Mayor Rick Kriseman and Council member Steve Kornell, both Democrats, in recent days have chalked up interest among Republican lawmakers in the city's massive sewage dumps to politics.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott's state investigation? Politics, said Kriseman. Congressman David Jolly and Sen. Marco Rubio's calls for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency probe? Grandstanding, said Kornell.
State Sen, Jeff Brandes, State Sen. Jack Latvala and State Rep. Kathleen Peters have also been vocal on the issue and were also accused of a pile-on by Kornell, who said none of them ever offered help after last August's initial spills and dumps.
Not true, Brandes said. He offered to help secure state aid at a meeting with Kriseman's team, but they had other priorities, including a the cross-bay ferry, set to debut in November.
"We asked, 'What do you need on sewers? What we got back was crickets," Brandes said of his budge discussions with Kriseman's office last fall. "They had other priorities. They made it seem like they had everything under control."
A list of the city's priorities for state funding provide to the Tampa Bay Times in March doesn't list any sewer proposals.
A year later, Kriseman has solving the sewer crisis high on his wish list for state aid. He plans to ask Tallahassee to help the city fund a rebate program to encourage private homeowners to replace leaky pipes that feed into the city's sewers. Some studies have estimated that private or 'lateral" lines may cause up to 70 percent of the intrusion of groundwater into the system. Rainwater engorged sewage flow is what overwhelms wastewater treatment plants and leads to spills and dumps.
UPDATE: Kriseman's office provided the following statement at 1:35 p.m.
Mayor Kriseman thanks Senator Brandes for his interest in this serious issue, and his offer to help with infrastructure issues at the state level.
Last year, the city was in communication with Senator Brandes's staff. His district aides toured both the Albert Whitted Plant and the Southwest Plant and offered assistance with funding needs. However, at that time, projects to expand the Southwest plant were already underway, and funding was committed.
Mayor Kriseman hopes to work with Senator Brandes, and the entire Pinellas Delegation, going forward to address our infrastructure issues at the state level.