HB mayor: Flood insurance biggest concern for 2014

Of all the challenges that face a municipality year in and year out, it’s one that that has Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti the most concerned for 2014.

“The biggest challenge facing all island residents is the cost of flood insurance,” said Monti, who has scheduled a town hall meeting with insurance experts at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

“It’s not something we can control as an administration, but we can still do our part by giving our citizens as much knowledge about their options as we can,” he said.

Monti said property owners with ground-level homes are likely to lose subsidies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which “seems to change the rules after every storm.”

The mayor said he received calls from people who reported yearly flood insurance bills going from several thousand dollars to $30,000.

“But the experts I have coming in for the Jan. 9 meeting specialize in this and I know one case in particular where they were able to get that $30,000 flood insurance bill back down to almost where it was.”

Monti said he and other local officials also will lobby congressional representatives “to make sure we get a reprieve from this deal that is going to cause a massive increase.”

The cost for flood insurance isn’t under local control, but there are issues facing the city that are, according to Monti. He said continuing to improve drainage in the city is something his administration will make a priority.

“I see us making some end roads there,” he said. “In reality, I see more opportunities for Holmes Beach than I see problems. I’m really optimistic that we can attack a lot of our problems just by enforcing the rules.”

Monti said an example of that happened at the end of the year, when the city issued a stop-work order on a property owner who was exceeding the permitted renovations.

“Once the word gets around that we are going to enforce our rules, people who have taken advantage of the city in the past are going to say, ‘Hey, these guys are serious now,’” he said. “We have and will continue to tighten the laws on the books when needed, but we have a lot of good laws already in place. They just need to be enforced and that’s what we started doing this past year.”

Monti said he’s proud of what his administration accomplished in 2013. Monti won office in November 2012 along with two new commissioners.

“We put a lot of new systems in place,” he said. “Review processes, job descriptions, major hires with a new police chief and building official and both have done an excellent job. We are doing exactly what we said we would do when we were elected. I’m very happy and believe we are on the right path.”

There is much to do in the coming year. Monti said he will be happy to see the Mainsail Lodge development plan get solidified because it will open the door to improvements for downtown.

“It’s nice to put the things behind us that needed to get done and now we can concentrate on the things we want to do that will create a positive experience on the island,” he said.

Monti said his primary goal as mayor is to ensure Holmes Beach remains a community and “not just another tourist town. I think we’re doing the things we can do and I’m very proud of that.”

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