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Commissioners back efforts to combat rising insurance costs

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

BOLIVIA—County commissioners on Monday agreed to support Dare County and the town of Nags Head in their efforts to combat rising homeowners’ insurance costs. However, local officials opted not to put a dollar amount on their support.

Officials with Dare County and Nags Head have asked all coastal counties and municipalities to support their efforts to fight a recently approved insurance rate increase they believe is targeting coastal counties, county manager Marty Lawing said.

“The beach plan includes a 2 percent deductible and up to a 30 percent rate increase. Dare County and Nags Head are asking everyone to intervene. They are asking for support and to contribute money to effort, if you’re interested, ” Lawing said.

N.C. Insurance Commissioner Jim Long recently approved a rate schedule, which could increase homeowners’ insurance rates up to 30 percent in coastal counties.

But Lawing didn’t have a specific number when commissioners asked for the amount of funding Dare County and Nags Head officials were seeking in their efforts to re-examine homeowners’ insurance rate increases.

“They’re primarily looking for support, and they want any amount of money,” Lawing explained.

Commissioners agreed to back the efforts, but asked Lawing to come back to them with a specific amount for approval at the next meeting.

“Unless we fight this, we’re going to see this slippery slope, if you will, in trying to gouge property owners,” commissioner Mary Cooke said of the rate increases.

Commissioners chairman Bill Sue agreed.

“I think we should support the effort and intervene,” Sue said.

‘Fair and equitable’

Bobby Outten, county attorney and assistant county manager for Dare County, said Dare County officials filed five appeals in Raleigh on Dec. 22.

Appeals were filed in Wake County Superior Court and the N.C. Court of Appeals. Outten said county officials also filed a notice of appeal and exception to Long.

A request for a rehearing was submitted to the N.C. Underwriting Association and the Joint Association for Underwriters, otherwise known as the Beach Plan and the Fair Plan, he explained.

“We have some issues with the various things they do—the rate increases, the fairness of those increases, the surcharges that they charge,” Outten said.

“We don’t think those things are fair,” he continued, adding the proper criteria wasn’t used in determining insurance rates.

Dare County officials have asked all other coastal counties to join in their fight against the rate increases.

“There are 18 affected counties, and we’d like to think we can get all 18 counties involved.”

As for Dare County’s 35,000 permanent residents, “we just want to do what’s fair and equitable,” Outten said.

Commissioners also voted to move their next meeting to 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26.

Staff writer Sarah Shew Wilson contributed to this story.