Following the excitement of an earthquake centered in South Dartmouth about an hour before the Mattapoisett Selectmen’s meeting began, the board got down to running the business of the town.
Town Administrator Michael Gagne, during his report, told the selectmen of the work that has taken place regarding FEMA maps impacting flood plains and the ongoing issue of soaring flood insurance rates. He said that the town’s web site will now include comprehensive information on the Biggert-Waters Act that appears to be moving forward to implementation. Also on the web site will be the complete text of another piece of legislation trying to gain traction. The newer bill is titled Grimm-Waters-Richmond Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act which reads in part: “Delays the implementation of rate increases on the following three types of properties until FEMA meets two requirements: 1) completes the affordability study mandated by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, proposes a draft affordability framework for Congressional review, and Congress has a chance to give FEMA affordability authority; and 2) the FEMA Administrator certifies that the agency has implemented a flood mapping approach that utilizes sound scientific and engineering methodologies to determine varying levels of flood risk in all areas participating in the National Flood Insurance Program.:
1. All homes and businesses that are currently “grandfathered.” These are properties that were built to code and later remapped into a higher risk area. Prior to Biggert- Waters, these policyholders were not penalized for relying on inaccurate FEMA flood maps.
2. All properties that purchased a new policy after July 6, 2012, before they were legally required to purchase insurance.
3. All properties sold after July 6, 2012. New homeowners and business owners will continue to receive the same treatment as the previous owner unless they trigger another provision in Biggert-Waters such as Severe Repetitive Loss, non-primary residence, substantial damage, etc.
The measure requires FEMA to propose a draft regulatory framework to address any affordability issues identified by the study within 18 months after the completion of the study and establishes a six month period thereafter to provide for Congressional review. The House and Senate would then hold up or down votes through a privileged motion on giving FEMA the authority to propose regulations in accordance with the regulatory framework. If Congress approves this authority, the targeted freeze promulgated by this bill would continue until regulations are finalized. If not, the freezes would be lifted absent other Congressional action. Affordability measures addressed by the draft regulatory framework may include targeted assistance to individual policyholders and may consider the negative effects of rate increases and map changes on program participation. FEMA has estimated it will take two years to complete the affordability study before a draft regulatory framework can be provided to Congress.” Gagne said that flood insurance for local residents was first required in March 1973. He also went on to explain that residents should employ friends and relatives living throughout the country to lobby their Congressmen and Senators to back this bill. Noting that implementation of Biggert-Waters will impact interior locations subject to river flooding and not just coastal locations, he felt strongly that citizens everywhere should work together to try and keep insurance rates reasonable. He also said that people can visit www.floodsmart.gov for information on flood insurance rates.
Gagne said that the newly formed Flood Plain Committee has been meeting and will be charged with the responsibilities of pulling information together, studying FEMA mapping for any necessary corrections, and comparing FEMA mapping to topographical maps that will be available in the spring. He urged residents to visit the town’s website for new postings on these topics.
In other matters, Gagne applauded the efforts made by Bonne DeSousa of Friends of the Mattapoisett Bike Path. He recently met with her, at which time she requested that the selectmen send a letter to Scott Hamwey, who heads up Transportation Capital Investment Planning for the DOT. The letter would ask that bike path design and engineering be treated more like roadways in terms of funding, given the huge cost of performing these steps in the process of building a bike path. The selectmen agreed to send a letter.
Regarding the town’s solar project scheduled for construction by EMI at the closed landfill site, Gagne said that a technical review by NSTAR was underway and he hoped NSTAR would approve the project. He also said that Blue Wave Capital LLC, who is planning the commercial solar project situated on Tinkham Hill Road, has been in discussions with EMI regarding joint efforts for system upgrades prior to Phase 2 construction of both projects. NSTAR grid upgrades are required in order for the grid to be able to receive energy generated from solar production on a scale these two projects would ultimately provide.
Earlier in the evening, the board issued a common victualler’s license for the Mattapoisett Diner. New operator Matt Gamache was present and received a warm welcome and best wishes from the board, with Paul Silva saying, “Thank you for coming in so quickly, we don’t like seeing empty businesses.” Gamache also operates the Courtyard Restaurant and Jake’s Diner in Fairhaven.
The selectmen also accepted the resignation of Claudia Richards from the Council on Aging. Anyone interested in filling the position may contact the selectmen’s office. They voted to approve the appointment of Brett Fortin to the unexpired term formerly held by Tricia Weaver. A ‘Finance Policies and Procedure Document’ was approved and adopted for municipal use and lastly, Don Lake received approval for Mattapoisett Wharf Cruise Nights with dates set for May 2, 16; June 6, 20; July 11, 25; Aug 1, 15; and Sept 5 and 19.
Town Hall will be closed for Presidents’ Day on February 17, and the next meeting of the Board of Selectmen is February 25 at 7:00 pm.
By Marilou Newell