101119 STN FEMA award Simmons

Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons and Town Engineer Scott Deledda hold a FEMA plaque honoring the town for its Class 7 ranking in the Community Ranking System. The top ranking can lead to lower flood insurance premiums. Courtesy First Selectman Rob Simmons

STONINGTON — Four years ago, the town was dropped from the National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Ratings System entirely. Now the community is considered to be one among the best prepared in the state.

Stonington was awarded the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Class 7 Award through its Floodplain Management and Insurance Branch on Sept. 30. It's the top award given to communities participating in the National Flood Insurance Program; Stamford and New Haven are the only other municipalities to receive the award in Connecticut.

“This is wonderful for both the town and for our residents, and it should mean thousands in insurance savings for our homeowners and businesses,” said First Selectman Rob Simmons.

The Community Ratings System, which is overseen by the regional FEMA office in Boston, is a voluntary program for communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. The goal of the system is to reduce flood damage and encourage protections, as well as encouraging communities to develop a comprehensive approach to floodplain management.

Stonington Town Planner Keith Byrnes said in a press release that as a shoreline community, it is important for Stonington to look beyond minimum requirements in order to better plan and provide for sustainable development. The community has miles of coastline and significant development along the banks of the Pawcatuck and Mystic rivers.

“Planning for our insurance needs is especially important in Stonington due to our historic villages, which are directly in the floodplain and subject to sea level rise,” Byrnes said.

According to the FEMA website, communities who achieve certain rankings for surpassing minimum floodplain requirements and implementing strategies to protect against flooding receive higher rankings and incentives in the form of lower insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses.

Simmons said individual circumstances would vary, but most homeowners should see anywhere from a 12 to 15 percent cost savings. The amount could be higher or lower depending on how insurers weigh the ratings system into their premiums.

“I can only speak for my own circumstances, but I think most will see a substantial savings,” Simmons said. “This was an exciting opportunity and I am pleased with the work and dedication that Scot Deledda put into not only getting us back into the program, but to make sure the community had the highest standards and is prepared for the future.” Deledda is the town engineer.

In 2015, the town failed to file the requisite paperwork and became ineligible for the program. Simmons attributed the lapse to a heavy turnover in staffing, including the resignation of then-Democratic First Selectman Ed Haberek Jr. in late 2014. The lapse and removal for the program also meant a rise in premiums for businesses and homeowners.

Simmons said that when he was elected the following year, he made restoring the town’s status a top priority. He said Deledda was asked to work on bringing the town back into compliance, and has continued to work with the FEMA staff in Boston to further develop local plans and regulations.

“We are in a good position now, and the goal moving will be able to maintain this level and build upon what we have already accomplished,” Simmons said.

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