Congressman Jerry Costello (D-Belleville) reacted strongly to an article published today by the Record regarding a flood plain bill he has proposed.
"Steve Korris' article on my legislation, H.R. 3415, and a connection to the University Town Center project is totally inaccurate," Costello said.
"I have been working with local officials, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to fix the levees in the Metro East for over two years. As St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council Chief Supervisor Les Sterman have clearly stated, they along with Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan asked me to sponsor the legislation to help fix the levees and deal with the financial impact of rising flood insurance rates on homeowners and small businesses in our area.
"In addition, the developer of University Town Center has said that that H.R. 3415 provides no benefit to the project. My number one priority is to fix the levees to keep our communities safe."
Les Sterman, Chief Supervisor of Construction and the Works for Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council, also responded:
"The purpose of the bill is to help homeowners and small businesses in the floodplain who buy flood insurance through the federal program," Sterman wrote.
"It does not give us a pass on fixing the levees – in fact, the provisions only go into effect if we agree to fix the levees and can demonstrate that we have a plan and financing to do so. It does not benefit larger businesses or developers who are not eligible for federal flood insurance and who buy flood insurance on the open market from insurers who use independent underwriters to assess risk.
"While we are actively encouraging people to buy flood insurance, we know that there are many people in this area who will not be able to afford to do so. Flood insurance rates will be going up by about 300% when the new maps go into effect. Examples: for a $100,000 home the rate will go from $233 a year $715 a year; for a $250,000 home the rate will go to $1390 a year.
"If you have a mortgage and can't afford to pay these steep rates, your lender will be forced to foreclose. This will be an incredible hardship, especially for those who are most vulnerable in our bad economy. If H.R. 3415 doesn't pass, the outcome will be tragic for homeowners and small business in our region. This bill has nothing whatsoever to do with the University Town Center proposal; it would provide no benefit at all to this project or its developers.
"Our organization and the three counties asked Congressman Costello to sponsor this bill and we have worked closely with his staff to write the bill. It has nothing whatsoever to do with anything else, other than trying to protect the economy of our region during a time when we are working urgently to repair the levee systems.
"Your article, unfortunately, relies on a couple of sources who apparently either have no understanding of the bill or who have other political agendas.
"This does a great disservice to the community."