St. Pete City Council committee votes to spend $1.5 million of BP money pot
A St. Petersburg City Council committee voted unanimously Monday to spend $1.5 million of cash from the BP settlement on sewer system repairs.
The action was the first slice taken from the $6.5 million pot of money from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill settlement. Last month, Mayor Rick Kriseman proposed spending $1 million on sewer improvements.
The committee's action might just be the first step in spending the BP cash. Several council members said they might spend more of the money on lining crumbling sewer lines and repairing manholes and manhole covers when a report on the city's aging system is completed in March.
Not everyone agreed. Darden RIce, who isn't a voting member of the committee, said that spending one-time settlement money on an ongoing infrastructure problem has more to do with politics than sound fiscal policy,
"I think it's a little wrongheaded," Rice said. "A bad decision with good intentions is still a bad decision."
Karl Nurse, who pushed for the city to spend some money right away, said that waiting doesn't make much sense. Wastewater officials have identified $15 million of work that needs to be done right away to avoid the types of spills and dumps that occured in August when more than 31 million gallons of wastewater spilled into Boca Ciega and Tampa bays as well as Eckerd College's campus.
"What is checked as 'immediate,' last I checked, still means immediate," he said.
Council member Steve Kornell the city can't spend a few million in incremental improvements to its sewers. A large-scale solution is needed, he said.
It's unclear if the City Council will consider the committee's recommendations later today at its meeting or if it will take a vote later this year.
A staff plan to pay for sewer repairs by issuing $15 million in bonds, broached by City Administrator Gary Cornwell last week, was barely discussed. Cornwell said it would make more sense for the city to borrow to fix its sewers than use BP money.
"To me, it doesn't make any sense to finance it," Nurse said.