Watseka residents who need to purchase flood insurance will soon see their premiums drop.
Through the City of Watseka’s efforts on its floodplain management activities, the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, has certified that the city has exceeded minimum standards and certified the community as such.
The city recently received the certificate, which will hang in the lobby of City Hall. Mayor John Allhands noted Alderman Monna Ulfers and Building Inspector Eric Brandt have been working on this project for some time, noting that the criteria for meeting certification are extensive.
In FEMA’s letter, the city was told the savings would be passed on to community members beginning April 1.
“Floodplain management activities implemented by your community entitle your community to a 10% discount on the cost of flood insurance premiums for most NFIP policies issued or renewed on or after April 1, 2022. This saving is a tangible result of the flood mitigation activities your community is implementing to protect lives and reduce property damage,” the letter read.
The rating will be automatically renewed each year as long as the city has no actions of non-compliance with the flood program.
“This annual renewal will occur as long as your community continues to implement the CRS activities that you certify in your annual recertification documentation. If you do not make any changes or add new CRS activities, the next verification visit for your community will occur according to its established 5-year cycle. In the meantime, FEMA will periodically send the NFIP/CRS Update newsletter and other notices to your CRS Coordinator to keep your community informed,” the letter read.
“This is a certification you must have in order for your community to get a discount on their flood insurance,” Ulfers said. “Right now we’re at 10%. Our goal is to keep working on it in order to get up to 30 or 40%. It’s going to be an element of time to be able to do that, but it’s our goal to keep working on it to work for people who are forced to have flood insurance due to their mortgage.
Brandt said the savings will be seen by owners when their policy expires.
He said this certification was focused on raising awareness in the community. “We sent letters,” he said. “We had a booth at the fall festival.”
The city must also maintain elevation certificates. “We mapped properties of repetitive losses,” he said. “We maintained an open space in the floodplain.”
He said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ mitigation program also helps with certification. “As more properties are demolished and mitigated, that also adds to the score, as there are more open spaces in the floodplain,” he said.
Ulfers said the city will need to continue to do public outreach each year. From there, Brandt said, “there’s a whole booklet of activities that we need to take part in to take us to the next level.”
Ulfers said the city has been working on this certification for five years, starting with building inspector Thom Webster. “Thom and I got started then,” she said. “It’s a very, very long process.
“Then we had the big flood of 2018. Then when Eric came in I spoke to him and he was able to see the files. We just kept pushing,” Ulfers said. “The public may not think it’s a lot for 10%, but they will never understand the hours of work needed to reach that 10%. And again, we’re going to have to put in those same hours of work to get to the next level. We were very close to stepping up to the next level right now. We just didn’t have enough time for everything that needed to be done. We are very optimistic that we will be able to help further in the rankings.
Brandt said there was also an annual certification involved. “It’s exclusive. It’s not easy to get into it. And once you’re there, you have to maintain it.
Ulfers said he wants to continue doing more work to increase certification levels. “We just want to keep going. Then we may think we have it all and they may say “well, we need one more thing” or “you need to change one thing”. This happened too. So we never know until we’ve got it all where we really are.
Recertification for the program is once a year. Brandt said the city can also apply for the next tier at any time if it feels it has met all the criteria.
Watseka and Rockford were the most recent communities to join CRS programs according to city information provided by FEMA. Illinois now has 73 communities in the program and the state is fifth in the nation for the most CRS communities. These communities represent 38% of politics in Illinois and include 13 of the top 25 communities with the most politics, the news reads.