Council Talks Sewers, BP Payout

It was all about the Benjamins at Tuesday night’s council meeting, December 1, as Gulfport learned about money that will be used to fix sewers over the next decade as well as the fate of the BP oil spill money.

But first, council had different matters to conduct and awarded Councilwoman Christine Brown’s husband, Harley “Lou” Worthington, Jr. with the Spirit of Gulfport Award.

Mayor Sam Henderson presented Worthington with a plaque commemorating significant achievements in giving back to the community, including his contribution on the removal of scrap metal salvaged from derelict vessels extracted from Boca Ciega Bay.

Late resident Gina Burke was also honored, and her surviving family members and friends were presented with a plaque commemorating her service to Gulfport while battling cancer.

“Gulfport resident Gina Burke took an active interest in civic affairs. Her passing will be sorely felt by members of her family, many friends and associates,” Henderson said.

Council continued with news from the Clam Bayou front.

City Manager Jim O’Reilly announced that St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has responded to Gulfport’s written agreement regarding the bayou, but Henderson and council were less than pleased with the response.

“Frankly, I think this is about the strongest thing they will sign, in my opinion,”  Henderson said.

But the rest of the council was not so easily persuaded to agree with the terms St. Petersburg has laid out.

“Basically they took out everything we suggested,” Councilman Dan Liedtke said.

Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman stated that she would not sign anything until she compared the memo sent to St. Petersburg with the revised one sent back. (Read St. Pete’s version.)

Council has agreed to take a closer look at the two versions of the memo, but Henderson still believes that this will be as close as they can get to what Gulfport wants.

“Clearly their legal department didn’t like some of our language regarding the ‘intentional discharge,’ which was the entire point of doing this,” Henderson said. “Based on what we were sent the first time and how weak that was as far as any sort of protection, and the fact that they made changes again on what we sent back, this may be as strong of an agreement as we’re going to get from them.”

Liedkte believes that St. Petersburg has still not taken the event seriously and the memo needs further review.

“I don’t believe they are taking this as serious as we are either,” Henderson agreed. “I don’t think what we were asking for was unreasonable. I thought it was a good protection.”

Council will review the response from Kriseman further before they make any decision on whether to sign off on the agreement or not.

Turning their attention to infrastructure, council listened to a presentation by Dr. Bob Brown, senior vice president of the environmental engineering firm Cardno Ltd., on the results of the year-and-a-half-long survey of the city’s sewer system and outlined plan of repair.

“Findings from the television inspection of the sewers developed three priority levels of the defects we’ve found,” Brown said.

According to Brown’s presentation, priority one denotes structural deficiency, priority two denotes needing repair, and priority three is pipe that needs to be monitored.

The next phase, according to Brown, will take place over the next one to seven years and consist of fixing priority one pipes at a total cost of over $3.2 million. Within the next eight to 25 years, plans would include continuing to fix priority one pipes as well as priority two pipes. Cost for this operation exceeds $13 million. A practical timetable, according to Brown is two and a half years for fixing priority one pipes, if the revolving loan fund is used to address the issue.

Brown also showed council where pipes have been “lined” prior to the study. According to Brown, “lining” a pipe is “essentially a fiberglass sock that is pushed inside the pipe, then takes about 10 hours to cure. It’s a pipe within a pipe and provides structural integrity in the pipe.”

Over 20 percent of the city’s pipes have already been lined.

“That’s good news that a big portion of the system has been fixed,” Brown said.

More good news is that Gulfport now has BP money “in house,” according to O’Reilly.

“We have the dollars and they have been deposited,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly provided council with a “broad outline” on where he suggested the money go, to which the mayor replied, “I have no issue with the plan on how to divide this up. I think it’s all responsible spending.”

In the plan, of the nearly $1.3 million awarded to the city, $400,000 would be set aside for the sewer repair while another $400,000 is intended for roadway and paving improvements. An additional $250,000 would be allocated towards Tomlison Park playground improvements and $100,000 for the beach parking lot pavement plan. An estimated $81,233.02 would be used for a new marina parking lot, bringing the total to $1,231,233.02.

Council will review O’Reilly’s plan for a future vote.

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