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Tampa City Hall looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint

Council member Harry Cohen says the city is getting rave reviews for Riverwalk events.
Council member Harry Cohen says the city is getting rave reviews for Riverwalk events.
Published May 8, 2015

TAMPA — City Hall is looking at ways it can quickly and cheaply reduce its carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

A recently formed committee will evaluate what changes the city can make in the next six to eight months that are of little to no cost.

The suggestions of the Energy Efficiency Conservation Plan Committee will be sorted into recommendations for specific departments such as water or sewer, according to Thomas Snelling, the city's green officer and director of planning and development.

A first round of changes will be based on small changes a department can make that do not require any funding, Snelling told the City Council Thursday. From there, the committee will identify types of policies and procedures that can be implemented with a small amount of money, "without breaking the bank, so to speak."

The committee will also look for additional funding sources, including state grants that can help officials tackle larger projects, Snelling said.

Council member Lisa Montelione said the committee is a monumental step for the city in addressing environmental issues.

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In other business, the Police Department reported that officers have not written any tickets or citations at events along the Riverwalk as a result of the city's new policy allowing open containers of beer, wine and spirits.

"Everything went pretty well," Lt. Calvin Johnson told the council. "I think it's a great area. People behave. You have smaller things that go on, but it's a great place."

In November, the council passed an ordinance allowing open containers containing alcohol on the Riverwalk, with some limitations.

First, it's not BYOB. Instead, visitors must buy their drinks from one of eight restaurants, hotels or city facilities along the Riverwalk that are licensed to sell alcohol. And those drinks have to be served in plastic cups with the Riverwalk logo. There's also a limit of two drinks at a time, an 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. window for drinks, and a ban on taking drinks from the Riverwalk into a city park (unless there's a permitted special event with alcohol there).

Police also spoke to restaurant owners along the Riverwalk who said they have not experienced any issues relating to people drinking along the Riverwalk.

"I think this has been a terrific program," City Council member Harry Cohen said. "The city is getting rave reviews for how much fun people are having when they come down for different events. It sounds to me like, for the most part, everything has been very peaceful and very friendly."

Council members also voted to approve paying an additional $750,000 to Johnson Bros. Corp. of Lithia, the city's contractor on the Riverwalk project. The change order covers additional work required during the construction, including updated lighting, piling repairs and removing an obstruction in the river.

With the payment approved Thursday, the total contract price for the Kennedy Boulevard segment is about $9.6 million. That could change when the city addresses outstanding issues such as amounts of materials used and how the contract schedule compares to the time it actually took to do the job.

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"We still have negotiations on time and other issues," said Brad Baird, Tampa's administrator of public works and utility services. "We're pretty close to completion. Processing that change order is probably a couple months away."

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The council also approved a new West Tampa Community Redevelopment Area, with boundaries of Hillsborough River on the east, Armenia Avenue on the west, Columbus Drive on the north and Kennedy Boulevard to the south.

The council-approved plan now will be submitted to Hills-borough County officials for review.

The approval of the redevelopment plan is an initial step approving the creation of the CRA, but specific projects in the area will not be identified until a strategic action plan is created down the line by another committee. That plan will address a budget, projects, timing and other issues.

In addition to the new West Tampa CRA, there are CRAs in seven parts of the city, including downtown, the Channel District, Ybor City and East Tampa.

CRA funds must be spent in the area where they are generated. They also are restricted to certain uses, such as building or realigning roads, improving drainage, water and sewer service, providing parking or landscaping, or doing other infrastructure projects to facilitate private development.