St. Petersburg Archives - Page 4 of 35 - SaintPetersBlog

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.

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.

Upon second thought, City of St. Pete defers vote to regulate Uber and Lyft

Just as how the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day, officials at St. Petersburg’s City Hall are deferring taking any regulatory action against ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

City Councilmember Darden Rice told Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal that all parties involved “are ever closer to an agreement to present to Council that is fair to the taxi companies and does not encumber rideshare companies with burdensome regulations and fees.”

After Uber objected to a proposal to tax it on a per-vehicle scale, the ridesharing company — in a roundabout way — suggested it might have to make an economic decision about continuing to operate in St. Petersburg.

One member of City Council said this prompted the city to come up with a new proposal that does away with the per-vehicle tax. Unfortunately, this member said, there was enough time before Thursday’s meeting to get the proposal before Council.

“We are continuing to talk with Uber and the taxi companies in advance of any official action being taken,” Mayor Rick Kriseman’s representative Ben Kirby told Irwin. “Mayor Kriseman’s priority is keeping these companies in our market. He wants to see them thrive.”

Uber officials say the company would prefer to come to an agreement with St. Petersburg on a flat fee, such as in other Florida cities like Tallahassee and Gainesville – fees there range between $5,000 and $10,000 to allow ridesharing companies to operate.

Lyft is “optimistic” the company could reach an understanding with the city.

“We’re continuing productive conversations with Council around the vehicle-for-hire ordinance, including discussions about possible fee structures,” Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Harrison told the Tampa Bay Times in an email.

On Monday, SaintPetersBlog questioned the wisdom of any effort to regulate ridesharing companies: “Really, Mayor Kriseman, this is the issue on which you want to take a stand? Against the extraordinarily popular ridesharing companies which, by the way, just made sure everyone got home safely after the New Year’s Eve festivities?”

And, as Irwin notes, moving forward with local regulations may be shortsighted ahead of this year’s legislative session: “Lawmakers are expected to consider statewide regulations that would most likely pre-empt any local rules.”

Building a new ballpark in St. Petersburg: Throwing good money after bad

St. Petersburg is a lovely, vibrant city that is getting better by the day. I love its waterfront and its eclectic, revitalized downtown.

So I hope my friends there don’t this personally when I ask: Have your city leaders lost their minds?

I refer to the “Baseball Forever’ push to a build a stadium that will keep the Tampa Bay Rays within St. Pete city limits. This includes a recently released pitch by superfan Dick Vitale, who routinely drives from his home in Bradenton to watch his beloved Rays.

Awesome.

I hope, however, that sooner rather than later it becomes obvious that as awful as Tropicana Field may be, the stadium is not what has kept fans away by the millions. Unless St. Petersburg’s pitch includes a shape-shifting act that can move itself to the center of the sprawling expanse known as Tampa Bay, building a new ballpark would be throwing good money after bad.

It’s important to interject here that at least St. Petersburg is trying. The Rays have been free to talk with planners in Hillsborough County, but no specific plan has emerged.

Here is the essential truth, though: Location is everything.

A new stadium would have the same old problems if it is built where St. Pete leaders say it should be – on what basically now is the same spot as the Trop, which should have been ruled out long ago.

Have they forgotten the 2010 report from a blue-chip group called ABC (A Baseball Community)? It studied five locations throughout the Bay area, including downtown St. Petersburg, and concluded the following:

“Of the five major trade areas studied as possible locations for this new facility, three of them – one in mid-Pinellas/St. Petersburg, and two in the Tampa area (Westshore and downtown) – represent the best options in terms of demographic trends, potential fan attraction and corporate support. In addition, it is likely that as the Tampa Bay region grows over the coming decades, these areas will become more favorable when compared to the alternatives.”

Let’s pause for a brief history lesson, because you know what they say about people who don’t study past mistakes.

The push for baseball here started in St. Petersburg but quickly became a cooperative between both sides of the Bay. The original idea was a stadium located in the so-called Gateway area on the Pinellas side of the Howard Frankland Bridge.

There was the usual trouble finding a site big enough and affordable, but rather than solve the problem St. Petersburg city leaders ramrodded a plan to build what first was known as the Florida Suncoast Dome. We know it now as the catwalk-covered catastrophe called the Trop.

They did this despite explicit warnings from baseball leaders, including Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, that they were embarking on a fool’s errand.

I remember asking a member of the Pinellas Sports Authority why in the world they wanted to build in downtown St. Pete. His argument, oft repeated, was “It’s just a few more miles from the end of the bridge.”

Those “few more miles” made all the difference.

The Rays consistently rank at or near the bottom in Major League Baseball attendance.

From where I live in Hillsborough County, it is 37 miles to the Trop parking lot through horrendous traffic. Corporate season ticket sales for the Rays are scarce because companies found they couldn’t give them away to employees or clients. That won’t change if a new stadium is built in the same spot as the Trop.

There also is this: I would be greatly surprised if the Rays would even entertain the notion of signing another long-term lease for a stadium in the same spot as the one now – unless the fish in the Gulf of Mexico just to the west of the Trop suddenly start buying tickets.

When you’re trying to fill a stadium for 81 nights, you need to build it where the fans are. There aren’t enough of them in St. Petersburg to make this work.

 

Orlando, Miami ranked among top places for New Year’s Eve celebrations

If you can’t make it to Times Square to ring in 2017, have no fear: The nation’s best place to party might be closer than you think.

A new WalletHub report ranked Orlando as the best place to celebrate New Year’s Eve. And the Central Florida city wasn’t the only Sunshine State city on the best list. Miami ranked No. 7, while Tampa landed in the No. 13 spot on the WalletHub list.

The company compared the 100 biggest cities “based on 20 key indicators of an epic New Year’s Eve.” Analysts compared the cities across three areas — entertainment and food, costs, and safety and accessibility — and complied 20 metrics, including luxury shopping, average cost of a New Year’s Eve party ticket, and walkability.

Orlando ranked No. 1 overall, with a total score of 76.96 points. It ranked eighth in costs and 82nd in the safety and accountability category. The town the Mouse built came in second in the entertainment and food category.

The City Beautiful fared well in several other categories, including where to find the lowest average price of a New Year’s Eve party ticket and one of the communities with the most nightlife options per capita. When it comes to nightlife options, Orlando was tied for first with San Francisco, Portland, Las Vegas, Atlanta and New Orleans.

Orlando also ranked high in the number of restaurants per capita, sharing the top spot with Miami.

Miami ranked No. 7 in WalletHub’s overall list of the best place to for New Year’s Eve, with a total score of 66.96. It landed in the No. 7 spot in the entertainment and food category, and was ranked 48th in the safety and accessibility category. The South Florida city was ranked 65th when it comes to costs.

Tampa was in the No. 13 spot, with a score of 62.71. It was ranked 20th when it comes to entertainment and food, and earned the No. 14 spot in the safety and accessibility category. It landed in the No. 37 spot in the costs category.

Jacksonville (No. 53), St. Petersburg (No. 63), and Hialeah (No. 90) also earned a spot on WalletHub’s list.

And in case you were wondering, North Las Vegas was ranked No. 100 on WalletHub’s list of the “Best Places for New Year’s Eve Celebrations.”

Source: WalletHub

Dick Vitale joins St. Pete’s ‘Baseball Forever’ campaign

Dick Vitale has signed on to St. Pete’s “Baseball Forever” campaign.

The campaign is designed to convince the Tampa Bay Rays that their current site, reimagined and redeveloped, remains the best location for Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay.

To that end, Vitale is featured in a YouTube promotional video. In the video, Vitale, a longtime Manatee County resident, discusses the benefits of having Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg as well as the benefits of having a new Tampa Bay Rays ballpark centrally located in St. Petersburg.

He also shares his thoughts on the City of St. Petersburg’s master plan vision for the Tropicana Field site.

“I think it’s going to be fantastic,” Vitale says in the video. “I would say it’s awesome, baby.”

Vitale is an ESPN college basketball analyst who joined the network during the 1979-80 season after a successful college and pro coaching career. In 2008, Vitale received the sport’s ultimate honor when he was selected as an inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (after being named a finalist in 2004, 2006 and 2007) as a contributor.

The “Baseball Forever” campaign is an initiative of the city of St. Petersburg, the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, residents, and fans of the Tampa Bay Rays.

While the desired goal is to have the Rays remain at their current site in a re-imagined Tropicana Field, the group is open to supporting the Rays, county officials, the private sector, and other stakeholders should the team identify a future stadium site adjacent to or impacting St. Petersburg.

The Baseball Forever group explains that it’s looking for people to sign a pledge:

“It’s time to take a stand to keep the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. The city of St. Petersburg is developing a new ballpark proposal for the existing Tropicana Field site, and will soon be submitting this proposal to the Rays. The community’s support for this is essential.

“We now need to show our love and enthusiasm for the Rays, and ask that you pledge your support to encourage the Rays to build a new ballpark in St. Petersburg.”

The Baseball Forever pledge form contains five categories of support. It asks those signing to check all categories that apply to their commitment: “Continue commitment to the Rays as an existing supporter; purchase a suite; commit to becoming a Rays sponsor; commit to purchasing a Rays local business partner package; commit to purchasing (number here) season tickets.”

City of St. Petersburg chooses Capitol Alliance Group as new lobbyist

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has chosen the Capitol Alliance Group of Tallahassee to be the city’s lobbyist in the state capitol.

Although Kriseman has made the choice, details of the contract have not been ironed out, spokesman Ben Kirby said.

Capitol Alliance will replace the city’s current lobbyist, Peebles and Smith, also based in Tallahassee, in the upcoming Legislative Session. St. Petersburg’s contract will Peebles expired Sept. 30. The contract was worth $50,000 last year.

Capitol Alliance has a wide range of clients across the state, including the city of Key West and Leon County. Other clients include the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, the PGA Tour, and Tesla Motors. The Capitol Alliance Group’s team includes Dr. Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl.

Capitol Alliance was one of six firms that submitted proposals for the contract. The others were Peebles; Ballard Partners; Ron Boo, P.A.; Dean, Mead, Egerton, Bloodwork, Capouano & Bozarth of Tallahassee; and Southern Strategy Group of Tampa Bay.

It is unclear when the contract will be final. The 2017 Legislative Session convenes March 7.

Station House announces major renovation, rooftop terrace for St. Pete location

A popular St. Petersburg restaurant and meeting space is planning ambitious changes to its downtown location in the new year.

Station House announced Tuesday a series of extensive revitalizations to its mixed-use structure for 2017. Among the upgrades include the addition of a rooftop garden terrace, and what is being described as a “multi-experience restaurant concept.”

Station House, a five-story, mixed-use building of nearly 32,000 square feet, is located at 260 1st Ave. S in St. Petersburg,

Although exact details have not yet been made public, the design includes a new garden terrace with a shaded pergola trellis system, incorporating green space, foliage, and vines to invoke a New York City-style rooftop for intimate parties and dining.

Entry to the restaurant will move to the front of the building off 1st Ave. South, which will improve traffic flow and allow a greater street-level presence. Plans also include a mural, as well as other features to the entry, streetscape, and landscaping.

“It’s again time for Station House to recruit talented designers and partners from the best cities all over the world and introduce them to St Pete,” says Station House proprietor Steve Gianfilippo. “That’s my purpose, to continue to raise the bar in the way so many of us are doing in St. Pete at all levels, but as always with a few tricks up our sleeves.”

Gianfilippo promises the redesign will elevate Station House as both an entertainment and culinary venue, and is expected to attract new talent for improved diversity in downtown St. Petersburg.

As a meeting and business place, Station House will also offer mentoring and a series of workshops in 2017, as well as a Virtual Reality Gaming facility in the co-work space — a concept which Gianfilippo says is “much like those of Silicon Valley.”

Also, there will be a new men’s locker room installed with shower, and a complete makeover of the Green Richman Arcade, currently branded as the Station House Arcade.

Restaurant renovations are slated to start the first week in January, and Station House will continue to provide catering and event hosting during construction.

Completion of the project is planned for Spring or Summer 2017.

Updates on the remodel, workspace, memberships and office suites are at www.stationhousestpete.com.

Competitive bicyclist breaks bones after ‘vicious’ dog attack, blames owner

An 83-year-old bicyclist sustained multiple broken bones last year after an unleashed dog chased him down and pulled him off his bike in South Pasadena.

Charles Kleim is now suing the dog’s owner.

On Oct. 14, 2015, Kleim — an accountant who was training as a competitive cyclist — was riding his bicycle through his neighborhood. While passing a home on South Shore Drive, Kleim faced what he called a “vicious” dog, which took off after the bike.

Ultimately, the animal, owned by David Bricketto, 21, grabbed Kleim and pulled him off.

Although the dog managed to pull Kleim down, it did not physically bite him, explaining why records show no dog-bite citation was issued.

Bricketto called 911. By the time police arrived, he had secured the dog.

Kleim was transported to Bayfront Medical in St. Petersburg, where he was treated for a broken collarbone and femur along with lacerations and abrasions. Medical bills totaled $38,000.

Kleim’s attorney, Peter Sartes, told Baylawsuits that Bricketto was in the process of moving out of his late grandmother’s home, and was loading boxes in his car at the time of the attack.

As the dog’s owner, Kleim is suing Bricketto for strict liability and negligence.

The complaint says Bricketto must have known about his dog’s aggressive tendencies. Therefore, he should have had the dog restrained and put up warning signs.

Kleim seeks $120,000 for medical and incidental expenses, as well as for damages for loss of income, impairment of earning ability, and costs for suing.

A competitive cyclist, Kleim placed third in his age group at a bike race in Charlotte County March 20.

Kleim lives on South Shore Drive near the scene of the accident.

 

St. Pete City Council raises eyebrows at $14M in Pier ‘enhancements’

St. Petersburg council members had mixed reactions Thursday to a progress report on the new Pier.

They generally liked proposed “enhancements,” including family friendly recreation facilities. But the $14 million price tag for those enhancements was another issue.

So far, the city has earmarked about $12.5 million for the Pier approach and about $33.6 million for the Pier itself. Pinellas County had agreed to kick in about $20 million, bringing the price tag to $66 million. If all the enhancements were financed, the total cost could reach about $80 million.

“I feel fairly certain I will not support a $14 million figure,” council member Steve Kornell said.

Kornell noted that adding $14 million to the price tag would increase the overall cost between about 20 percent to 30 percent. He, like other council members, questioned spending that money on the Pier when there are other needs in the city.

 “As a council member, there’s an entire city to look at,” Kornell said. “We have other needs in our city.”

They were also concerned about the costs to maintain and operate the Pier. Council member Jim Kennedy noted that one problem with the old Pier was the approximately $1.5 million the city had to spend each year to keep it running. He wondered if city staff had estimated the annual subsidy the city would have to make for the new Pier — a much larger space with more activities.

“That subsidy could be a whole lot more,” Kennedy said. “I want to have an understanding of that before moving forward.”

No figure was forthcoming on Thursday.

Staff members and designers said some of the proposed enhancements came from comments the council had made during previous updates. Others came from comments St. Petersburg residents raised during public presentations.

Among the proposed enhancements are a kayak rental site with a boathouse and launch, playground equipment and an upgraded splash pad.

The current proposal would have 12 jets of water that children could run through. The project would improve the splash pad to 36 jets, which could include music and lights.

An estimated cost for the upgraded splash pad is about $300,000.

“We can have a splash pad or we can have a signature water feature,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

If done right, Kriseman said he suspected adults would also want to run through the fountains as they spurted water.

Kriseman told council members that the $14 million price tag was the outside amount for the enhancements. It’s likely, he said, they would not cost that much, but it is safer to have the money earmarked and not need it than to need the money and not have it available.

Kriseman proposed taking the $14 million from the tax increment financing, or TIF, money derived from the city’s downtown community redevelopment area. That’s tax money that is collected in that area that is set aside to be used only in that section of the city.

Council member Karl Nurse said he was concerned that some of the downtown TIF money should be spent on fixing sewer pipes in that area rather than on the new Pier.

But Kriseman said fixing those pipes would not help solve St. Petersburg’s real sewer problem, which is a lack of capacity. Fixing that, he said, requires work on the Albert Whitted and Southwest sewer plants. Both of those are outside the downtown CRA so the funds could not be used there.

Amy Foster was also concerned about having to use TIF money not just for the enhancements but also to make up future costs of the Pier.

“I know you have numbers you’re not showing yet,” Foster said about the price of possible subsidies to keep the Pier District operating.

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