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Rick Kriseman’s BP settlement plan tabled until something’s done about sewage problems

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

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.

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Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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