Nostalgic Notes

Published 8:37 am Monday, June 23, 2008

By Staff
Baldwin County mortgages bring headaches
By Lowell McGill
This week I am focusing on the Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan and the south Baldwin County area.
A few days ago I received an email from a former claimant who lives in Birmingham thanking me for a contact I made regarding her beach home. It seems this lady, who had lost her husband since Hurricane Ivan, has been in a real financial situation for the past year.
The lady was no longer able to afford her insurance on her seasonal home. In fact her insurance had actually been canceled. The money she received from her catastrophe insurance settlement in 2004 was not enough to cover the mortgage on her property. This lady asked me to help her find a buyer since I was somewhat responsible for assisting her former neighbor in a similar situation two years ago.
I mentioned the neighbor’s property being for sale to a former claimant from Louisiana who also owned property on the coast. The man from Louisiana, who owned a chain of retail stores, bought the neighbors home. I called the man in Louisiana and he agreed to buy the home from the Birmingham lady. She took a big loss, however, as he only paid her that which was owed on the mortgage. But, I am sure she was relieved just to be free of the mortgage.
Maybe I should become a real estate broker. Just kidding of course, but there are many in this area experiencing the same problems.
I have learned from recent news articles in the paper and from TV about so many other south Baldwin residents now finding themselves in similar situations. Insurance premiums have gone out of sight and some owners have completely lost their coverage. This past Sunday the “Mobile Press Register” carried listings of homes, condos and businesses being auctioned off. Most were expected to bring only 50 percent of their respective values. I am sure these properties would certainly be a bargain now for buyers in the market for real property. Many living south of Interstate I-I0 have experienced extreme changes in their insurance premiums.
There was also a story in The MPR about some foreign students who came to Baldwin County for American cultural experience and part time work. But, according to The MPR news article their paper work was apparently not in order and as of press time these six foreign students were in limbo with no job and nothing to do hoping for it all to be solved
A plan introduced recently by some local legislators which would include FEMA including a type of homeowners insurance combined with their flood policy was struck down. And, it should have been. FEMA all ready draws financial support from all of us tax payers. To include this additional coverage into the flood policy, in my opinion, would not be fair to taxpayers. Don’t you agree?
Each month bankruptcies are listed in the paper and I find many of them occurring in south Baldwin. All you need do is look at those bankruptcies in the Mobile paper to see what I mean. Now, this is not to say all people in this area are going bankrupt. There are many successful businesses and individuals who are definitely on sound ground.
It just seems this particular area of the state has had its share of problems lately. Just two weeks voting discrepancies were uncovered. New elections for portions of Foley, Magnolia Springs and Elberta were announced by a Baldwin GOP committee. According to The Mobile Press register ballots in these precincts did not list names of some school board candidates. Thus, a new election has been addressed.
On top of this, Kenny Stabler was arrested for an alleged DUI. But it it is not for me to judge Stabler. His case, reportedly, will be heard in court later .One good upside to Stabler is the fact he has done much for charity work. Stabler is a native of Baldwin County.
Some of my snowbird friends, whom I have known since Hurricane Frederic, have elected not to return to their Baldwin condos due to the insurance situation. Their home is near Cleveland and they had been coming here to winter since the 1979 Hurricane. They really like the south Baldwin area, and so does most everyone else, but they could not handle the insurance situation.
Now, I am not picking on this county anyway at all. All my stories are factual. But this particular part of the state has certainly been in the news lately.
I vaguely remember this area when I was six or seven years old. There were no condos and very few houses. My aunt and uncle, who had a home in Perdido, had a camp trailer in Gulf Shores. In fact my uncle was employed either with the county or state as the bridgeman for the Canal. His job was to turn the crank handle that opened and closed the canal for the boats to pass through. This chore was done by manpower, no electrical power. Tragically, that same crank handle knocked him into the canal waters and took his life. He left a wife and six daughters. I remember my parents taking me down to visit prior to the accident. I would play in the shallow waters, never in the roaring Gulf.
No crowds, no congestion were evident in those days. You could buy property at very reasonable rates then. I suppose insurance was not that important in those days.
Actually, this area did not take on the progressive growth seen today until after Hurricane Frederic. But after this storm the area snowballed and became a successful tourist attraction. And today, even with the insurance problems, it still is one of the most beautiful resort areas in the nation. Known for the sugar white beaches it has become the destination of many tourist from near and far.
Maybe the insurance Beach Pool, a special insurance organization for coastal residents, will be of help. But maybe, and hopefully, insurance premiums will return to an affordable rate in due time.
Check out our new sports editor, Chandler Myers. He is, indeed, a knowledgeable sports writer and is well abreast of both local and national sports. He will be writing about our big 14-15 year old baseball tournament to be staged here next month. I have really been impressed with his overall knowledge of sports
And before I forget, this is the week we should learn about the huge NG tanker contract. Mobile, as you know, was selected as one of the cities to build this plane. But it’s competition from Boeing has delayed the process. No announcement has been made as of Sunday, the day this column was written. Be sure to follow the news stories following the announcement. Let’s see if politics were involved.
Next week I will tell you about two of Atmore’s oldest citizens. One of which lived past his 117th birthday. We will also look at two local organizations that were organized in 1964 and are still going strong today.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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