Off Islands

| February 1, 2016

By Rodger Skidmore

Tsunami to Hit Longboat Key?

     No, of course not. By definition, a tsunami is a tidal wave caused by an earthquake and in a short time it’s over. Instead, because of climate change, over time we will have a wave of tides that will make us all quake.

     But, hey, there is still good news here. According to Longboat Key Public Works Project Manager James Linkogle, Insurance Services Office, Inc., a data gathering and analyzing firm, is suggesting that the town of Longboat Key should be updated from a Class 6 to a Class 5 Community. Naturally this is just a recommendation to the federal government, but the Feds usually listen as they pay for this kind of information. How does altering the classification benefit most LBK residents? A change of this type would permit the discount allowed to property owners with National Flood Insurance policies, to rise from 20% to a maximum of 25% – a 25% increase in the allowable discount.
    Town Manager Dave Bullock wrote that the improvement in the rating was based on good work by Steve Schield, Senior Planner; Darin Cushing, Building Official; the aforementioned James Linkogle; and members of the advisory committee who worked closely on open space preservation, higher regulatory standards, drainage maintenance, and flood warnings – all categories on which the analytical firm bases its calculations.
      The discount is the good news. The bad news is that the higher discount will be, over time, applied to even higher rates, and those rates may rise as fast as, or faster than, the tides.

Some Rules Still Apply

     Look before you leap, a stitch in time saves nine, many a slip twixt cup and lip, and the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule has been around since 1896 when Vilfredo Pareto noted that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population and 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. This rule is a generalization but does hold true in many situations. Absent any other data, it is often called into play.
     Recently residents of Longboat Key voted to bury the power and communication lines along Gulf of Mexico Drive – and for all LBK residents to pay for it over 30 years. Being forward thinking, the town commissioners also wondered if it made sense to bury the rest of the lines on the island and save money by doing both jobs at the same time. That issue will come up for a vote in a referendum on March 15th. The details are that those residents whose cables are not yet buried will pay 81.5% of the costs and those with cables already buried will pay 18.5% (perhaps on the theory that, even though no work will be done on their property, they will have a clearer view of the sky – also that their property values will go up because Longboat Key has become even more beautiful). The ratio is not exactly 80/20 but only because those who had previously paid to have their cables put out of sight wanted a slightly better edge.
     Perhaps the most important rule to be considered is the rule of compound interest. Someone whose cables have to be buried, with a proposed interest rate of 4.5%, will have their total assessment of $8,560 balloon up to $15,820 – almost double – over the 30-year payback period. One reason for the high interest rate (current many fixed mortgage rates are still under 4%) is that LBK has built into the cost a collection fee to cover getting the money from unhappy homeowners. When writing up the language for the March referendum, the town is graciously permitting homeowners to pre-pay the whole amount upfront to reduce town costs.

Will Feel-Good Story Get Any Traction?

A local Longboat Key resident, Holly Hennessy, had a wonderful Christmas and her insurance company is having a very good 2016. Ms. Hennessy had lost a diamond bracelet and could not find it anywhere. Of course the reason that she could not find it was because someone else had. That someone, Virginia Hepburn, had found the bracelet and turned it over to the police. Sounds like a perfect story with a happy ending – short and sweet. 
     Unfortunately that is not exactly how it happened. Hepburn found the diamond thing-a-ma-bob on St. Armands Circle but had reported it to Kim Feagle of the LBK police. Feagle told Hepburn that, being found on St. Armands, it had to be reported to the Sarasota Police. Ms. Hepburn did not get discouraged (and keep the diamonds) and followed through. Because Officer Feagle was the one to whom Hennessy reported the loss, she was able to tell Hennessy to call Sarasota. Hennessy did and got nowhere – “Say what? Nope, sorry. Bye”. Officer Feagle and her supervisor, Tina Adams, then stepped in, traced the original call, connected everyone and facilitated the return of the bracelet, which was celebrated with a lovely lunch.
     Sounds great, so what’s the problem? The first is that Hennessy called the Sarasota police, who had the diamond bracelet, and got nowhere. The second is that if Officer Feagle had not taken both calls there would have been no connection and the bracelet would still be in the Sarasota Police Department’s Lost and Found Department. This is 2016 and the police have not yet heard of, let alone implemented, large, interconnected, searchable databases? Really? We know that one reason 9/11 took place is that, while the CIA, the FBI and the White House had all the information necessary to preempt those attacks, they were not coordinated. True, one diamond bracelet is small potatoes compared to the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and that green field in Pennsylvania. Guess this just shows the trickle-down theory does not work for coordinated approaches to information either. So, are the FBI and the CIA connected yet? And check back next year to see if Sarasota and Manatee have a large, interconnected, searchable database (hint, hint to the commissioners).

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Category: Columns

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