Firm hired to help review, correct elevation certificates

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The borough council has hired an engineering firm to help review and correct building elevation certificates in the borough. (MARK R. SULLIVAN/THE OCEAN STAR)

BAY HEAD — The borough council has hired an engineering firm to help review and correct building elevation certificates in the borough. The decision follows the 2020 five-year review of the borough’s Community Rating System [CRS] program, which found many errors in the elevation certificates that were examined.

“As part of the verification cycle, FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] requests 70 random elevation certificates to audit,” Borough Administrator Chris Parlow explained. 

The council, at its Feb. 1 meeting, retained Maser Consulting in an amount not to exceed $17,200.

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“I got a proposal from Maser Consulting because I think this is such a big issue that we do need to bring in some professional help,” Mr. Parlow said. “Collectively, you are talking savings to the borough of probably upwards of $200,000 a year for all the residents who have flood insurance policies. So it is a big amount that is on the table.”

An elevation certificate documents a building’s location, lowest point of elevation, flood zone and other characteristics, according to FEMA. It is used to help determine flood insurance rates;  the certification is prepared by a licensed surveyor.

According to the FEMA website, the CRS is a voluntary incentive program recognizing community floodplain-management activities exceeding National Flood Insurance Program requirements.

Flood-insurance premium rates are discounted to reflect the community actions meeting the three goals of the CRS — reducing flood damage to insurable property; strengthening and supporting the insurance aspects of the NFIP; and encouraging a comprehensive approach to floodplain management.

For each classification, there is a five percent reduction in the flood insurance premiums. Bay Head is currently a Class 6, with residents receiving a 20 percent reduction in their flood insurance premiums.

“Without having a 90 percent accuracy rate on those certificates, you are not eligible to participate in the CRS program altogether and you will not receive any discounts on your flood insurance,” Mr. Parlow said.

“Last week, we got the results of that audit and the … borough’s [accuracy] rate was 41 percent. The [certificates] that were audited were from a time period between 2014 and 2019. The 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 period are all what I would call the post-Sandy time period and that is where the majority of the errors occurred in the elevation certificates. Luckily, FEMA does provide a time period, and in this case one month, to correct those elevation certificates,” he said.

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