Palmetto residents to get more accurate flood-risk information

PALMETTO -- City workers from Palmetto, side by side with Manatee County workers, began installing six new elevation markers Thursday equipped with GPS technology to provide far more accurate flood-risk information in determining elevation.

Local surveyors such as Leo Mills Jr. of Leo Mills and Associates and Public Works Director Allen Tusing and Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant shelled out hundreds of dollars to purchase aluminum rods and discs equipped with the global positioning system technology. The county has been in the process of upgrading its elevation information so city, county and local surveyors partnered in an effort Tusing said was long overdue.

Todd Boyle, Manatee County survey manager, called it a "milestone moment" for the city.

"This will provide a very important tool so the public understands what is their flood risk," said Boyle. "It will be a reference point for all future surveys and local surveyors are paying for this because they understand this information is important to the community. It might not sound glamorous, but to anyone who pays flood insurance, you care."

Even more than flood insurance, Boyle said people need to understand risk because nothing is more devastating to homes and structures than floodwaters. The new information, unfortu

nately, may lead to discovering more risk and insurance rates may go up.

"They may not get the answer they want on an elevation certificate, but at least they'll know," said Boyle, who noted residents will discover they are likely better off insurance-wise in 90 percent of the cases.

"It's beneficial to both new construction and existing structures," said Boyle. "Flood risk is based on elevation and without a good starting point, you don't have good information."

Boyle said determining elevation was something of a guessing game before GPS technology came along.

"Residents will see light years in the difference of quality in the information," he said. "So in the cases where insurance may go up, it's not so much is my insurance going up, but am I protected? People need to know what their flood risk is. This is a big deal."

Bryant said she appreciates the county and local surveyors stepping in to help the city catch up, noting: "It's amazing what can be accomplished when you are able to work together in partnership."

Tusing said upgrading city elevation technology has been on the radar for years, but finding funding was difficult. Materials cost only a few hundred dollars, but Boyle said the information put out by the markers are recorded at the federal level for future flood maps and each marker can as much as $3,000.

Manatee County has already installed about 300 markers to bring the county up to date. Bradenton used the same technology several years ago.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014