By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
The City of Killeen on Tuesday approved the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps to conform with government requirements.
The rate changes take effect Friday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is streamlining the state's Flood Insurance Rate Map data to conform with the 21st century. Killeen is updating its system to make it considerably easier for residents, communities, mortgage lenders and insurance agents to identify property in a flood zone.
For Killeen and neighboring communities, the 100-year flood plain, or base flood elevation level, has risen by 3 to 4 feet in some areas.
That means more homes and properties exist in an area soon to be classified as a "high-risk flood area." The purchase of flood insurance is mandatory for all federal or federally regulated financial assistance for the acquisition and/or construction of buildings in high-risk flood areas.
So anyone who lives in a flood plain must have flood insurance to refinance a home, or decide to purchase a new home in the flood plain.
If an addition is built to a home in the flood plain, it must be elevated higher than the rest of the structure.
Annual insurance rates for residents in a flood zone can range from $1,246 to $7,667 through the National Flood Insurance Program, which provides lower coverage breaks and grandfather clauses for people who find themselves within the zone.
Killeen Drainage Utility Engineer Kristina Ramirez said many people who inquired about the process with the city realized they will be in the new flood plain when the new maps take effect Friday.
"In addition to residents, we've gotten calls from Realtors concerned about their respective clientele," Ramirez said. "We've had a lot of people who have already taken an interest. Insurance agents have asked about who is recommended; in both cases, it could potentially affect resale and the things the homeowner may do to come into compliance with FEMA."
The new maps have the greatest effect on the communities that have seen the greatest growth since 1981. Growth causes complications with safely redistributing water from storms, Ramirez said.
"We've altered the path the water takes as it's draining out of the city into the watersheds, the Lampasas watershed and the Nolan Creek watershed," Ramirez said. "When we start altering the way the water flows from its natural course, since it can't go out, it has to go up."
Ramirez refers many people to Earl Abbott, Killeen's building official and flood plain administrator.
"Most common question I get has been, 'Do I need insurance?'" Abbott said. "The city has a responsibility under new construction to keep things reasonably safe from flooding. With the new maps, we have the best available data."
During a workshop Tuesday, the City Council heard a presentation from Dr. Phil Huang from the Austin-Travis County Health and Human Services Division on the effects of second-hand smoking in the community.
Huang's presentation comes as the City Council considers its own smoking ordinance, which has been approved by many communities across Texas, including Copperas Cove.
The council recently appointed a smoking ordinance committee to look into the possibility of adding an ordinance.
Councilman Juan Rivera said the city needs to appoint someone who is a smoker to the committee to get an additional perspective.
Huang said 20 states have approved an all-out smoking ban, and all said Texas should do the same.
"This is first and foremost a public health issue," Huang said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "has stated that there is no safe exposure to second-hand smoke. Separating the people and filtering the air does not help."
He equated allowing smoking in restaurants to what would happen if restaurants chose not to refrigerate their meat and caused disease from people eating at their establishments.
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568.