St. Pete City Council will not be immediately voting on Mayor Rick Kriseman’s plan to spend $6.5 million awarded the city through a settlement with BP on a variety of projects. During a Public Services and Infrastructure Committee meeting Thursday morning, council voted to put off allocating the funds.
At issue is the raw sewage dump in August that continues to haunt Kriseman. In response to an overburdened system during what the city describes as a 100-year rain event, the city’s wastewater division dumped 16 million gallons of raw sewage and another 15 million of partially treated sewage.
Residents went mad with anger and City Council began putting pressure on the administration to ensure something like that never happened again.
Now, Council is requesting a study looking into what it would take to beef up the system to avoid future problems.
And they’re holding Kriseman’s plan for BP settlement funds hostage in the meantime.
“Today, a City Council committee led by member Jim Kennedy took the first step toward expending the $6.5 million in BP settlement funds by applying it to maintenance on St. Petersburg’s sewer system. This is despite the fact that tens of millions of dollars are already budgeted to maintain and repair our sewer system,” Kriseman said. “I will continue to advocate for proactive policies, ideas, and solutions that position St. Petersburg for the future, and I encourage community members who are supportive of items like resiliency, sustainability, energy efficiency, alternative transportation, research, and the arts to contact our City Council.”
Kriseman’s plan would use just $1 million for sewage-related repairs or replacements. Kennedy asked that all the money be used on wastewater improvements and Karl Nurse suggested half the BP money.
The rest of Kriseman’s plan included $1 million each for an arts endowment expected to generate $40,000 a year for arts programs and for a bike share program. Those two plans are now up in the air.
Two smaller expenditures may survive the standoff. Kriseman wants to spend $350,000 on a ferry that would connect St. Pete to Tampa and $250,000 on a research vessel at the USF College of Marine Science. Both items are tied to coordinated funding efforts and are timely. They will be brought up during the legislative session in January.
Council approved a motion asking the mayor for more details on those items.