There were no new revelations or big ideas during the first meeting of the newly formed wastewater/stormwater task force Monday.
Instead, Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, who created the board, tossed the ball to the technical staff with directions to come back to the committee with an initial plan within 90 days. The steering committee is made up of elected officials and community leaders.
Justice called for the task force to be formed after the county, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, St. Pete Beach, Clearwater, Largo, and others dumped millions of gallons of raw and partially treated water into Boca Ciega Bay, Lake Seminole, Joe’s Creek, irrigation canals, and other places during heavy rainstorms this past summer.
The general goal, Justice said, is to work collaboratively to come up with short- and long-term solutions to the county’s stormwater and wastewater problems. The specific goals are to avoid and mitigate spills and increase the capacity and resiliency of the individual systems and the system as a whole.
“Working together as partners, we can do more,” Justice said.
The task force was to be made up of representatives from the cities that have sewer systems, owners of private sewer systems and technical experts from public works departments in those municipalities. Representatives from civic associations were also asked to serve on the group.
While many cities — including St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo,and Pinellas Park — sent elected representatives to serve on the steering committee and brought along technical assistance, many others snubbed the meeting.
The mayors of Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Oldsmar, Treasure Island, North Redington Beach, and Redington Shores were among the no-shows. No community leaders appeared onstage either.
Those elected officials who did show were asked to comment on the issue as they saw it.
Terry Hamilton-Wollin, the vice mayor of Indian Rocks Beach, said she agreed the matter is one that should be viewed countywide.
“If it affects one of us; it affects all of us,” she said.
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said providing sewer service is one of the core jobs of a government. But, he reminded, it costs money to maintain systems.