The National Flood Insurance Program may have a lump of coal in store for West Pittston residents with flood insurance policies this holiday season: a $50 surcharge on new policies and renewals.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency notified the borough in June of flood plain management violations and program deficiencies that required correction by Oct. 1. Failure to comply would place the borough on probationary status, allowing the NFIP to collect the $50 surcharge on policies.
If the borough fails to make continued progress towards compliance it faces the stiffer penalty of losing eligibility for the program – leaving property owners to buy flood insurance on the private market, which costs considerably more than federally-backed flood insurance.
The probation period was extended in August to Nov. 1, then, a week later, to Dec. 1, but Borough Manager Savino Bonita isn't confident it will be extended a third time.
We're not fully compliant, Bonita said. We've made great strides and brought the issues along, but we're not 100 percent compliant … We're at their mercy right now.
Bonita said West Pittston has updated its flood plain ordinance and hired a flood plain manager as required by FEMA, and some property owners have brought their properties into compliance with NFIP standards. But a problem remains with property owners in the 100-year flood plain who repaired their homes – in many cases before the borough was aware it was not compliant – but fail to meet NFIP specifications.
Those property owners have options, including seeking a variance from the borough zoning board, Bonita said, but the borough will cite those who fail to take any action.
The flood plain manager would have to cite those people and take them before a district judge, Bonita said. It's getting to that point right now.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, on Tuesday urged FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to again extend the deadline for placing West Pittston on probationary status.
West Pittston is making a good faith effort to achieve full compliance with federal requirements, and expects to complete the required actions within the coming months, Casey wrote. FEMA should recognize these efforts and continue to work with the Borough in a cooperative manner to ensure that all residents are protected from future flooding.