Rick Kriseman proposing plan for St. Pete’s $6.5M BP settlement

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman wants to use $1.2 million of the money recovered from BP as a result of oil spill litigation to develop a comprehensive resiliency plan that would ensure the city never finds itself in a situation where it needs to dump raw sewage into environmentally sensitive lands.

Kriseman is also proposing $1 million for replacement and repairs to the city’s wastewater assets, particularly in areas near environmentally sensitive lands.

During a press conference Wednesday at the city’s wastewater resources building near Tropicana Field, Kriseman pointed out that the plans for infrastructure improvements add to $24.45 million planned between 2016 and 2020.

“This is infrastructure that’s been in existence in some cases 75 years, in other cases, 10 years,” Kriseman said. “We’re always going to be working on our infrastructure.”

Kriseman said his goal was to use the $6.5 million BP settlement for resiliency and sustainability projects within the city.

“The responsible thing to do with one-time funding is to use it on one-time projects,” Kriseman said.

With that in mind, Kriseman’s plan includes $250,000 for a climate action plan to make the city carbon-neutral, $1 million for a bike share program and another $1 million for retrofits to city facilities to make them more energy efficient.

The plan also includes money for a ferry that would go between St. Pete and Tampa, funds to complete a new Rec Center at Shore Acres, money to plant more trees in strategic places across the city and to acquire or replace the Bellows research vessel that was used in the aftermath of the BP oil spill.

And then there’s this — $1 million for the arts endowment. Asked what that has to do with resiliency and sustainability, Kriseman said sustainability is about more than just the environment.

“Having a strong arts community is good for our economy,” Kriseman said. “It’s a major driver for our economic development efforts. It’s why people come here — for the quality of life.”

The BP settlement money has already been doled out to the city and, according to Kriseman, is in an account collecting interest. Projects can begin as soon as City Council approves uses.

Council is expected to take up Kriseman’s plan at its meeting Thursday.

Kriseman said he decided how to use the money based on many conversations that have been ongoing among council members. The city has been taking steps to implement a bike share program sometime next year. They’ve also expressed concern over the city’s wastewater infrastructure.

As for the arts, City Council members have all been mostly supportive of continuing and eventually furthering funding.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.