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After sewage crisis, St. Petersburg hires ex-weatherman to spread good news about Public Works

St. Petersburg's sewage crisis started in August 2015, resulting in about 200 million gallons of sewage being spilled and dumped over a 13-month period. [LARA CERRI | Times]
Published Dec. 2, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Bill Logan is a former TV weather forecaster, so he's used to delivering a sunny take on a rainy day.

Now he'll be tackling a much bigger storm: He is the new spokesman for St. Petersburg's Public Works Department, whose management and operations lie at the heart of the city's sewage crisis.

His hiring was announced at Thursday's City Council meeting. Logan, 55, will make $90,000 a year.

His first official act was to turn his back to the council dais and snap a selfie. He quickly posted it to Public Works' new Twitter account. He told council members he sees his job as spreading the good news about the city's Public Works efforts.

"(We're) trying to fill that vacuum of information with good stories," he said, "so that when and if there's something we need to deal with, it's not going to be a huge vacuum that sucks up all the positive."

He will report to Public Works Administrator Claude Tankers­ley, who said Logan's science background will be useful in explaining sewage issues to the public.

Logan has a broadcast meteorology certificate from Mississippi State University. He said decades spent in the news business have helped him learn complex issues quickly.

"I've covered everything from soup to nuts," Logan said.

Logan worked for more than a dozen years as a weather forecaster and reporter at WFTS-Ch. 28 in Tampa. He has spent three decades in broadcasting, working as a reporter and anchor at other local TV stations and local radio. He also spent time handling media relations for Walt Disney World.

In addition to the Water Resources Department, which handles sewage, Logan will also serve as the communications official for other Public Works divisions, including engineering; fleet management; and stormwater, pavement and traffic operations.

The only other city departments that have their own communications staff are the police and fire departments, and Parks and Recreation. But Mayor Rick Kriseman's spokesman Ben Kirby said the mayor believes it's important for Public Works to have its own spokesman.

Since the city's sewage crisis started in August 2015, resulting in about 200 million gallons of sewage being spilled and dumped over a 13-month period, Kriseman has said that his administration has not communicated effectively with the public.

"Given the hundreds of millions of dollars in projects coming from Public Works, and the need to better communicate with the public," Kirby said, "this role was necessary."

Council member Ed Montanari said he agreed that better communication will be helpful but thinks hiring a project manager to guide the city's $259 million plan to fix its sewer system is more important.

And council member Jim Kennedy was very direct when asked about Logan's $90,000 salary:

"There are potential other ways to use that money."

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.

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