Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg waives back taxes, fees owed by Progress Energy

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council voted Thursday to settle a 6-month-long dispute with Progress Energy by waiving the majority of $147,000 in overdue taxes and bills.

By a 5-3 vote, council members approved a settlement negotiated by Mayor Bill Foster that excused the utility from paying the debt in exchange for a $50,000 contribution to the construction of a courtyard at Pinellas Safe Harbor, a homeless shelter that the city and county has built. Foster said he tried to get the utility to contribute more but was happy with Progress' donation.

He also asked that, in forgiving the taxes and bills, the council consider two other contributions that Progress Energy has made: $50,000 to Al Lang Field to host international baseball, soccer and other sports; and $15,000 it spent on landscaping at a downtown electrical substation.

If the council rejected that settlement, the city was at risk of alienating an important corporate partner, Foster said, especially if it ended in a lawsuit.

Council president Jim Kennedy and members Bill Dudley, Steve Kornell, Wengay Newton and Karl Nurse approved the settlement.

"Sometimes you're in a situation where there's an unhappy ending," Nurse said. "If the city sues, how eager would Progress Energy be to open up their wallets for city causes?"

Leslie Curran, Jeff Danner and Herb Polson opposed the deal.

In the context of the $183.7 million that Progress Energy paid the city in collected franchise fees and municipal taxes from customers from Jan. 1, 2005, to Dec. 31, 2009, the owed amount was miniscule.

Yet in the context of the city's budget, which faces an $11 million deficit next year, the $147,000 could be used to save jobs and preserve services, at least for one year.

Representatives from Progress Energy disputed the city's audit last year that showed it had failed to collect and pay the city fees and taxes from properties that had been annexed into the city in 2004. They said the utility had not been properly notified that the properties were now in the city. In a Dec. 8 letter, Gail Simpson, a manager at the utility, stated it would be willing to pay only $5,050.

Last week, Foster told the St. Petersburg Times that he was negotiating a settlement with Progress Energy and had ruled out a lawsuit because he considered the utility such a good corporate partner. He said the settlement would consider its contributions to the community, including $200,000 a year to the Progress Energy Center of the Arts and $50,000 to his sports alliance, which promotes international baseball.

He worked alone with the utility on the agreement and with little input from his legal staff.

"We were informed late in the process," City Attorney John Wolfe told the council. Asked if this set a precedent whereby other corporations could claim past good works in avoiding fees, Wolfe gave a careful response.

"It opens the door a little bit is all I can say," he replied.

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at mvansickler@sptimes.com.

St. Petersburg waives back taxes, fees owed by Progress Energy 04/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 9:25am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Search for missing Army helicopter crew suspended in Hawaii

    Military

    HONOLULU — Officials have suspended the search for five Army soldiers who were aboard a helicopter that crashed during offshore training in Hawaii last week.

    Water safety officials hand over possible debris from an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash to military personnel stationed at a command center in a harbor, Wednesday in Haleiwa, Hawaii, a day after. an Army helicopter with five on board crashed several miles off Oahu's North Shore. Officials  suspended the search for five Army soldiers in a helicopter crash during offshore training in Hawaii on Monday. [Associated Press]
  2. Rubio praises Trump for 'excellent' speech on Afghanistan

    Blogs

    Sen. Marco Rubio praised President Donald Trump's "excellent" speech on Afghanistan. Sen. Bill Nelson was less effusive but agreed with the goal.

  3. Gov. Rick Scott blasts report of shifting words on Charlottesville

    Blogs

    Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most scripted politicians in modern Florida history, said Monday that "both sides” bear blame for Charlottesville.

  4. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer

    Nation

    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  5. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry

    Military

    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.