During a recent Gulfport City Council meeting Mayor Sam Henderson and Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman had a bit of a go at one another over the Clam Bayou sewage dump last year.
In a nutshell, Roman thinks Gulfport isn’t doing enough to ensure promises from St. Petersburg that a similar situation won’t occur again. Henderson, thinks he’s doing plenty.
During the back and forth, Roman suggested Henderson had not met with St. Pete officials to discuss the issue. He called it a “bald-faced lie.” Now Henderson is setting the record straight with a list of times he met with St. Pete officials.
First, Henderson says he met with St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman on August 12th at St. Pete City Hall. Also in attendance at that meeting was St. Pete Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly.
Henderson said he had another meeting with Kriseman on September 2nd at Peninsula Seafood. Another meeting occurred during the October 7th Pinellas Mayor’s Council meeting in which Henderson said he pitched the city’s “intent to sign [a] Memorandum of Understanding between the cities” to his full council.
Henderson said he met again with St. Pete officials at the Stonewall Democrats’ holiday event on December 9th and on February 24th at St. Pete City Hall along with O’Reilly. The verbal altercation between Roman and Henderson occurred before Henderson’s latest meeting.
“The intention of all of these meetings was to do the following: Develop an agreement protecting both cities from such incidents going forward, and discuss the actions that will make it happen,” Henderson wrote. “These steps include major infrastructure improvements, proactive collaboration before we are in an emergency situation, improvement of emergency notification protocols and development of environmental sampling strategies.”
Henderson also said he and Kriseman have spoken on the phone numerous times.
“Clearly, we have been working on it, and we will continue to do so. It is very important that we see this through,” Henderson wrote.
Meetings between the two mayors are not subject to Florida’s Sunshine Laws and therefore do not have to be disclosed or made public.
The Clam Bayou issue has been the most divisive between Henderson and his opponent, Barbara Banno. The two face off at the polls in less than two weeks for the March 15th municipal elections and Presidential Preference Primary.
Banno has consistently claimed that not enough has been done to safeguard Gulfport against future sewage dumps. St. Pete dumped millions of gallons of sewage into Clam Bayou as well as other areas last August after unusually heavy rains burdened the stormwater system.
The dump resulted in various beach and waterway closures in Gulfport. Banno claims continued closures are the result of that incident. However, the city of St. Pete discontinued water quality testing in Clam Bayou after readings consistently showed safe levels of fecal coliform. St. Pete argues any continued beach closures in Gulfport are the result of other factors including heavy rains.