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Perico residents might avoid high insurance premiums

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Ray and Marion Sherman of the Perico Bay Club were shocked when they opened a recent letter from Universal Casualty, their homeowner’s insurance company, that said their insurance had been canceled because they failed to respond to a renewal notice sent several months ago.

Ray Sherman learned from a company representative that in the renewal notice, the premium for his homeowner’s insurance went up considerably because the nearest fire station was more than 5 miles from his property.

When he tried to explain to a Universal representative that there was a fire station at 66th Street and Manatee Avenue, about 2.5 miles from his home, his pleas went nowhere, he said.

The closest fire station to the Sherman house is indeed at 66th Street and Manatee Avenue, part of the West Manatee Fire Rescue District.

But Perico Bay was annexed into Bradenton about 10 years ago. The Sherman’s fire district of record is Bradenton, and the nearest Bradenton fire station is on 59th Street, about 6 miles away.

Because of this distance, the Shermans got bumped from the company’s Category 6 insurance rate to Category 10, the highest rating and the highest premium, Sherman said.

He said other carriers quoted him insurance as high as $1,500 a year. He was able to get a quote from Citizens, the Florida state-run insurance “carrier of last resort” for people who can’t get reasonably priced homeowners, wind or flood insurance elsewhere, according to the company website.

“And the (Citizens’) rate was still almost double what we paid to Universal,” Sherman said.

Sherman recently learned from an Islander report that WMFR is a first responder to fires and emergencies on Perico. He contacted WMFR to learn if he could keep his present insurance company and rate. WMFR Chief Andy Price directed Sherman to the Bradenton Fire Department.

Rebecca Pillsbury, BFD program administrator for insurance, has handled cases similar to the Shermans’ situation.

She said she can write a letter to the insurance carrier stating that Bradenton has an agreement with WMFR called “automatic aid” and “closest unit response.”

When a call comes to 911 from Perico Island, WMFR, with the closest station, is notified of the emergency at the same time as Bradenton and dispatches a fire truck and/or emergency vehicle.

“I explain in the letter to the insurance company about the automatic aid and first response, how it works, and that WMFR is the ‘closest unit response’ to Perico,” Pillsbury said. Her letter often solves the problem, but there’s no guarantee, she said.

Homeowners also can use Pillsbury’s letter to seek coverage from other companies.

Sherman, who said he would ask Pillsbury to write to Universal, hopes the letter works to reinstate his policy and keep his premiums from dramatically increasing.

If not, the Shermans might have to wait to get lower premiums because a fire station is within five miles of their home.

Bradenton Fire Chief Mark Souders said there are no plans at present to build a fire station at Harbour Isle condominiums, the former Arvida project on Perico Island.

As part of its site-plan approval from Bradenton, Arvida donated an acre to the city and pledged financial support for construction of a fire station at that location.

A fire station is still on the site-plan map of owner Minto Communities of Florida, Souders said, but the city has no plans to consider a fire station until Harbour Isle is nearly finished.

“We show (a fire station) on Perico as a long-range goal and that Arvida was going to build it,” he said. As Harbour Isle nears completion, the city will contact the owners about building the station.

Souders said the city has no money to build or maintain a station.

“Those are issues we will discuss with the owners when the time is right,” he said.

Meanwhile, Harbour Isle condominium owners can contact the BFD for an “automatic aid, first response” letter, Pillsbury said.

Harbour Isle opened its Perico Island sales office the week before Christmas.

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