Tuesday, February 20, 2018
News Roundup

Dade City neighborhood relieved reclaimed water tank will go elsewhere

DADE CITY — Officials have hammered out a plan to move a controversial reclaimed water tank project out of the Mickens-Harper neighborhood.

City staff got the blessing from three agencies — the state Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Southwest Florida Water Management District — to instead build the 2 million gallon tank on a rural site on Summer Lake Road, where the city already has percolation ponds. The property is far removed from any neighborhood.

And city officials are laying the groundwork to go a step further and someday move the entire sewer plant.

At a commission meeting Tuesday night, City Attorney Karla Owens said she is drafting an ordinance that would establish a fund to tear down the wastewater treatment plant and build a new one elsewhere. The plant, which handles about 600,000 gallons of sewage a day, was built in Mickens-Harper in the 1950s, when the predominantly black neighborhood had little say in its location.

"There's a lot of satisfaction among our committee members and the community at large," said Bermice Mathis, a member of the neighborhood group that formed to fight the reclaimed water tank project. "Now we need to see these promises fulfilled."

The proposed sewer plant relocation fund would be strictly supported by donations, not assessments. City Commissioner Camille Hernandez said she would be one of the first contributors.

"It's a step in the right direction," she said. "I give (fellow city commissioner) Bill Dennis all the credit for this out-of-the-box idea. Not an ounce more infrastructure at the existing plant."

City Commissioner Curtis Beebe called the fund "a great gesture toward community ownership," although he noted substantial contributions would be needed to build a new sewer plant, which consultants estimated at $11.3 million.

"If everybody in town kicked in $100, would that even come close to raising the millions involved?" Beebe said.

Still, he was pleased with Tuesday's resolution.

"I was the first to propose the idea of relocating the plant entirely as an initial resolution to the problems," Beebe said. "Beyond that, I relied on city staff reports on the feasibility of altering the project. Now I'm thrilled that we can relocate the silo."

The controversy erupted in October, when Mickens-Harper residents discovered the city planned to build the reclaimed water silo on their neighborhood baseball field. The project would accompany an expansion and upgrade of the sewer plant. The tank would hold treated wastewater, which would be piped up to the Little Everglades Ranch for irrigation.

Mickens-Harper residents urged commissioners to build the tank elsewhere, and right a historic wrong by relocating the existing sewer plant as well.

The commission voted 3-2 last month to pull the plans for the tank in Mickens-Harper. Officials initially worried they couldn't change the tank site without jeopardizing grants for the project, including a Swiftmud grant worth up to $1.9 million. But staffers told commissioners on Tuesday that all of the agencies had given their blessing.

"The DEP has already approved the changes," City Manager Billy Poe said. "And when the USDA receives the new design and justification for the relocation, we can award the contract. At that point Swiftmud will extend their grant."

The move will add $52,000 to the tank project, including $39,000 in redesign costs and an estimated $13,000 in construction costs. The total project cost will be determined once commissioners pick a contractor Jan. 24.

The new plan marked a peaceful resolution to the controversy. But at the end of Tuesday night's meeting, a shouting match broke out when Dr. David Hernandez, the husband of Commissioner Camille Hernandez, challenged the mayor to justify his votes approving the original reclaimed water tank location.

"It was cruel," Dr. Hernandez said. "As a public health expert I recognize the most susceptible risk of the disease of pestilence is among the very young."

Mayor Scott Black roared back: "I do not affirm what happened during the 1950s," referring to the first decision to build the sewer plant.

"We are going to hit the rest button now," the mayor added, "as this line of questioning is creating heartache. People know where I stand and that I am not the ogre you have portrayed me to be."

Comments

High school scoreboard for Feb. 20

Tuesday’s scoreboardSoftballAdmiral Farragut 17, St. Petersburg Cath. 0BaseballGulf Coast HEAT 9, Canterbury 4Calvary Chr. 6, Lakeland Chr. 1
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

Officers: When an active shooter attacks, survive by taking action

LARGO — An Illinois teacher used confrontation. A campus safety monitor in Seattle attacked with pepper spray and physical force. An assistant football coach in Indiana shouted as he chased him into the woods.All were civilians who took down an activ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida lawmaker’s aide fired after saying outspoken Parkland students are actors

Florida lawmaker’s aide fired after saying outspoken Parkland students are actors

It bubbled up from the darkest online corners then began to take off: conspiracy theories about Parkland students who’ve spent the past week on TV demanding action on the gun violence that killed 17 and reawakened a national debate.By late Tuesday af...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

Under a new law, some public schools will be managed by companies. Pinellas is getting ready

LARGO — Pinellas County School Board members are not happy about the prospect of having to hand over academic control at three struggling schools to a private company, and paying the firm up to $2 million on top of it. But that’s the course they must...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Career Q&A: Nut allergy is a serious workplace concern

Career Q&A: Nut allergy is a serious workplace concern

Q: My manager has recently started eating nuts at her desk, which is located right next to mine. Unfortunately, I have a serious nut allergy, so any contact with them could produce a life-threatening reaction. Even foods which contain tiny pieces of ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter of negligence in pledge’s death

The parents of Andrew Coffey, the Florida State University student who died from alcohol poisoning after an apparent hazing episode last year, have sued the national Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and nine of its members for their son’s death.Coffey, who wa...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Cracking the peanut allergy; Clooneys inspire $2M celebrity donations to March For Our Lives; lawyer admits lying to Mueller team; more in U.S. news

Cracking the peanut allergy; Clooneys inspire $2M celebrity donations to March For Our Lives; lawyer admits lying to Mueller team; more in U.S. news

NationCracking the allergyThe first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. California’s Aimmune Therapeutics said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut powder helped children build tolerance in a major ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

The 2017 St. Petersburg-Habana Yacht Race was celebrated as more than a competitive regatta to Cuba’s capital city of Havana.The relaunch of the maritime competition canceled since 1959 was hailed as a reflection of the detente started under former P...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Fingerprint on Gatorade bottle leads to arrest of man, 23, in sexual assault of 71-year-old woman

Fingerprint on Gatorade bottle leads to arrest of man, 23, in sexual assault of 71-year-old woman

NEW PORT RICHEY — The 23-year-old man wanted in connection with sexually assaulting a 71-year-old woman on Monday left behind the clue that deputies said led them right to him: A fingerprint on a Gatorade bottle.Deputies said that and other evidence ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Yes, we have some bananas: Port Tampa Bay welcomes first shipment in 21 years

Yes, we have some bananas: Port Tampa Bay welcomes first shipment in 21 years

TAMPA — More than two decades after the last bunch arrived on shore, bananas are back at Tampa’s port. More than 3,900 pallets of Chiquita bananas from Ecuador arrived last week at the new Port Logistics Refrigerated Services warehouse.It was the fir...
Updated: 5 hours ago