Pinellas County Archives - Page 4 of 22 - SaintPetersBlog

Lawmakers learn Pinellas is responsible for half of Florida’s wastewater overflow this year

Lack of capacity, deteriorating sewer lines, broken equipment, and an immense amount of rain are to blame for overwhelmed sewer systems that have dumped more than 248 million gallons of untreated and partially treated wastewater into Tampa Bay and other Pinellas waterways so far this year.

Kathleen Peters
Kathleen Peters

Those explanations, provided to the county’s legislative delegation during a fact-finding session Tuesday, did not sit well with at least one delegation member.

“I get frustrated when I hear excuses and I hear climate change,” state Rep. Kathleen Peters said.

Some cities, she said, had neglected their duty to keep up with infrastructure improvements. As an example, Peters referred to the Penny for Pinellas. That tax, she said, was to improve infrastructure, yet very few projects had to do with improving cities’ sewer systems. In a county that worries about tropical weather and potential hurricanes, making sure wastewater and storm water systems were ready for such rain events should have been an easy call. Instead, the money went elsewhere.

“I don’t want to hear excuses anymore,” Peters said, adding that she wasn’t making her statements “to attack anyone.”

Peters made her statements toward the end of a special delegation meeting called for members to hear why the county, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Largo had overflows during the Hurricane Hermine. The meeting is the first of at least two. The delegation plans to meet again in 60 days to hear from the public and to get a progress report and more details from the county and the cities.

The sheer magnitude of the various overflows came into sharp focus when Mary Yeargen, the southwest district director for the state Department of Environmental Protection, laid out the numbers.

In 2014, the entire state of Florida saw 137 million gallons of overflow; in 2015, the state amount was 151 gallons; so far this year, the statewide overflow is about 262 million gallons. So far this year, Pinellas County has had overflows totaling more than 248 million gallons.

More than half the wastewater discharge for the entire state of Florida so far this year, came from Pinellas County, she said.

“We don’t want to see this happen again,” Yeargen said.

Jack LatvalaOfficials from the county and all three cities said they have projects in place to improve and expand their wastewater systems. But it’s not a quick fix. Many of the improvements will take years to get into place.

And, they said, fixing the publicly owned pipes is just part of the problem. A lot of the problem comes from so-called lateral pipes — the ones that run from peoples’ homes and businesses to the street where they meet the government-owned pipes.

Many of those lateral pipes have deteriorated and allow rainwater to flow into the sewer system, which helps cause the system to become overwhelmed.

Irvin Kety, Largo’s environmental services director, estimated inflow from those privately owned lateral pipes was responsible for up to half of the rainwater incursion that causes many of the problems. While Largo is improving its system, unless the privately owned pipes are fixed, “we’re still going to have overflow,” Kety said.

“We’ve got to get a handle on those private systems,” Kety said.

Rick-Kriseman   George CretekosThe problem is, the cities can’t go on private property and fix privately owned pipes. Homeowners will have to foot those bills. Kety said it’s hard to estimate what that might cost. It depends on the length of the pipe, whether it has to replaced, and whether it’s under a concrete drive. But, he said, a ballpark figure could put the cost at $2,000 to $3,000.

State Sen. Jack Latvala suggested cities might pass an ordinance requiring homeowners to get the lateral lines evaluated before they sell their homes.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said he had given a sample ordinance to the city attorney for consideration. That could come before the St. Petersburg City Council.

Both he and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos suggested the delegation could help pass a statute or set up a rebate or loan program to help homeowners pay for the repairs.

Five takeaways from the Charlie Crist-David Jolly CD 13 debate

TAKE 1: Who won? I would call it a draw. Both candidates got in zingers at the other and both successfully reinforced the message they are trying to sell to voters.

In Jolly’s case, he wants to remind voters he has been a maverick in his two-plus years in the U.S. House of Representatives. That’s especially necessary for this race in a newly redrawn district that would seem to favor Democrats.

Jolly made sure to stray from the Republican Party line when asked if he would support the GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump does not have my support today,” Jolly said. “I won’t be voting for Secretary (Hillary) Clinton, but I’m not there with Mr. Trump.”

He also showed his independent chops by saying, “I have tried to shatter the mold of modern politics.”

Crist, on the other hand, was reliably (and cautiously) Democratic in his responses, especially answering “absolutely” when asked if Gov. Rick Scott should push for expanded Medicaid protection in Florida.

Crist was his usual affable self, but Jolly managed to make him play defense a little while avoiding the trap of becoming shrill in the one-hour debate at St. Petersburg College on WTSP–Channel 10. That wasn’t easy to do. Breaking even in this tussle might be considered a win for Jolly in a tight race, which has national implications. But Crist didn’t do anything I saw that would damage his chances.

TAKE 2: The testiest exchange of the night came when Jolly tried to bring up the image of Crist once embraced as “Chain Gang Charlie” in 1996 when, as a member of the state Senate, he embraced Alabama’s practice of shackling prisoners in what was known as a chain gang.

Crist saw it as being tough on crime. Others saw it as hearkening back to the days of slavery, and Jolly went there in this debate.

“When you were in the Florida Senate, you coined yourself as Chain Gang Charlie. You stood on the side of the road over three African-American prisoners in chains on their knees on the side of the road,” he said.

Crist counter-punched hard.

“For you to suggest that it had anything to do with race is appalling, and it’s beneath you, and I’m embarrassed for you that you would say that about your fellow Floridian,” he said.

“The only concern that I had was for the citizens of Florida who were subjected to a violent crime every three minutes and 45 seconds. We were No. 1 in violent crime in America at that time. Some of the measures we took, including the STOP Act requiring 85 percent of sentences (be) served, has made Florida a safer place ever since. And of that, I am very proud.”

Jolly: “You cannot be the candidate today who embraces civil justice reform and did not have a second thought with TV cameras and news photographers taking photos that will live forever, that most viewers have not seen until tonight, that had you standing over African-American prisoners.”

Crist: “In all fairness, as the governor of the state of Florida, I was asked right before the election in ’06, ‘Charlie, if you’re elected, would you support automatic restoration of rights for former felons who are non-violent?’ David, just so you know how I feel, I am compassionate for people who are subjected to crime and I am compassionate to people who deserve to have a second chance. I don’t think the two are inconsistent whatsoever.”

Winner: Jolly. Bringing up Crist’s “Chain Gang” past is fair game, and it would have been nice to hear Crist state flatly that his views have evolved with the changing times. Either way, though, Crist opens himself up to the common charge against him of being a flip-flopper depending on who is listening.

TAKE 3: On the highly partisan question of whether illegal immigrants should have a pathway to citizenship or face, as Trump advocates, deportation with the possibility of returning to the United States through the legal immigration process, there was this exchange:

Crist: “I believe they should get a pathway to citizenship. I think it would be inhumane to take children away from parents and send them to different places. It’s unreasonable to deport 11 million people in the first place.”

Jolly: “I don’t support a pathway to citizenship for people who came here illegally. I do support a pathway to legal status and residency.”

Winner: Crist. The idea of deporting millions of people, as Trump champions, is ridiculous and unworkable. So what is left, especially for those who have been here for years and raised families while paying taxes and so on? Crist made the stronger point.

TAKE 4: On the ongoing problem of a massive sewage spill in St. Petersburg in the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine.

Crist: “What I don’t understand why our member of Congress, our representative of Pinellas County, which is at the epicenter of this problem, is not advocating day, after day, after day, for federal emergency help to get this cleaned up. Our country has done this for Flint (Michigan). Why can’t we do it for Pinellas County?”

Jolly responded: “May I? It is because the mayor who has endorsed you (Rick Kriseman) and oversaw this catastrophe has not asked for it. That’s why.”

Crist: “If you have to be asked when the people of your district are suffering, something is wrong.”

Winner: Crist.

TAKE 5: Line of the night. That goes to Jolly, who got in a great zinger against Crist with this quip: “Charlie, just because you’ve been a member of both parties doesn’t make you bipartisan.”

Winner: Jolly.

FINAL NUGGETS: The question that should never be asked goes to co-moderator Mark Rivera of WTSP–Channel 10, who probed deeply to both candidates, “What are your two favorite restaurants in the district?”

They live here. We get it. They don’t have to prove it.

On medical marijuana, Crist is all for it, as well you would figure since he is great friends with attorney John Morgan, who is a major advocate for marijuana as medicine. Jolly countered, “Only if the FDA approves it. We don’t approve medicines on the ballot. I don’t want my niece taking cold medicine or marijuana because voters approved it on the ballot.” And finally, the laugh of the night came when Crist said of Hillary Clinton, “I believe she is honest.” There was spontaneous laughter from the audience.

Janet Long suggests bringing all the sewer systems in Pinellas under one umbrella

Janet LongIn recent months, St. Petersburg has become the poster child for a crumbling sewer infrastructure that’s dumped millions of gallons of untreated and partially treated wastewater into Tampa Bay.

But the problem of failing infrastructure is much bigger than St. Pete. It’s countywide. The county, Largo, Clearwater and Tarpon Springs — just to name four — also have had problems with sewer systems unable to handle recent heavy rains.

It’s an urgent problem, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long said Monday. It’s one complicated by a fragmented system that’s undergone decades of neglect. It’s time, Long said, to consider a countywide sewer system, somewhat like the solid waste management system.

The county runs the one landfill in Pinellas and oversees the one waste-to-energy facility in Pinellas. On the other hand, Pinellas County has 17 sewer systems — one belonging to the county, 13 belonging to municipalities, and three belonging to private landowners, according to county records.

The cost to upgrade those, in particular for the systems run by smaller cities like Treasure Island, South Pasadena, Gulfport, Redington Shores, and North Redington Beach, could be prohibitive.

“These are big infrastructure projects that one little city can’t handle on its own,” Long said.

Even the bigger cities will have problems affording improvements.

A better system, she said, would bring all the systems under one umbrella. Then, a study could be done to see how best to develop a state-of-the-art system for the entire county. After that, a decision could be made on ways to free up the necessary resources to pay to have the system put in place.

“I’m hoping that this task force will help us get there,” Long said. She was referring to a county task force Pinellas commissioners agreed to set up to find long-range solutions to the flooding and sewer infrastructure problems.

The failing infrastructure is a problem caused by decades of neglect, she said, in part because there’s never been an outcry to improve the wastewater system.

“There’s never been a brouhaha over the sewer system until now,” Long said. But now that people are paying attention, it’s time to find a long-term solution.

“We can’t wait 20 years,” she said.

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.”

Incumbent Myriam Irizarry squeaks out victory to remain on Pinellas County bench

Myriam Irizarry appears to have won a narrow victory over former state Rep. Dwight Dudley to retain the judicial seat she won last year by appointment.

Irizarry polled about 78,575 votes, or about 50.38 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Dudley was about 0.76 percent behind with 77,382 votes. That’s far enough behind to avoid a recount. But there were still some provisional ballots out late Tuesday night, although it does not appear that there were enough to change the results.

In the other judicial race for County Judge Group 8, assistant state attorney Dora Komninos won a landslide victory against Curtis Korsko, a Tampa lawyer who has also served as a civil traffic offense hearing officer. Komninos won about 71 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

The race between Dudley and Irizarry was hotly contested. It centered on experience, with both candidates claiming they had the best experience for the job. Dudley had argued that Irizarry lacks trial experience in Florida.

Irizarry countered that Dudley was misrepresenting her experience because he did not give her credit for past legal and trial work she had done in New Jersey.

Irizarry is a native of Puerto Rico whose family moved to New York when she was a child. She and her six siblings were raised by a single mother. With help from tuition-aid programs, she was graduated from Rutgers College and Rutgers-Newark School of Law and was admitted to practice in 1981.

Irizarry followed her family to Florida and joined The Florida Bar in 1995. She went to work for the Pinellas County Clerk of Court. Her first job involved teaching the clerks about criminal law and legal procedures. She was promoted through the ranks until she became general counsel for the clerk of court and oversaw the smooth running of the office and court system. Her duties included representing the clerk’s office in administrative hearings and conducting hearings over employment disputes.

Irizarry was appointed last year to the seat by Gov. Rick Scott. She contended that the year’s experience on the bench gave her the edge in the race.

It’s not the party … it’s the after party! A rundown of where Tampa Bay candidates will be on Election Night

Votes have been cast. Now it comes to this — Primary Election day.

For some, the campaign ends here. With others, the road now leads to November.

Either way, candidates will be attending a range of events, where celebrations — or the drowning of sorrows — will take place Tuesday night.

Here is a rundown of primary night watch parties and other celebrations throughout Tampa Bay:

Congressman David Jolly, running for re-election to Florida’s 13th Congressional District, cast his vote at 8 a.m. at the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office, 13001 Starkey Road in Largo.

Nick DiCeglie, chair of the Republican Party of Pinellas County, will emcee a Primary Watch Party from 6:30-10:30 p.m. for all volunteers and candidates at the Quaker Steak & Lube, 10400 49th St. in Clearwater. Appetizers will be available. RSVP at pinellasevent@gmail.com, (727) 455-5636 or (727) 709-1679.

The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) and the Greater Brandon Republican Club is hosting a joint Primary Results Watch Party at Square 1 Burger, 2042 Badlands Dr. in Brandon. Scheduled to attend the event, which begins at 7 p.m., are state Sen. Tom Lee, state Reps. Ross Spano and Jake Raburn, Hillsborough County District 4 Commissioner Stacy White, District 6 Commissioner Jim Norman, District 6 candidate Tim Schock, Clerk of Court candidate Eric Seidel, State Attorney candidate Mark Ober and County Soil & Water Chair Mark Proctor.

The RPOF, also in partnership with the Downtown Republican Club of Tampa, will be hosting its Watch Party beginning 7 p.m. at Jackson’s Bistro, 601 S. Harbour Island Blvd. in Tampa. Scheduled to attend are Florida Senate District 18 candidate Dana Young, Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee Chair Deborah Tamargo, District 1 Commissioner Sandy Murman, Florida’s 14th Congressional District candidate Christine Quinn, Hillsborough County Donald Trump campaign co-chair Rebecca DeBoer, Hillsborough County State Committeeman-elect Jim Warishuk, Property Appraiser candidate Todd Jones, State Committeewoman-elect Clarice Henderson, and County Commission District 6 candidate Tim Schock.

Democrat Augie Ribeiro, running for Florida Senate District 19, will be at Three Birds Tavern beginning at 7 p.m., 1492 4th St. N. in St. Petersburg.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, who is also in the SD 19 race, will be at the Green Bench Brewery, 1133 Baum Ave. in St. Petersburg, from 6 to 8 p.m. For those wanting to attend, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Rep. Ed Narain, another Democrat running for SD 19, is scheduled to hold his election night festivities at the Tampa Heights Community Center, 2005 N. Lamar Ave. in Tampa.

Democrat Rena Upshaw-Frazier, running for House District 59, will be at O’Toole’s Irish Pub, 1215 W. Brandon Blvd. in Brandon. Party begins at 6:30 p.m.

Democrat Eric Lynn, running for House District 68, will be at Reno Downtown Joint, 27 4th St. N. in St. Petersburg, Event begins at 7 p.m.

Democrat Ben Diamond, also in the HD 68 race, will be at 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House starting at 7 p.m., 400 Beach Dr. in St. Petersburg.

Wengay Newton, the former St. Petersburg City Councilman running for House District 70, will be at the Boca Bay Grille at 2832 Beach Blvd. S. in Gulfport. The party will start at 6:30 p.m., “Newt” will be arriving after the last vote has been cast and the polls close at 7 p.m. RSVP on the event’s Facebook page for a headcount for food and drink.

Pinellas County Property Appraiser candidate Mike Twitty will be at the Seabreeze Island Grill and Raw Bar, 17855 Gulf Blvd. in Redington Shores. Party starts at 6 p.m., polls close at 7 p.m. with the results expected at 7:15 p.m. More information is at MikeTwitty.com.

Pinellas officials say they are combatting mosquitoes, Zika

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday announced a new case of Zika in Pinellas, bringing the total cases in the county to 10.

The nine cases that had already been identified as of Monday by the Department of Health were all travel-related. The 10th was not. It was locally transmitted, meaning that mosquitoes in the area are infected with the virus.

Zika disease is caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected mosquito, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting up to a week, and many people do not have symptoms or will have only mild symptoms. However, Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defects.

The best way to prevent Zika is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito, the CDC says.

Pinellas County officials say they are already aggressively fighting mosquitoes by treating known breeding areas from air and ground. So far this year, Pinellas County mosquito control has received more than 2,500 service requests from Pinellas County residents and businesses — with an average response time of 24 hours or less.

Technicians note many local homes have items or areas that contain standing water — ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes — contributing to the mosquito problem. Mosquito larvae only need a fraction of an inch of standing water to survive.

“In light of Zika activity in our state, we are urging residents to do their part to reduce the mosquito population,” said Rob Krueger, entomology and education support specialist at mosquito control.

Steps residents can include:

— Empty any containers that can hold water (examples: flower pots, garbage cans, recycling containers, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, boat tarps, old tires and buckets).

— Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly.

— Flush ornamental bromeliads or treat with BTI, a biological larvicide available at home stores.

— Clean roof gutters, which can become clogged and hold water.

— Change the water in outdoor pet dishes regularly.

— Keep pools and spas chlorinated and filtered.

— Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish.

— Cover rain barrels with screening.

— Check for standing water under houses, near plumbing drains, under air conditioner drip areas and around septic tanks and heat pumps.

— Eliminate standing water, improve drainage and prevent future puddling.

“It’s important for residents to remember the three D’s of mosquito prevention,” Krueger said. “Dress wisely, defend with a good mosquito repellent, and drain standing water.”

Mosquito bites can irritate skin and potentially spread disease. Residents are urged to protect their skin from mosquito bites when outdoors by wearing mosquito repellent (products containing DEET, IR3535, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus) and loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and pants. These simple preventive measures can help reduce the number of mosquitoes in Pinellas County and minimize mosquito-borne diseases, officials say.

Locally-transmitted Zika comes to Pinellas

Pinellas County has its first case of locally transmitted Zika.

The Department of Health is investigating five new cases of locally acquired Zika, including one case in Pinellas County. The remaining four cases were found in Wynwood, the trendy Miami arts neighborhood where health officials first identified local cases of the mosquito-borne illness.

According to the Governor’s Office, there are now 42 cases of locally transmitted Zika in Florida.

While the investigation is ongoing, Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement the Department of Health “still believes that ongoing active transmissions are only occurring” in Wynwood and Miami Beach. However, Scott said the Department of Health has begun door-to-door outreach and sampling in Pinellas County. Mosquito abatement and reduction activities are also taking place, the governor said in a statement.

“In Pinellas County, the Department of Health and Pinellas County Mosquito Control are already working together and have begun aggressive spraying and mosquito abatement efforts,” said Scott in a statement. “Any pregnant women who would like to receive a free Zika test or a Zika prevention kit should contact the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. We remain fully committed to ensuring that every county has all of the resources they need to combat this virus and stand ready to assist residents and visitors in the impacted communities.”

Scott also announced Tuesday the Department of Health has cleared an additional perimeter in the Wynwood area, bringing the impacted area down to 0.5 square mile.

ZIKASTATE

Tampa Bay ranks second in job gains

By Michael Moline

The Tampa Bay region posted strong numbers in the latest report by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, released Friday.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area recorded 37,700 new jobs, a 3 percent increase compared to the same point last year. Only Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford posted stronger gains, at 4.1 percent.

Of the 701,642 people in Hillsborough County’s labor force, 668,853 held jobs — for an unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. That compares to 5.3 percent at the same point in 2015.

Pinellas County mounted a labor force of 486,766, of whom 464,905 held jobs, for an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent. The jobless rate was 5.1 percent at the same point last year.

Pasco County’s labor force was 219,248 strong, with 207,574 of them holding jobs. That made a jobless rate of 5.3 percent, compared to 6.1 percent in July 2015.

Hernando County’s labor force comprised 67,937 people, of whom 63,692 were employed, for a jobless rate of 6.2 percent. At the same point last year, that rate was 7.2 percent.

Pinellas slated for extra money to fight Zika

Pinellas County Mosquito Control will receive a bit more than $106,000 in supplemental state funds for the month of August to combat the spread of the Zika virus.

Rick Scott 05.08.jpgThe funds are part of Gov. Rick Scott’s executive order that allocated $26.2 million in state funds for Zika preparedness, prevention and response in Florida. Each month, the risk across the state will be re-evaluated and funds may be reallocated.

The funding award comes as Pinellas County Mosquito Control continues to aggressively and proactively target the potential transmitters of the Zika virus. The division works daily to reduce the mosquito population by treating known breeding areas by ground and air, as well as responding to calls from residents with requests for localized evaluation and treatment.

“Pinellas County is pleased to leverage local and state resources in our fight against Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases,” said Brian Lawton, the county’s mosquito control program coordinator. “We look forward to purchasing extra chemicals and equipment like hand foggers, backpack foggers and thermal foggers, equipping each technician in the field with what they need to continue doing this important job.”

Mosquito bites can irritate skin and potentially spread disease.

Residents are urged to protect their skin from mosquito bites when outdoors by wearing mosquito repellent (products containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus) and loose-fitting clothing with long sleeves and pants. Residents should also ensure doors and windows are sealed properly, along with ensuring screens are in place and intact. These preventive measures can help reduce the number of mosquitoes in Pinellas County and minimize mosquito-borne diseases, officials said.

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