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Compassion after Ian might have cost Estero their FEMA flood insurance discount

On Wednesday, village leaders confirmed they submitted all documents requested by FEMA and await the agency's assessment.
Posted at 5:22 PM, Jun 19, 2024

In the days and weeks immediately after Hurricane Ian left a path of destruction through Southwest Florida, Estero Village leaders say they tried to be compassionate toward their residents.

But that compassion may ultimately be the reason they’re fighting to keep a flood insurance discount from FEMA.

Wednesday, Village Manager Steve Sarkozy spoke publicly after submitting all the documentation to FEMA officials.

“The first effort that we had was helping people in that recovery process. We weren’t out slapping notices on their doors that they had to get permits,” said Sarkozy.

 Village Manager Steve Sarkozy
On June 19, Estero Village Manager Steve Sarkozy discussed the village's process of answering FEMA's questions to preserve a critical national flood insurance discount for residents.

The federal agency told leaders in Estero, Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Fort Myers Beach and Lee County that the areas would be stripped of their discounts starting October 1st.

All five of the local governments have now submitted responses to FEMA’s questions.

In Estero, it came down to 62 properties in question.

“If (FEMA) really wanted to be prescriptive, they would change their manual to say ‘thou shalt do this’ — but they didn’t do that. They left it flexible. Providing that flexibility to our residents put us in this situation."

Estero Village Manager Steve Sarkozy

While insisting the village and FEMA have a good working relationship, Sarkozy told village leaders he strongly disagreed with FEMA’s decision to retrograde the village’s current 20% discount on flood insurance.

But, Sarkozy says, FEMA would have preferred a harsher response to citizens trying to rebuild after Ian.

“We were trying to be compassionate in our response to people, who, in many cases, lost a lot,” Sarkozy said.

FEMA is expected to respond to the local governments next month.