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Kathleen Peters calls for special meeting on infrastructure damage

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

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.”

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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