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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Kriseman switches course on Albert Whitted, proposes wide-ranging fix



Mayor Rick Kriseman told City Council members Thursday that if the Chicago Cubs can win the World Series, then St. Petersburg can fix its broken sewer system.

Of course, it took 108 years for the Cubs to hoist the trophy.

Kriseman unveiled $45 million plan that he said would provide short-term relief to the city's beleagured system in a year, although most of the fixes won't be in place until the end of next year's rainy season.

In the next five years, the mayor proposes $259 million to fix pipes, seal leaky manhole covers and expand capacity in its three existing plants.

But, in a major shift, Kriseman and Public Works Chief Claude Tankersley said reopening the shuttered Albert Whitted plan was no longer at the top of the list.

Last month, Tankersley had recommended reopening the plant, which had closed in 2015. Within months of that closure, the first of what turned out to be about 200 million gallons of sewage spilled, sparking a sewage crisis that has consumed the council and mayor's attention.

Contractors have looked at the 1920s-era plant on the waterfront and estimated it would take up to  $30 million to reopen it---about triple what Tankersley had estimated in early October. And it wouldn't be ready for the 2017 rainy season as he had previously thought.

Council members were skeptical. Ed Montanari said he was concerned that the plant wouldn't be reopened. Steve Kornell pressed Tankersley over his assertion that the city would have still dumped or spilled millions of gallons of sewage even if Albert Whitted had remained open.

"That is a change of direction that I am grappling with right now," said council member Darden Rice.

Council member Jim Kennedy said he was concerned that the city would be as vulnerable next June as it was this summer when two storms caused massive overflows.

"It's possible," Tankersley replied.

The city also wants to spend $3.5 million on a sewer master plan to create a roadmap to a permanent fix. That study would be ready in  April 2019.

Council chairwoman Amy Foster said the master plan was the kind of holistic thinking that she had been waiting to see from the Kriseman adminstration.

But Foster and other council members took issue with Kriseman's assertions that the council had spent a lot of time talking about the sewage. It's now time to get moving, he said.

"We've haven't slowed anything down," said Montanari. "We've been waiting for a plan."


[Last modified: Thursday, November 3, 2016 3:24pm]


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