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Date of Issue: June 08, 2006

Island churches forgotten in insurance debacle

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
churches pics
Roser Momerial Community Church

With all the recent focus of the wind insurance debate being on residential homes, a new problem has arisen for the churches on the Island. Churches are not classified as habitable establishments and are not included in the state-run insurance pool regardless of whether the property is within 1,000 feet of the Gulf or not.

With the way premiums are skyrocketing for homeowners, the situation for churches is similar. Since they have a much larger building to insure, obviously the costs are going to far exceed that of a house.

That is the cold truth for Roser Memorial Community Church and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, which both saw their wind insurance policies canceled in recent months.

They are both in a predicament. As of June 1, Gloria Dei's wind insurance policy ended, and the church is unable to get a policy for the upcoming year. According to Olga Ippedico, president of Gloria Dei's Church Council, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America senate could not get a wind insurance renewal for Gloria Dei, and they have no hurricane insurance.

Last year, $25,000 was spent on hurricane insurance alone for Gloria Dei, and it would likely cost double that if they could have gotten it this year, states Ippedico. So the plan for Gloria Dei is to self-insure, since no provider will cover them. This process is still in the works, but Gloria Dei anticipates opening a separate bank account that will take donations, and possibly an escrow account.

An escrow or trust account can be held in the borrower's name to pay obligations such as property taxes and insurance premiums. The money in the account covers the estimated real estate taxes and insurance when they come due.

Ippedico jokingly said, "The way our church is constructed, I don't think it will blow away." Church members can only pray she's right.

The situation is relatively the same at Roser Memorial Community Church on Pine Avenue. Board of trustees member Lyle Kulhmann said that wind insurance "was not available for us, even after exhausting options from eight or nine insurance providers."

He also mentioned that they had an agency from Brandon, Fla., that specializes in providing insurance to churches, trying to help, but had no luck.

Because of Roser's proximity to the Gulf, its wind insurance was canceled on May 1. The church has flood insurance, but it covers only about 25 percent of the church's two buildings.

Roser has taken a slightly different plan of action, relying on state Rep. Bill Galvano to continue his dedication to helping out with the situation.

Kulhmann said that what is happening to the church and all Island residents is "an injustice to us."

In addition, Roser Church has done minor repairs to strengthen the establishment, especially reinforcing and protecting the stained-glass windows on the building. Kulhmann also mentioned, "We are a church, so we pray." For right now, that is about all that can be done, he said.

Although unavailable for comment, St. Bernard Catholic Church is also said to be self-insured.