Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NC Department of Insurance Denies Insurance Rate Increase


We have just been informed that NC Insurance of Commissioner (Wayne Goodwin) has issued Notice of Public Hearing on the 2012 Homeowners Insurance Rate Filing.

The Notice of Public Hearing is means that the NC Department of Insurance does not approve of the NC Rate Bureau's Rate Filing and feels that the filed rates are excessive and unjustified.

The Hearing will not begin until June 2013 which allows both the NC Department of Insurance and the NC Rate Bureau the time needed to go through the discovery process and prepare for the Hearing. The Hearing is conducted similar to a trial with the Department of Insurance providing evidence and testimony as to why they disagree with the Rate Filing and the NC Rate Bureau

providing evidence and testimony as to why the Rate Filing is justified. The NC Insurance Commissioner will preside as the Hearing Officer during the Public Hearing. The Public Hearing will be open to the public - the public will not have an opportunity to comment during the process.

As of last Wednesday's Public Comment Session held in Raleigh, approximately 3,000 comments were submitted. The deadline for comments was last Friday, October 19th and over 9,000 comments were ultimately received. This is a telling sign that the rising cost of homeowners insurance is a critical issue in NC.

A press release should be posted soon on www.ncdoi.com.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Article from News & Observer shows NC Legislators' Feelings on Bridge costs

GOP Legislators Attack Plans For Seven-Mile $650 Million Bridge

GOP legislators attack plans for seven-mile, $650 million Outer Banks toll bridge
Published Fri, Oct 05, 2012 06:31 PM
Modified Fri, Oct 05, 2012 10:43 PM
By Bruce Siceloff – bsiceloff@newsobserver.com
By Bruce Siceloff The News and Observer
Tags: N.C. Turnpike Authority
Mid-Currituck Bridge
David Joyner
Sen. Bill Rabon
Sen. Neal Hunt
Outer Banks
RALEIGH — Republican legislators at a committee meeting Friday said the state could not afford to contribute to a planned $650 million toll bridge from mainland Currituck County to the northern Outer Banks.

The co-chairs of a House-Senate transportation oversight committee wouldn’t say when or whether they’ll vote on the Mid-Currituck Bridge, which would be built in partnership with an international consortium of private developers. But members argued against committing the state to pay as much as $28 million a year for four decades to cover an expected gap between toll collections – mostly from tourists – and project costs.

“The problem we have as a state is we don’t have the revenue we need to take care of the infrastructure we currently have, whether it’s Interstate 95 or other roads,” said Sen. Ralph Hise, an Avery County Republican. “It’s just amazing to me the creative ways we’ve come up with to finance and borrow additional money in different areas.”

Transportation officials said the state’s partnership with private developers actually will push the taxpayer cost higher, not lower. And toll collections will cover only 30 to 40 percent of the project cost – compared to a 60 percent share expected from drivers who use the Triangle Expressway in Wake County.

“From that perspective, it’s hard to justify,” Sen. Neal Hunt, a Wake County Republican, said after the meeting. “I know they have needs down there. But, dadgummit, we have lots of needs in the state.”

Acting on instructions from the legislature a few years ago, the state Department of Transportation is planning the Mid-Currituck Bridge as a public-private partnership with a Madrid-based consortium that builds bridges around the world. In exchange for taking profits from toll collections that would continue for 50 years, the private partner would carry much of the risk that the bridge – dependent on a healthy tourism economy – could turn out to be a financial flop.

David Joyner, the DOT turnpike director, said that reduced risk is worth an extra $3 million a year that taxpayers would pay.

“Is this a good deal?” Joyner asked committee members. “You’ve got to help us decide. We think it is.”

State and coastal agencies have been talking since 1975 about a bridge across the Currituck Sound, to ease weekend and summer traffic jams on U.S. 158 and N.C. 12. At seven miles, it would be North Carolina’s longest bridge.

Supporters say it would cut 37 miles and as much as two hours from beach trips. Vacationers and others would pay variable tolls projected to reach as high as $25 per trip during peak hours, with discounts for frequent users.

Elected officials and legislative candidates from both political parties in Dare and Currituck counties like the proposed bridge, and so do out-of-state residents who endure long traffic delays on their vacation trips to the Currituck Banks.

“As far as I know, this is the most important project – and has been for 20 years – in northeastern North Carolina,” said Rep. Bill Owens Jr., a Perquimans County Democrat. “It’s important to our economy, and it’s something that’s been worked on by Democrats and Republicans. … It needs to go forward.”

But a sheaf of letters and emails delivered to the legislature revealed sharp divisions among coastal residents. And the Mid-Currituck Bridge earned low-priority ratings when DOT engineers compared it to other needs.

Sen. Bill Rabon, a Brunswick County Republican who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said he’ll wait to see how the bridge project looks next spring, after as many as 50 newly elected legislators take their seats.

He expressed doubts about a 40-year commitment to pay a combined $123 million a year for the Mid-Currituck Bridge and two other pending toll projects – enough money, he said, to widen and overhaul I-95. The other two are the Garden Parkway in Gaston County and the Cape Fear Skyway in New Hanover and Brunswick counties.

“The numbers just don’t add up on these turnpike projects,” Rabon said. “I wish they did. The one in my area is as bad as this one.”

Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown or twitter.com/Road_Worrier/

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/10/05/2392577/gop-legislators-attack-plans-for.html#storylink=cpy


Friday, October 12, 2012

County to reduce number of Tour Vehicles

Larger vehicles, fewer trips under N.C. horse plan

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© October 7, 2012


A colt about 6 months old pranced around while his mother and three other Corolla wild horses recently grazed in a meadow behind the dunes.

His spiked, immature mane looked like the Mohawk haircut of a rebellious teen, colored dark brown close to the neck with a golden tinge at the tips.

An open-cab Hummer with eight riders pulled up. Four heads popped up over the roll bar and began snapping photos. It was the perfect scene for a wild horse-tour driver giving his customers what they wanted.

County officials, however, are considering ways to limit such horse-viewing trips, and the disruption they cause, by having larger vehicles that make fewer trips.

Nine companies advertise the adventure of riding in a four-wheel-drive vehicle to the north beaches in search of wild horses. It is a booming business attracting about 3,000 people a day in the summer months. North Carolina made the wild horses a featured attraction in its tourism advertising this year, ramping up interest even more.

Many times a day, lines of vehicles rumble along the surf and then turn west, up and over the dunes.

The Currituck National Wildlife Refuge and privately owned meadows and forests offer thousands of acres of habitat. But the horses also frequent the lawns of the 600 to 700 homes built along the rough, unpaved roads.

Residents of the north beach communities often have complained about the traffic and the disturbance. Some tour companies do not obey the rule of staying 50 feet from the horses, said Karen McCalpin, director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

"Too many people are getting too close," McCalpin said. "The law says 50 feet. I don't think that's too much to ask."

Contention between residents and tour operators has smoldered for years while the demand to see wild horses has grown. Owners maintain that the tours attract business and jobs to Corolla, generate tax revenue, and reduce the number of people who would drive up there on their own.

Currituck County commissioners are considering an ordinance that could cut from 46 to 25 the number of tour vehicles permitted. Operators would be allowed to use larger vehicles with greater capacity that still would offer rides to the same number of customers.

Tour owners would have to buy a new license for close to $1,200 per vehicle, raising $29,960. That fund would cover expenses such as maintaining the county's public park and restrooms in Carova Beach and grading its main route, Ocean Pearl Road. None of the roads there are paved, and many have potholes nearly large enough to swallow a pickup.

"I think it's going to be a good thing," said Scott Trabue, owner of Back Country Outfitters in Corolla. "You've got to respect the locals and you've got to respect the authorities."

Richard Brown of Wild Horse Adventure Tours and Bob White of Beach Jeeps would see the number of vehicles they use cut from 10 to four, according to county statistics. Neither could be reached for comment.

Oblivious to the troubles, the Corolla wild horses are doing well, said Wesley Stallings, the herd manager.

An aerial count in September turned up 121 horses, just about the ideal population, he said. Corolla Wild Horse Fund officials await a vote on a bill in Congress sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones that would allow the herd to remain at 120 to 130 horses. An unenforced ordinance agreed to more than 10 years ago by federal and local officials calls for the herd to remain at 60 horses.

Using GPS technology, Stallings locates where the horses live and graze month by month.
The herd naturally divides into harems of four or five horses. Harems migrate according to the season.
Marsh grasses near the Currituck Sound and mast in the maritime forests are best in the winter, while sea oats on the dunes mature in the summer. In the spring and fall, horses graze in the meadows between the dunes and the marshes.

"I know where each horse's home range is," Stallings said.
He hopes his research can eventually help resolve issues of habitat versus development and tours.
On the beach, a harem led by a black stallion well-known for his long flowing mane trotted near a large oceanfront home. A foal left behind whinnied for his mother before trotting along the base of the dunes to where she waited.
An open vehicle from a different tour company was not far away, but more than 50 feet. People stood from their seats taking photos of another memorable scene of wild horses. More satisfied customers.