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Here's a direct line to Citizens

For the thousands of local Citizens Property Insurance Corp. policyholders facing skyrocketing rates, a rare opportunity to directly address chairman Bruce Douglas and other company officials will occur Wednesday in New Port Richey.

At the invitation of state Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, Douglas will appear for a freewheeling town hall meeting at Spartan Manor, 6121 Massachusetts Ave.

The meeting is scheduled for five hours beginning at 10 a.m. because of the large crowd that is expected. Doors open at 9 a.m.

Organizers said they hope residents will depart after speaking and listening to their response so that additional policyholders can enter the meeting room.

Of the state's 810,000 residents who are insured by Citizens, about 25,140 live in Pasco. Many policyholders, especially those in Pasco and Hernando counties, have seen sinkholes cause their property insurance to double and sometimes triple in the past three years.

Fasano said the meeting comes as the result of a phone call from Douglas complaining about the criticism the lawmaker has laid on the beleaguered state-run insurer of last resort.

"My hope is that residents along with representatives of Citizens, the Office of Insurance Regulation and hopefully some of my colleagues will become more aware of the crisis we have here as the result of this meeting," Fasano said.

"There are some in Tallahassee that have not grasped the crisis."

Garrett Therolf can be reached at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6232 and in west Pasco at 869-6232. His e-mail address is gtherolf@spttmes.com.

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