation zone,” he said. “We are here to help today.”
Miller told the homeowners to submit a property deed, elevation form, a firmette, and map that clearly shows the structure is out of the flood zone. “Most of this is mandated by the lender,” he said. “Expect a 60 day turn-around in the process,” he answered.
Another big issue expressed was the expected rate increases for the subsidizations. Fran McJunkin from Muncy and Deputy Director for the Planning Department of Lycoming County, announced that the elevation certificates are not an immediate requirement but suggested that over time, “You should know exactly what your elevations are.” She also said that some who have never had to pay flood insurance are now required to provide the certificates. “Insurance premiums won’t go up if you have an elevation certificate,” she answered. “This was another change from the repeal of Biggert -Waters.” She said her office works with flood mapping and and property owners on how to deal with the flood plains.
“We’re all in this together,” said a claim owner from Clinton County who told everyone his insurance jumped to $28,000 a year on a home appraised for $240,000. “Potential buyers are coming into an unknown mess created by FEMA.No one will look at our homes. As a mass, people have to take notice.” Ultimately this will affect revenue for townships and school districts. “Go to your municipal authority and ask them to work with you,” he encouraged.
Congressman Tom Marino, a resident from Cogan Station, spoke with heartened interest on the matter. “The counties and states have a responsibility in this,” he told everyone. “It’s the law and I will continue to repeal it to be fair. This is a situation that Congressional government didn’t even know that two thirds was subsidized for flood insurance by taxpayers across the country. If we can bail out banks and auto businesses, we can repeal and ask government to continue to subsidize.” He stressed that the Biggert-Waters Bill is a very complex problem, initially intended for coastal towns with “vacation homes” that get rebuilt over and over, bigger and better than before and backed by federal dollars. “New legislation needs to address all the issues. It wasn’t done right. It was done just by looking at maps.”
County Commissioner Tony Mussare was also there and backed Marino’s commitment to the repeal and said that some good points were made on the value of the homes and what determines flood insurance. “FEMA doesn’t tell you what you have to pay for flood insurance. Mortgages are contracts with local lenders to work with you as an individual.”
Kim Sampsell from Muncy said she doesn’t want the same rate as everyone else. “I will clean up my own flood plain.”
Representative Rick Mirabito who will be acquiring Montgomery and Clinton Township under the new district zoning also spoke and related, “We understand the problem, now we are looking at solutions.” He has also been attending FEMA hearings. He is looking at funding resources in Harrisburg to mitigate buyouts and help with low interest loans.
A councilman from Jersey Shore advised local boroughs to attend the meetings and hearings, and let representatives know your situation. Chris Johnson said he was disappointed that officials from the Muncy Borough and surrounding townships were not there, especially since the main message was to work together in masses to let voices be heard.
Those who have already paid out the exorbitant fees prior to the repeal, can contact Congressman Marino’s office to get assistance in receiving a refund, and get help starting the process. McJunkin said she is beginning to process the claims now.
She also added that new plans to benefit the Muncy area will be announced soon, but didn’t want to reveal anything until she actually had the maps in her hands. Lycoming County is currently updating the flood maps.
The locals want more people on board. Hearings with representation from the PA Bankers Association and Professional Realtors Association are already working in Harrisburg. Bottom line – more mitigation, more programs, more resources, and more funds are needed to help people.