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Jack Latvala: What about using barges to prevent sewer overflows?

latvala, jack - flooding

On the eve of a meeting between the Pinellas Legislative delegation and city officials, state Sen. Jack Latvala has presented one possible solution to prevent further overflows of wastewater into Tampa Bay.

And he wants St. Petersburg officials to tell him if it’s a good idea and, if not, why not.

“I would like your presentation to include if it is feasible for barges or tankers to be brought into Bayboro to be used for heavy rain events and, if it is not viable, why not,” the Clearwater Republican wrote Monday in a letter to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Ben Kirby, spokesman for Kriseman, said the idea is one of many St. Petersburg officials have discussed. It will be one of the ideas that Claude Tankersley, the city’s public works chief, will present at Tuesday’s meeting.

The state of St. Petersburg’s sewer system has risen to the top of officials’ agendas after the city poured millions of gallons of untreated and partially treated wastewater into the bay during storms this summer. St. Petersburg officials say part of the problem is the city’s old sewer system that allows rain water to infiltrate and overburden the system, causing backups and overflows.

Earlier this month, Latvala and fellow Republican, state Rep. Kathleen Peters, called for a meeting of the Legislative Delegation to discuss what’s needed to prevent another overflow. The Pinellas County commission has also called for a task force to seek solutions to the problem.

The delegation is scheduled to meet Tuesday, which Latvala referred to, saying he was looking forward to hearing the city’s presentation.

“We are all deeply concerned by the discharge of hundreds of millions of wastewater that was not fully treated into our bay,” Latvala wrote. “I recognize that the city has projects underway and is planning that will alleviate these discharges in the future. But my question is, do we continue to sit by and allow these discharges happen during every major rain event until those projects are completed?”

Latvala said a constituent suggested bringing in relocatable storage units, such as barges, bladders, or tankers that the city could rent and place at Bayboro Harbor to hold “millions of gallons of outtake.”

“I would like for the city to consider renting bladders or barges and then pumping the flow to a processing plant when allowed after the rain event.”

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Pinellas Commission to form sewer, wastewater task force

Pinellas County commissioners agreed Wednesday to form a countywide task force to work together on sewer and stormwater management issues.

The panel would be comprised of Pinellas County, 13 municipalities that have their own sewer systems, and three private systems.

“I believe the coming together of our partners can lay the groundwork for better reaction to emergencies, improving our infrastructure, and ultimately providing better services for our citizens,” Commissioner Charlie Justice wrote in a memo proposing the task force.

It is the second proposal for representatives from area governments to meet to discuss what’s needed to remedy Pinellas’ aging infrastructure.

Last week, state Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Kathleen Peters called for the Pinellas legislative delegation to meet with county and municipal representatives to discuss possible solutions. The delegation is scheduled to meet Tuesday.

“Storm events over the last year have exposed ailing infrastructure needs across Pinellas County, given the number of sewer dumps by a majority of municipalities and the county,” Peters wrote in a letter asking for the meeting. “The problem is something that has been neglected for quite some time and I believe to be at a critical point for our entire county, putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk, as well as leaving lasting damage to our environment.”

Peters said she is hoping for two outcomes from the delegation meeting. The first would be an indication from the cities that they will actively look for ways to fix their systems and get on the road to doing it.

The other, she said, is to find out from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection exactly what the delegation and the state can do to help matters. The state can give loans, she said, but if legislation or another action is needed, delegation members need to know that. And cities need to hear what the state is allowed to do, she said.

Justice and Peters were reacting in part to flooding resulting from the massive rains dumped on Pinellas with the passing in the Gulf of Hurricane Hermine. The rains overwhelmed wastewater treatment plants, resulting in the dumping of partially treated wastewater into Tampa Bay.

A report from the DEP indicates the county dumped about 29 million total gallons, along with St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, St. Pete Beach, Clearwater, Largo, and others.

Raw and partially treated water went into Boca Ciega Bay, Lake Seminole, Joe’s Creek, and irrigation canals, among other places.

It could have been worse, said Bill Breckinridge, assistant county administrator. The county, he said, brought in pumper trucks and managed to keep and additional 15.6 million gallons from overflowing.

Breckinridge said the problem is generally two-fold — the capacity to hold large amounts of water and the influx of rainwater into the sewage system because of aging pipes and simple seepage through manhole covers.

The county, St. Petersburg, Largo, and other cities have earmarked millions to repair and replace worn-out systems.

But, as County Administrator Mark Woodard said, “Looking at the problem in isolation will not solve the problem.”

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Kathleen Peters slams decision to close Albert Whitted sewer plant

Considering the effect of the summer’s rains on leaky sewer pipes, it’s not surprising that Pinellas County’s aging infrastructure was a prime issue during a debate Tuesday between Kathleen Peters and Jennifer Webb.

Kathleen Peters
Kathleen Peters

And it’s probably not surprising that the cities, especially St. Petersburg, came in for harsh criticism from Peters, a Republican running for re-election to State House District 69. Webb, a Democrat, is opposing her.

“Local governments throughout the county have not done their job,” Peters said.

Peters had particularly harsh criticism for St. Petersburg’s Democratic Mayor Rick Kriseman although she never mentioned him by name. Instead, she referred to an “administration” or “this administration” when criticizing the decision to close one of three sewer treatment plants.

In answer to a question about the need to create mitigation strategies to deal with climate change, she said she was less interested in that than in another issue.

Jennifer Webb
Jennifer Webb

“My focus is right here with infrastructure. We can’t even get that right,” Peters said.

Peters then referred to “this administration” that had closed a sewer plant despite claiming to be an environmentally friendly community. Peters said it irked her when the administration blamed a previous administration for closing the plant. She further criticized the administration for not spending BP money for items other than infrastructure.

Ben Kirby, the mayor’s spokesman, agreed Wednesday that it was clear Peters was referring to Kriseman. But, he said, she had her facts wrong.

“Rep. Peters is just flat wrong,” Kirby said. “This administration didn’t close any wastewater treatment plant.”

The discussion about closing the Albert Whitted plant began years ago during the tenure of Rick Baker as mayor as the result of a consultant’s report, Kirby said. The St. Petersburg City Council voted in 2011 to close the plant. That, he said, was during Bill Foster’s term. Kriseman didn’t take office until 2013. Baker and Foster are both Republicans.

St. Petersburg’s sewer woes come from “years and years and years” of neglect, he said. The sewer discharge doesn’t come from lack of treatment plants but rain water seeping into leaky pipes that then overload the system. The council and the Kriseman administration, he said, have committed millions – including some BP money – to fixing the infrastructure.

Rick Kriseman
Rick Kriseman

Even so, Peters said she had done her part since she was elected to the Legislature to help solve infrastructure problems by bringing back about $1.7 million in state money to help Gulfport and St. Pete Beach deal with their sewer issues. Peters and state Sen. Jack Latvala called for a meeting of area officials and the Legislative Delegation to discuss what needs to be done. That meeting is set for Tuesday.

“Nobody will work harder at this than I have,” Peters said.

Webb responded, saying $1.7 million “over five years is a pittance compared to what it’s going to take.”

Cities have asked for help, she said, but the pleas have fallen on half-deaf ears. True leadership, Webb said, requires officials to help when they see their constituents under water and their streets turning into “sewage rivers.” And, that leadership, she said, needs to be provided “even when it’s not an election year.”

Webb said she believes the state and perhaps the federal government should help finance the needed infrastructure improvements.

Webb also had a differing point of view when it came to establishing hazard mitigation strategies for climate change. The question involved ways to get Gov. Rick Scott to deal with the issue. The question wasn’t clear as to what the questioner wanted Scott to do, but Webb got one of the few laughs of the evening when she said, “You mean, like to actually use the words ‘climate change’?”

Hazard mitigation is essential, Webb said, and it needs to be statewide. As for Scott, Webb said he’d be out of office in two years, and that would be a better time to create such rules.

The debate, the first between the two, was sponsored by the Crossroads Community Association.

HD 69 includes Gulfport, South Pasadena, Pinellas Park, parts of St. Petersburg and some of the south Pinellas beach communities. The election is Nov. 8.

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Pinellas Legislative Delegation to meet to discuss sewer discharge

State Sen. Jack Latvala, chairman of the Pinellas County legislative delegation, announced a delegation workshop meeting to hear about and discuss the recent discharge of untreated sewage into Tampa Bay waters by cities in Pinellas County.

The meeting will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Karen A. Steidinger Auditorium on Tuesday. The auditorium is located at 100 Eighth Ave. S.E., which is at the Fish & Wildlife Research Institute on the University of South Florida St. Pete campus.

Presentations will be made by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and officials from Pinellas County and cities around the county. This meeting is a workshop format, and the public is invited to attend. The meeting must end promptly at 5 p.m., and there may be limited time for public input.

Latvala’s press release comes days after fellow Republican Kathleen Peters, who represents Treasure Island in the state House, called for a meeting to discuss infrastructure concerns after Hurricane Hermine cause sewers in St. Petersburg, Gulfport, and other cities to overflow into the bay.

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Tom Jackson: In Pasco, all roads lead to Mike Fasano

Mike FasanoWhatever else we might be tempted to say in the aftermath of last month’s recent primary election, for those who live and/or work in Pasco County, this, above all, is beyond dispute:

Pasco is Mike Fasano’s county. Everyone else is just visiting.

Who but Fasano, the nudging, empathetic, perpetually beatifying champion of the “little guy and little gal” could have done in the Republican race for Pasco County property appraiser what he did with the fundamentally flawed Gary Joiner?

That is, Fasano — officially Pasco County’s tax collector but, increasingly, its kingmaker — took his operations chief, a career bureaucrat whose best-known qualities were philandering, creepiness, dishonesty, and opportunism and created the impression that the virtuous candidate in the GOP primary was not San Antonio’s Ted Schrader, the reasonably well-regarded and accomplished four-term county commissioner, but his guy.

That’s right. The fellow who carried on a workplace affair with a subordinate in 2009, lied about it, attempted to rekindle the romance in 2013 and 2014, got suspended when he was found out and, as a condition of his reinstatement, can no longer be alone with female colleagues — that is the guy local Republicans preferred in an 11-point landslide over Schrader, who was effectively portrayed as Pasco’s own Lyin’ Ted.

To be sure, Joiner benefited from the endorsement of popular Sheriff Chris Nocco, as well as from tens of thousands of dollars in nonstop advertising diverted from the electioneering committee of state House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran — looking for some payback after Schrader helped choke off his intriguing charter-county plan last year — but it was Fasano, famous for wishing God’s blessing on all he meets, who chiefly midwifed his lieutenant’s campaign.

And it’s not like Schrader, who comes from an influential family of developers, business operators, and citrus growers, was out there flailing alone. His backers included a who’s who of the area Republican firmament: former state House Speaker Will Weatherford, likely future state Senate President Wilton Simpson, state Rep. Danny Burgess, schools Superintendent Kurt Browning and even Fasano’s longtime pal, state Sen. Jack Latvala, whose district includes part of West Pasco.

Looking back, with voters in a throw-’em-out mood, maybe all that establishment worked against Schrader.

Even so, rehabilitating Joiner — or, worse, making voters not care about his indiscretions — is an achievement so breathtaking, if Fasano’s next act were to cause white tigers and hippos to fly in formation the length of State Road 54 from New Port Richey to Zephyrhills, no one would raise an eyebrow.

And he did it all while conveniently removing a potential rival from challenging his future re-election plans. You could look it up.

Joiner made plain his preference would be to run for tax collector while acknowledging that, with Fasano ensconced, that door seemed firmly shut. Now a potential problem — a younger man with ambition — has been positioned, if he subdues little-known Dade City Democrat and real estate broker Jon Sidney Larkin in November, to run a new agency and while being converted into an indebted ally. You don’t get that sort of twofer every election cycle.

Beyond its lopsided margin, what is particularly remarkable about Joiner’s primary triumph is its geographic scope.

You would expect a New Port Richey resident backed by prominent west-county policymakers to do well in his backyard, and Joiner did. A Pasco County supervisor of elections map showing a precinct-by-precinct breakdown indicates a Joiner wave stretching virtually uninterrupted from the Gulf of Mexico to U.S. 41/Land O’ Lakes Boulevard.

But what happened on the other side that reveals, startlingly, the tale of Fasano’s influence. I mean, we’d seen evidence of his considerable sway on the broad county’s west side, when his appointment as tax collector, in June 2013, to succeed the late Mike Olson — the last Democrat to hold countywide office — triggered a special election for his seat in the Florida House.

Fasano’s divorce from Tallahassee was mutually satisfying. He’d been eyeing a constitutional office opportunity back home, and both Gov. Rick Scott and House GOP leadership were weary of his ever-increasing maverick status. But in a delicious episode of being careful of what you wish for, Fasano leaped over party lines to support Democrat Amanda Murphy, who narrowly defeated Corcoran’s choice, former Florida Gator defensive tackle Bill Gunter.

The question in the property assessor’s race was whether the Commutative Property of Fasano would play in the East. Come Election Day, the answer rocked Pasco’s political Richter scale.

In the end, Schrader’s support scarcely extended beyond his home base, the mostly rural northeast quadrant of the county. With exceptions in just a few master-planned villages where newcomers gather, fast-growing Wesley Chapel in the heart of the county rejected Schrader almost entirely. And, cutting Schrader off on his southeastern flank, Joiner dominated in Zephyrhills.

How bad was it?

While Joiner hopscotched around the county, Schrader spent Election Day in The Groves, an over-55 golf and country club community in North Land O’ Lakes that’s also GOP-rich territory.

Nearly 900 votes were cast there, but despite his daylong presence, Schrader lost by 11 votes, a metaphor for the election if there ever was one.

It would be nice to give more credit to the winning candidate himself, but as Joiner himself said, if it weren’t for Nocco, Corcoran and Fasano, he’d have gone nowhere.

I’d say he’s absolutely correct, especially the part about Fasano, who showed himself a shifter of landscapes.

Now we know. It’s his county, after all.

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Two Tampa Bay Republican lawmakers plan major fundraisers for late September

Two lawmakers from the Tampa Bay area have high-profile fundraisers planned for later this month.

With a host committee boasting more than 50 supporters — representing a range of Tampa Republicans — former House Majority Leader Dana Young is holding a special reception Wednesday, Sept. 28 for her Senate District 18 bid.

Included among the special guests are top GOP leadership including incoming Senate President Joe Negron, Majority Leader Bill Galvano, and Sens. Jack Latvala and Wilton Simpson. Event begins 5:30 p.m. in Tampa.

For additional information or RSVP, contact Ieva Smidt at 850-567-8022 or Ieva@FLFStrategies.com.

On the other side of Tampa Bay, state Rep. Kathleen Peters will host a fundraiser in support of her re-election effort in House District 69. That event, also led by Latvala and Frank Chivas, owner of the Bay Star Restaurant Group, will be Monday, Sept. 26 beginning 5 p.m. at the Marina Cantina, 25 Causeway Boulevard in Clearwater Beach.

RSVP for the Peters event with RJ Myers, at RJ@KathleenPeters.com.

Young faces Democratic attorney Bob Buesing and two independent candidates for the newly drawn SD 18 seat, which covers South Tampa and western Hillsborough County.

In HD 69, Peters faces Democrat Jennifer Webb for the seat spanning Gulfport, South Pasadena, and several South Pinellas County beaches.

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Kathleen Peters calls for special meeting on infrastructure damage

State Rep. Kathleen Peters has joined state Sen. Jack Latvala in a call for action after Hurricane Hermine.

The Treasure Island Republican, in a statement released Friday, called for a special meeting of Pinellas County’s legislative delegation and local leaders “to discuss critical infrastructure concerns in light of recent storm surges.”

Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, knocked out electric service Thursday night to hundreds of thousands across North Florida, and caused significant damage along the state’s Gulf coast.

Peters said she was specifically concerned about “municipalities across Pinellas County (being) forced to dump partially treated sewage into local waterways.”

“This comes after large scrutiny from nearly a month of rainfall (last year) that showed cities with a lack of capacity to handle heavy weather occurrences,” said Peters, who was elected to the House in 2012 after serving as South Pasadena’s mayor.

“It is absolutely essential that we discuss the needs of our county as a whole and why I believe it is necessary to have local officials at the table,” she added. “We cannot continue dumping these amounts of waste into our waterbodies and expect a safe and healthy public or environment.

“I have always said that taking care of the basic infrastructure needs for a city should come first, and now we are here,” Peters said. “That said, we need solutions, and it is my hope the delegation and local leadership responds positively to this request.”

Latvala — the Clearwater Republican slated to be the Senate’s next budget chief — went further.

Earlier this week, he questioned whether the state’s community-based power operations are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms. Latvala suggested he might call for hearings on the issue next legislative session.

4:30 p.m. update: Latvala announced he is calling a special meeting of the Pinellas Legislative Delegation on Sept. 20 on the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus.

“I am going to discuss with (St. Petersburg) Mayor (Rick) Kriseman the possibility of a site visit by the delegation to the city’s nearby sewage treatment facility at that time also,” he said.

“This is especially important to me because the initial legislation to clean up our bay came first at the behest of two (former) members of our delegation,” Latvala added. “We cannot go backwards in our protection of the environment.”

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Jack Latvala wants answers after Tallahassee’s Hermine experience

State Sen. Jack Latvala on Tuesday said he is considering calling for legislative action next session to address the City of Tallahassee’s response to Hurricane Hermine.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, is slated to be the next chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Specifically, he said he questions whether community-based power operations — such as City of Tallahassee Utilities — are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms.

Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, knocked out electric service Thursday night to hundreds of thousands across north Florida, including nearly 68,000 in Tallahassee alone.

As of Tuesday morning, local officials said 14,000-16,000 remain without power.

“In fact, there are several issues that have come to my attention with regard to municipal power agencies,” Latvala said in a text, without elaborating. “Their members’ ability to repair their utilities after a storm is only one part of it.”

Barry Moline, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, could not be immediately reached for comment. A message was left for city spokeswoman Alison Faris.

He added: “The citizens in Vero Beach have voted twice to get out of the electric business as a city but have been stymied by a contract that appears to have no end.”

Vero Beach, which also runs a municipal utility, has flirted in recent years with selling its electric system to Florida Power & Light, an investor-owned utility.

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Mike Mikurak schedules two fundraisers

Mike Mikurak has scheduled two fundraisers this month to help finance his run for the Pinellas County Commission. The first event is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 13 at the home of

The first event is planned for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 13 at the home of Joe and JoAnn White in Largo. The host committee reads like a Who’s Who of local Republicans. The committee includes Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, state Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes, and state Reps. Kathleen Peters, Chris Latvala, Chris Sprowls and Larry Ahern. Also on the list are Clerk of Court Ken Burke, outgoing tax collector Diane Nelson, outgoing property appraiser Pam Dubov, State Attorney Bernie McCabe and Public Defender Bob Dillinger.

Other Republican notables include Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno, South PasadenAngusa Mayor Max Elson, Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis, former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, council members Ed Montanari from St. Petersburg, Doreen Caudell from Clearwater and Eric Seidel from Oldsmar. Former Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield and former state Reps. Ed Hooper and Frank Farkas are also on the host committee.

The second event, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 14, is billed as a “Beach Party” at the Island Grille & Raw Bar, 210 Madonna Blvd., Tierra Verde. The event will have “heavy hors d’oeuvres” and a cash bar.

Mikurak, a New Jersey native, is a retired businessman who was a founding partner of Accenture, a global firm providing consulting in strategy and technology. He is making his first run for public office against incumbent Democrat Charlie Justice for the District 3 at-large seat. The seat is voted on countywide. The election is Nov. 8.

Mikurak Fundraiser

Mikurak Fundraiser

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Five Florida politicians with a lot on the line today even though they’re not on the ballot

Their names are not on the ballot today, but five Florida politicians have a lot on the line as voters head to polls Tuesday.

Governor Rick Scott, Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, Senate President-designate Joe Negron, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry each have a lot at stake in today’s elections.

For Scott, there is an opportunity to demonstrate his influence if the candidates he has backed win their competitive legislative races. Scott has directly or indirectly assisted Doug Broxson in Senate District 1, Ritch Workman in Senate District 17, and Kathleen Passidomo in Senate District 28. All of these candidates are running in tough GOP primaries.

Although no one will say it aloud, opposite Scott — or at least Scott’s allies at the Florida Chamber of Commerce — is Corcoran and a slate of candidates running for the Florida House. As Jason Garcia of Florida Trend tweet-stormed yesterday, Corcoran and a loose assortment of interchangeable allies are backing Jonathan Tallman in HD 4, Terrance Freeman in HD 12, Wenda Lewis in HD 21, and Erin Grall in HD 54. Not that Corcoran needs any more friends than he already has, but he’d love to win these races to restock his Republican majority.

Time was, Negron had to worry about how his allies would do in the primaries. That was back when he was locked in an intraparty scrum with Jack Latvala for the Senate presidency. But now that Negron’s place is assured, the issue he is most worried about today is one of personal pride. His wife, Rebecca, is running in the ultra-competitive race for Florida’s 18th Congressional District. It’s looking tough for Mrs. Negron, as Brian Mast was leading in the most recent public poll.

Brandes is not fighting any proxy wars in any of the congressional or legislative races, but he has as much at stake Tuesday as any of these pols. That’s because he’s the de facto leader of Amendment 4, a ballot measure to provide property tax breaks for people who install solar panels on their homes. Amendment 4 was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote in both chambers of the Legislature, but Brandes has been its most vocal champion. Environmentalists and business interests also support the measure, which must receive 60 percent approval to pass.

There’s probably no one with more on the line Tuesday than Curry. County Referendum 1 would allow Jacksonville to extend a current 1/2-cent sales surtax past its sunset and to dedicate it to a $2.8 billion unfunded pension liability. But this referendum is about more than pensions and taxes. Curry has put his sizable political machine being “Yes for Jacksonville,” so much so that it’s difficult to imagine what happens if Jacksonville voters say “No.”

Keep your eyes on these stories as results begin to come in after 7 p.m.

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