To the editor:
[re: “Islander’s Nightmare,” WWF Feb. 06] …I am writing this as an insurance agent for 32 yrs. here on Martha’s Vineyard. The Vineyard may be known by many as a place high profile types spend their summers in large sprawling estates…although this may in part be true, the Vineyard is also home to many hard working regular folks who struggle financially with many of the same issues islanders in Maine struggle with…not the least being insurance for our homes.

Over the past ten years, insurers have begun reducing their interest in insuring homes here. Over the past few years it has accelerated to the point that it is difficult to find a voluntary market, (one licensed to do business here in the state), and a residual or Surplus Lines market has developed. This is not necessarily good news, as the premiums for this residual market are much higher (in many cases 50% or more) than the voluntary insurers. Here we can place many of our customers in something we call the FAIR Plan, originally designed for the inner city customer who could not purchase insurance on a “voluntary” basis. The FAIR plan has become one of the largest insurers in the State of Massachusetts because of the continued refusal by insurers to offer homeowners’ insurance to residents of the Cape and Islands. In short, it has become the insurer of last resort for many of our customers.

We do not see any easy solution on the horizon. Our big issue here is the potential for a catastrophic windstorm event such as a category III hurricane. But, we also have other issues like fire protection or the lack thereof.

There is not much that can be done at the moment. We are a rather tiny percentage of the total population of the state, and therefore don’t have the political clout to make any real progress. However, it is an issue that we cannot let the insurers solve on their own. We, all of us, need to keep the subject out there. In front of our legislators. Try to work together to find a reasonable solution — a little local input, a little state political clout, and the use of area agents and insurers will offer the best solution.

You have begun the journey with this article. Don’t stop now. Go to the Rotary, go to the Lions club, get to other public places and keep your issue out there in front. We keep pushing it here, too. There is a reasonable solution out there waiting to be discovered.

Ken Ward
Martha’s Vineyard, MA