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St. Pete City Council to weigh ferry pilot project in December

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council will talk about whether or not to get behind a water ferry proposal that would cart residents and visitors between downtown St. Pete and Tampa.

During a committee meeting Thursday the board scheduled a staff report about the proposed ferry project at the December 3 meeting.

At issue is whether or not City Council is prepared to voice its support for allocating city funds to the project. Mayor Rick Kriseman has already proposed $350,000 toward a $1 million ferry pilot project as part of the $6.5 million allocated to the city through a BP settlement.

City Council has not yet approved his plan because there are concerns that more of the BP award money should go toward repairing the city’s aging wastewater infrastructure.

Kriseman’s plan was a collaboration with Tampa ferry promoter Ed Turanchik. Based on their idea, ferries would be rented during the winter months from services that close during that time in the Northeast. Slips to house the ferries could also be rented.

Passengers could be shuttled between the two cities on weekends.

Asked whether or not the ferry pilot project is connected to another of Turanchik’s ferry projects — one connecting MacDill Airforce Base to South Tampa — city staff explained ambiguously that project has been delayed “quite a bit” and suggested the same company Turanchik is working with on that project may bid on the Tampa/St. Pete pilot as well.

If City Council approves the $350,000 expenditure, it would be contingent on other outside funding to pay for the program. If that funding — perhaps from Tampa, Hillsborough County or the state — falls through, the money would go toward something else.

City Council member Amy Foster asked that any resolution brought to council December 3 include clarification that the money would go back into the BP fund rather than being split up immediately into other projects.

City Council members also asked that staff ask the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority to place the issue on its agenda to discuss regional funding options.

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.

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