Anne Lindberg - 3/48 - SaintPetersBlog

Anne Lindberg

St. Pete schedules second session to discuss sewer plant improvements

St. Petersburg has scheduled a second informational meeting to discuss proposed improvements to the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility and the 31st Street Sports Complex.

The meetings are designed to inform residents about a proposal to drill wells at both facilities to increase the storage capacity for reclaimed water. An increased storage capacity will help handle the increase in water during storms and help prevent overflows. Last year, the city dumped thousands of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay because the system was unable to handle the amount of water that two tropical storms dropped on the county.

Since then, the city has created a multimillion plan to repair its aging sewer infrastructure to prevent rain- and groundwaters from getting into the system. The plan also calls for other improvements such as the construction of injection wells at Southwest and 31st Street. Each site is slated to have two 1,100-foot-deep injection wells, for a total of four new wells. The four wells ill be in addition to injection wells already in place at the Southwest plan, which pumps treated reclaimed water deep into confined salt aquifers.

The city held one informational meeting last year. Like the last, this second meeting, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Lake Vista Center, 1401 62nd Ave. S, is meant to explain the projects to residents, particularly those who will be affected by the construction. But St. Petersburg officials say they also want to hear residents’ ideas and suggestions concerning the proposal.

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Improvements to St. Pete sewage system begin

Work to line aging sanitary sewer collection mains and city sewer laterals began Monday in the Bahama Shores and Coquina Key neighborhoods.

Part of Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s infrastructure plan, the $3.2 million lining project will help extend the life of sanitary sewer mains and prevent groundwater infiltration from entering the city’s sewage collection system. Depending on the weather, the project is expected to be completed by September.

St. Petersburg’s sewer system became the focus of controversy last year after the city dumped thousands of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay during two storms. City officials said the quantity of rain overburdened the system. Officials blamed an aging infrastructure that allowed rain- and groundwater to get into the sewer pipes. The cleaning and lining process is designed to cure the leaks and prevent rain- and groundwater from seeping into the system in the future.

Insituform Technologies, LLC, will reline 8-inch-12-inch sanitary sewer collection mains and city sewer laterals to homes in the affected neighborhoods using a cured-in-place pipe lining process, which involves little to no digging compared to the traditional “dig and replace” pipe repair. CIPP instead utilizes pump around pumping, cleaning the existing pipe, closed-circuit TV inspection, pipe-lining, and restoration of the right-of-way.

Residents will be informed by door hangers before the start of each phase of the project and are encouraged to keep water usage at a minimum during active construction. Work is expected to begin around 8 a.m. each day. Local access will be maintained during the project.

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Environmental groups sue Gulfport over sewage overflows

Three environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit this week alleging the city of Gulfport is in violation of the Clean Water Act for discharging raw sewage and other pollutants into Clam Bayou and Tampa and Boca Ciega bays without a permit.

They are asking, among other things, that the judge levy civil fines against Gulfport of up to $37,500 per day per violation for violations occurring from Jan. 12, 2009, to Nov. 2, 2015. They’re also asking for civil penalties of up to $51,570 per day per violation for violations occurring after Nov. 2, 2015, and assessed on or after Aug. 1.

Justin Bloom, the Sarasota attorney representing the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment. Gulfport City Manager James O’Reilly declined to comment, saying he had not seen the lawsuit yet.

The plaintiffs — Suncoast Waterkeeper, Our Children’s Earth Foundation and Ecological Rights Foundation — said they are suing because of numerous spills.

“Since Oct. 28, 2011, Gulfport has repeatedly spilled raw and partially treated sewage from its,” the suit alleges. Such overflows, it says, “have repeatedly spilled from Gulfport sewer lines, manholes, pump stations, and various other equipment/conveyances that are part of the” wastewater collection system.

The overflows “harm Tampa Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and other water bodies, streams, or tributaries in or adjoining Gulfport and pose a significant risk to fisheries, wildlife habitat, and human health,” the suit says.

The lawsuits list those harmful effects. Among them “human waste, viruses, protozoa, mold spores and bacteria that are known pathogens that cause disease in humans and wildlife. The human waste … contain nutrients that increase the risk of algae blooms known as ‘red tides’ that are toxic to fish and cause skin and respiratory irritation in sensitive members of the human population.”

The overflows and discharges, the suit says, can be traced to infiltration and inflow from an aging and defective sewer system. Infiltration and inflow happen when a sewer system allows in rainwater or groundwater that would otherwise be excluded. The rain or groundwater gets in through leaky or broken pipes or faulty manhole covers. If a sewer system allows such infiltration and inflow, it can easily become overburdened with rainwater during periods of heavy rains or storms.

In Gulfport’s case, the defective system that allows infiltration and inflow burdens not only the city’s system but has a domino effect down the line as the water moves elsewhere. St. Petersburg receives the brunt of that, the suit says, because that city is responsible for handling Gulfport’s wastewater.

“By failing to prevent infiltration and inflow from Gulfport’s defective [wastewater collection system] from flooding St. Petersburg’s [treatment plants] and overloading the system during wet weather events, Gulfport causes or contributes to [overflows] throughout the [entire system],” the suit says.

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Jack Latvala endorses Joe Ayoub for Safety Harbor mayor

Joe Ayoub has launched a campaign for mayor of Safety Harbor and continues to gain strong momentum while gaining key endorsements, this time from one of Pinellas’ most prominent leaders, state Sen. Jack Latvala.

“Pinellas County isn’t just my home, it’s our future home and we must elect good leaders to protect it. Joe is one of the good guys and his background as a former Mayor and CPA will serve Safety Harbor’s residents well. Joe has a pragmatic approach to solving problems and I have watched Joe contribute to Safety Harbor’s success with his vision for a better future. As your Pinellas County senator I look forward to working with Joe as Safety Harbor’s next Mayor,” Latavala said.

Latvala joins former Florida chief financial officer Alex Sink and former elected official Neil Brickfield in supporting Ayoub. Ayoub said he brings a record of balancing the budget, working with all sides to solve issues, and a commonsense plan for managing progress while maintaining Safety Harbor’s small town charm.

“It was an honor and privilege to serve as Safety Harbor’s Mayor in 2013 and previously as a commissioner for six years. We accomplished a lot and I’m proud of the work that we did. I absolutely love serving our community, which is why I’m running to be the next mayor of Safety Harbor,” Ayoub said.

“As the mayor and as a licensed CPA I’m proud to have passed the first balanced budget for the first time in seven years. Going forward I’ll continue being laser focused on keeping taxes low and spending in check,” Ayoub said.

Ayoub went to Countryside High School and studied at the University of Florida. He is the chief financial officer at Data Blue and he believes in responsible budgeting. He lives in Safety Harbor and enjoys biking and running. To learn more about him, visit JoeAyoubForMayor.com.

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Proposal for long-term deal between St. Pete, Rowdies likely to go before voters

The Tampa Bay Rowdies are ready for the big leagues, and it appears their shot will be coming sooner than later.

Major League Soccer announced last month that the Rowdies and St. Petersburg will be one of 10 cities under consideration for an expansion team.

Before that happens — representing a considerable boost for both the team and St. Petersburg — the Rowdies will need to show, among other things, a comprehensive stadium plan that ensures the club will provide proper support for fans and players, while also serving as a soccer destination in the community.

For that to happen, the Rowdies would first need a long-term lease with the city, which owns Al Lang Stadium.

But before realizing such an agreement, St. Petersburg voters must step in and approve the deal.

On Thursday, St. Pete City Council members discussed the steps necessary for both a referendum and a possible agreement. If all goes as planned, the vote will be held May 2 to ask voters’ permission to strike a deal to lease Al Lang to the Rowdies for up to 25 years.

Voters must also approve the lease, or some other agreement.

And if approved, a deal could be signed by mid- to late May, just time for Major League Soccer to make its decision.

The Rowdies, ready move ahead on this new phase in their history, agreed to take up all costs associated with the referendum, as well as that of getting the expansion and making improvements to Al Lang.

However, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman gave a caveat. The referendum “doesn’t commit us,” he said.

The mayor explained that what the referendum does is only give the city permission to negotiate a long-term agreement. And it all that rests on the Rowdies becoming an MLS expansion team. If the team doesn’t get the distinction, it would void the deal with St. Pete.

Councilmember Karl Nurse remains optimistic, though: “If we can make this work, it’s a big deal.”

While the Rowdies and St. Pete are one of the cities under consideration, there are others: Cincinnati, Ohio; Detroit, Nashville, Tennessee; Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; Sacramento, California; St. Louis, San Antonio, Texas; and San Diego, California.

Interested expansion owners must submit applications by Jan. 31.

Qualified applicants will submit documentation that focuses on the following three areas: 1) Ownership — Structure and financial information; 2) Stadium — details on proposed site, financing, approvals and support; and 3) Financial Projections, Corporate Support and Soccer Support — a business plan, projections and commitment letters for naming rights and a jersey-front sponsor, along with an overview of support from the soccer community.

Three key aspects are considered top priorities when reviewing candidates:

A committed local ownership group that has a passion for the sport, a deep belief in Major League Soccer and the resources to invest in the infrastructure to build the sport in their respective market.

A market that has a history of strong fan support for soccer matches and other sporting events, is located in a desirable geographic location and is attractive to corporate sponsors and television partners.

A comprehensive stadium plan that ensures the club will have a proper home for their fans and players while also serving as a destination for the sport in the community.

 

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Florida Bar to honor St. Petersburg lawyer

Jennifer Edwards has been named the recipient of the 2017 Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award.

The award recognizes public service or legal aid performed by a lawyer who is younger than 36 and who has not practiced for more than five years. It will be presented at a Jan. 19 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida in Tallahassee. The awards ceremony will also honor individual, circuit, law firm, voluntary bar, state judicial and federal judicial pro bono efforts.

This year’s YLD Pro Bono Service Award honors Edwards’ work as a guardian ad litem and court-appointed advocate for children in Pinellas County.

Edwards typically is appointed to serve in dependency cases. In her most recently completed case, Edwards worked for about a year representing a 7-year-old boy whose behavior and school work was suffering because of his parents’ substance abuse.

In this emotionally charged situation, Edwards worked to determine whether reunification with the parents was in the boy’s best interest. She wore many hats, sometimes acting as counselor and coordinator, in addition to being the boy’s attorney. She met regularly with the boy and gained his trust; she met with his parents and persuaded them to complete the reunification plan; and she met with other involved parties to investigate, monitor and evaluate the evolving circumstances.

Through the year, the boy improved his lagging language arts skills, and in the past six months, made either the honor roll or the principal’s list. At the conclusion of the case, the court agreed with Edwards’ recommendation that the boy be reunited with his parents — a heartwarming ending to a difficult and emotional year.

In late 2016, Edwards also represented the interests of a 3-week-old girl and anticipated being appointed to another case as well.

She participates in LawFest Days and is on the call list for the Community Law Program, a nonprofit created by the St. Petersburg Bar Association to serve the legal needs of low-income and disadvantaged people.

Edwards has both a J.D. and an M.B.A. from Stetson University.

 

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South St. Pete CRA citizens’ committee asked to weigh in on proposed design changes

Members of the citizen advisory board to the South St. Pete community redevelopment area will have a chance to weigh in on design standards governing the appearance of homes in the area.

They’ll also have an opportunity to comment on the way financial grants are awarded in the area.

Both items are on the group’s Jan. 10 agenda.

Among the proposed design changes is a reduction in the number of windows required in a home, as well as the elimination of the 360-degree architecture requirement. That’s a requirement that all sides of the house are architecturally the same; that is, if the front is stucco, then all sides that can be seen from the street also must be stucco.

But the major discussion will focus on whether there should be different standards in the south St. Petersburg CRA than in other areas of the city. Requiring fewer windows in a home and eliminating the need for all sides to be architecturally the same will also save money and could encourage redevelopment and refurbishment of homes.

The group will also consider recommending changes to the way grant money is handed out in the south St. Petersburg CRA. Among the proposed changes: the formation of a committee to review applications and the creation of a point system to help evaluate the applications. There would also be additional grant money for projects that meet certain job creation and hiring requirements.

The citizen advisory committee is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday at St. Petersburg City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N.

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PSTA, HART take steps to formal working partnership

The two agencies responsible for bus service in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties already collaborate, but in the future, they plan to have a tighter working partnership.

On Wednesday, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s legislative committee got its first look at a proposed agreement that could result in the merger of some departments.

The general goal is to streamline services to save money and provide better service for transit riders, PSTA CEO Brad Miller said.

The agreement sets out areas in which the two agencies already collaborate, such as a regional fare collection that uses one informational app that applies whether the customer is in Pinellas or Hillsborough. The regional fare collection app includes not only PSTA and HART, the Hillsborough transit authority, but Sarasota, Pasco and Hernando counties as well.

PSTA and HART are also partnering on such items as the purchase of some equipment and on goal-setting and legislative priorities.

The two would continue collaborating on those items and would research areas that could benefit from joint ventures. That could eventually mean the merger of some departments, Miller said.

The proposed agreement, which still has to be approved by both the PSTA and HART boards, comes at a time when the state Legislature and federal government are urging local transportation agencies to merge or otherwise create regional transportation priorities.

It also comes at a time when Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long has proposed consolidation of many of the Tampa Bay area’s transportation agencies into one regional group.

Long’s “regional council of governments” would be responsible for finding regional answers to transportation, affordable housing, economic development, and land use and redevelopment issues that face Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

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Travis Palladeno to run for re-election in Madeira Beach

Travis Palladeno

Travis Palladeno is running for his third term as mayor of Madeira Beach.

Like many incumbents who seek re-election, Palladeno said he wants to complete unfinished business. But he also intends to work on countywide issues that have a significant impact on this beach community.

One of those, he said, is the November vote to renew the Penny for Pinellas. If the Penny passes, he said, it could mean an estimated $45 million to beach communities for beautification. Madeira Beach would take a $4.5 million slice of that.

That money, he said, could go to bury utility lines on Gulf Boulevard.

But that’s not his only goal should he be re-elected on March 14. The city, like most in Pinellas, needs to repair and renovate its sewer system to help with stormwater drainage.

Then there’s the Holiday Isle redevelopment project, which has caused a storm of protest and the filing of lawsuits. Thus far, the city has won the lawsuits in which there has been a ruling. That project and one other would see the redevelopment of two parcels of land on either side of the Tom Stuart Causeway.

Although the City Commission has approved the projects, Holiday Isle is being reworked, reducing the height by two stories. Palladeno said he’d like to continue working to get that project up and running and to make sure the city gets what it needs.

“There’s something going to be built there,” Palladeno said. It’s better, he added, for the city to have control so there will still be a view of the water and green space than to let developers build something that would be a solid wall and block all views.

A bit of height, he said, is a fair trade for a better view and an attractive building.

Palladeno pointed to his accomplishments as reasons to reelect him. Among those, he said, is the solid financial condition of the city that gives property owners the lowest municipal tax rate in the county.

Palladeno serves on the Tourist Development Council and as president of the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council. He is the former vice president of the Barrier Island Government Council, known as the “Big C,” and a past president of the Pinellas County Mayors Council.

He is a legislative board member of the Fishing Rights Alliance and is a council member of the Fishing Industry Council & CCA Florida STAR Tournament. He is a past board member of the Old Salts Fishing Foundation and a former grand master of the Gulf Beach Masonic Lodge.

He owned Live Wire Fishing Charter.

The Madeira Beach election is March 14. The mayor’s seat and two council seats are on the ballot. Qualifying closes Jan. 13.

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At swearing in, Bob Dillinger says it’s his last term as Pinellas/Pasco public defender

The event was set up as a festive ceremony to swear in six of Pinellas County’s constitutional officers.

But amid the laughter, hugs and cheers, there were some serious moments.

One came just after Pinellas-Pasco public defender Bob Dillinger was sworn in by Anthony Rondolino, chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

In a voice choked with emotion, Dillinger announced that this would be his “last term as public defender for the Sixth Judicial Circuit.”

Dillinger did not offer reasons for his decision, saying, “It’s an honor to have served.”

He also offered his hopes that people who are powerless, poor and forgotten would be remembered and would receive “liberty and justice for all.”

Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe praised Dillinger, saying, “We genuinely get along. … We collaborate together. We have a collegial atmosphere…That’s something you don’t find everywhere else.”

Another solemn moment came when Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark was sworn in. In a teary voice, Clark remembered Judge Pat Caddell, who died in 2014. Caddell had chaired the Pinellas County Canvassing Board in every election for 22 years.

“Pat was my close friend and mentor, I miss him every day,” Clark said.

For the most part, the rest of the evening was full of joking and laughter.

Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala swore in Clerk of Court Ken Burke.

“I’ve sworn at him,” Latvala said. “I guess he thought it appropriate that I swear him in.”

Rondolino, who also swore in McCabe, joked as McCabe put his hand on the Bible and raised his right hand: “I’ve been waiting 40 years to get him under oath.”

Dillinger is a native Floridian who moved to Pinellas County in 1973. He has an undergraduate degree from Columbia University (1973) and a juris doctor degree from Stetson College of Law (1976).

He served as assistant public defender from 1976 to 1981 when he left for private practice. He was elected public defender and has served in that position ever since.

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