Make us your home page
Instagram

Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa Electric rules, Duke Energy drools, Hillsborough commissioners declare

Duke Energy workers cut tree limbs off a power line on Sept. 11 following Hurricane Irma.

CHRIS URSO | Times

Duke Energy workers cut tree limbs off a power line on Sept. 11 following Hurricane Irma.

TAMPA — The pile on of Duke Energy continued Wednesday in Hillsborough County, where commissioners boasted how quickly most of their constituents had power after Hurricane Irma.

During a debriefing of the storm’s aftermath, commissioners repeatedly praised the response from Tampa Electric, the electric utility for most Hillsborough residents. About 300,000 of Tampa Electric’s Hillsborough customers lost power at some point during the storm and nearly all had power restored in less than a week.

Commissioners were quick to note the prolonged outages many Duke Energy customers experienced in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

“If it was a competition with Duke Energy, you definitely won,” Commissioner Sandy Murman said.

Duke Energy vowed to have power restored to its customer by Friday evening but missed that self-imposed deadline. By Monday morning, about 2,549 customers in Pinellas and 280 customers in Pasco were still without power, compared to 165 Tampa Electric customers in Hillsborough. …

Full Story

Hillsborough okays $1.25 million in Hurricane Irma-related spending with more to come

The overflowing Alafia River, swollen by rains from Hurricane Irma, caused massive flooding near Lithia Pinecrest Road. On Wednesday, Hillsborough County approved $1.25 million in Irma-related spending.

Christopher O'Donnell, Times

The overflowing Alafia River, swollen by rains from Hurricane Irma, caused massive flooding near Lithia Pinecrest Road. On Wednesday, Hillsborough County approved $1.25 million in Irma-related spending.

TAMPA -- Hillsborough County commissioners approved $1.25 million in expenses related to Hurricane Irma on Wednesday with many more costs expected to come.

The county will spend $750,000 on overtime for employees who worked throughout the storm and another $500,000 for disaster-related emergency equipment.

The money was pulled from a $3 million fund set aside for emergencies. It doesn’t cover other expenses from the aftermath of the storm like debris pickup, flooding and damage.

There’s more than 1 million yards of debris to pick up, public works director John Lyons said, which is about what the county normally collects in one and a half years. It may take four weeks or longer to get to all of it, he said.

About 35 waste water pumps that were without power overflowed during the storm and it's not yet clear how much sewage may have spilled out.

An early assessment found about $9 million in damage to homes and businesses. About 290 single family homes and 140 mobile homes were damaged or destroyed, said emergency operations director Preston Cook. …

Full Story

Pinellas County to hire an expert to analyze lessons learned during Hurricane Irma

Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard has his own opinions about the lessons learned from Hurricane Irma's reign over the area. But he plans to hire an outside expert to analyze what went right and wrong to better prepare for the 2018 hurricane season.

In a meeting Tuesday with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, also attended by County Commission Chair Janet Long, Woodard said emergency management staff historically conducts the review after a major event. But with the intensity of Irma's impact before and after landfall, “we'd feel more comfortable having a third party come in.”

Woodard said most notably, Irma highlighted the need for more emergency shelter space. About $3 million over the past seven years, paid for through Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue, has helped create 9,614 additional spaces at six schools to house people during storms. The funding has also paid for those facilities to add emergency lighting, generators and other upgrades to act as shelters during hurricanes.

“If our future is indeed more frequent, more intense storms, having additional shelter space would be important,” he said. …

Full Story

St. Pete realtor Brandi Gabbard hopes to bring housing experience to city council

Brandi Gabbard

Gabbard campaign

Brandi Gabbard

ST. PETERSBURG — City Council candidate Brandi Gabbard looks at details and the long-term consequences when evaluating political decisions.

“There’s so many times in these huge policies that there’s an unintended consequence layer that lives underneath,” Gabbard said.

She said she’s seen it with the 2012 Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and the huge increases many Pinellas County residents experienced. And she’s seeing it again now with the city’s discussion of mandatory solar panels for new roofs.

“I’m in favor of incentives,” she said. “I’m not in favor of mandates when it comes to home ownership.”

Gabbard, a Democrat, met with the Tampa Bay Times’ editorial board Tuesday to discuss her thoughts on affordable housing, the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site and public safety.

Gabbard, 41, a Realtor who lives in the Barcley Estates neighborhood, hopes to replace term-limited Jim Kennedy, a Democrat who has served on the council since being appointed in 2007. District 2 covers most of northeastern St. Petersburg up to Feather Sound, the Gateway and Gandy areas. …

Full Story

St. Pete council member Darden Rice talks Duke, hurricanes, sewage

Rice

[Times]

Rice

City Councilwoman Darden Rice is running for re-election in District 4, and believes the lessons she's learned in her first term in office will serve her well in a new term.

Rice spoke Monday with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board on a range of topics from the future of the Tampa Bay Rays to the future of transit. She believes the city responded well to Hurricane Irma. But she also believes that Duke Energy should be held accountable for the power outages that took place after the storm.

"I personally didn't want to beat up Duke too much last week," she said. "It didn't seem helpful. We have time to ask questions."

But, she said, the utility should respond to residents' criticism about how Duke Energy handled those outages.

"There were a lot of people calling even as late as Saturday and getting an answer that 'Oh, this is the first time we've heard a report' and they had individually called numerous times," she said. "And then they said, 'Oh well on our map it looks like you've already had your power restored.' …

Full Story

What campaigning? Jameis Winston joins Rick Baker's Irma event

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Bernard Reedy, left, Rev. Wayne Thompson of First Baptist Institutional Church, St Petersburg, center, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, serve free pulled pork sandwiches at a food truck giveaway at Rick Baker's disaster assistance registration center on Central Ave. in St. Petersburg on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

LARA CERRI | Times

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Bernard Reedy, left, Rev. Wayne Thompson of First Baptist Institutional Church, St Petersburg, center, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, serve free pulled pork sandwiches at a food truck giveaway at Rick Baker's disaster assistance registration center on Central Ave. in St. Petersburg on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

ST. PETERSBURG — Rick Baker and Rick Kriseman have insisted this week that after Hurricane Irma they’ve put politics on hold in their contentious race for mayor.

But when Baker, a former mayor, asked his boss, Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards to open a center to help people register for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance on Wednesday, Kriseman supporters cried foul, saying Baker was trying to politicize a disaster.

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race.

Baker allies responded that their candidate was just trying to help.

Enter Jameis Winston: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback appeared at the Baker event in person. The campaign said he even paid for soul food  — barbeque and chicken and waffles  — at an Edwards-owned property at 6090 Central Ave.

Baker was also in attendance. But his campaign insisted that it wasn’t a political event. It was also sponsored by state Rep. Wenday Newton, a Baker supporter, and the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP.

That sentiment was echoed by organizer Lewis Stephens, Winston’s friend and "go-to man in St. Pete." …

Full Story

St. Pete opens disaster relief centers

St. Petersburg opened two disaster relief centers Friday

Brendan Fitterer

St. Petersburg opened two disaster relief centers Friday

The city opened two disaster relief centers Friday with a third slated to open next week.

The centers will be staffed by city workers to help residents apply to the Federal  Emergency Management Administration for help in personal or business losses related to Hurricane Irma.

Residents should check the online FEMA checklist, www.disasterassistance.gov/get-assistance/application-checklist to find out what the required information is for the application.

Additional community organizations will be at the centers to provide information about other types of support, according to a city news release.

The two center opening at noon today are the Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S and the Sunshine Senior Center, 330 5th St. N.

The centers will be open until 7 p.m. today. They will reopen Monday Sept. 18 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. and keep those hours through Friday Sept. 22.

A third center in west St. Petersburg will open next week.

Residents can apply to FEMA online at www.disasterassistance.gov or through the mobile app: fema.gov/mobile-app.

 

Full Story

Rick Baker to assist in opening of FEMA Disaster Recovery Registration Center

Rick Baker and Bill Edwards partner to open FEMA Disaster Relief Center on Central Avenue

James Borchuk

Rick Baker and Bill Edwards partner to open FEMA Disaster Relief Center on Central Avenue

Former mayor Rick Baker, his current boss Bill Edwards and other Baker allies announced Wednesday that they are opening a FEMA Disaster Recovery Registration Center from 6-9 p.m.

Baker is running for mayor against incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Volunteers will man the air-conditioned site at 6090 Central Ave. and assist residents registering for disaster relief. The site will also have limited phone charging stations.

Heavy’s Food Truck will also be providing hot food while supplies last, the release stated.

“Rick Baker came to me with a need,” Edwards said. “We were spared the worst of Irma, but people in St. Petersburg are still hurting and in need of assistance. Without power or internet it’s impossible.”

The St. Petersburg Chapter of the NAACP and State Rep. Wengay Newton will also be at the site.

From the release:

Registration is estimated to take approximately twenty minutes and residents need to have the following information to complete the registration application: Social Security Number (SSN)  The primary applicant’s SSN or  The SSN of a minor child in the household who is a U.S. Citizen, Non-Citizen National or Qualified Alien. …

Full Story

Power still out? Where to charge devices for free in Tampa Bay

St. Pete has opened four charging stations

New York Times (2017)

St. Pete has opened four charging stations

Charging stations have been set up around Tampa Bay for residents to charge their phones and other devices during widespread power outages caused by Hurricane Irma. 

ST. PETERSBURG

The city has set up four charging stations for residents to charge their phones and other devices. The charging stations will be open until 6 p.m. Wednesday. They will open again on Thursday, though the city said it was still working out those hours. Look for updates on the City of St. Petersburg's Facebook page.

Mayor Rick Kriseman said the city is partnering with AT&T among others on the stations at Carter G. Woodson Museum at 2240 9th Ave. S., Shore Acres Recreation Center at 4230 Shore Acres Blvd and NE and Child’s Park Recreation Center at 4301 13th Ave. S.

A Cricket spokeswoman later said there would be a fourth charging station at North Shore Aquatic Complex, 901 North Shore Dr. NE. The city also reminded residents they can charge devices at the city's main library at 3745 9th Ave. N. Kriseman said the city is trying to alleviate the hurricane’s frustrating impact on daily life.

“We’re doing everything we can in this difficult time to make sure your life is just a little easier,” the mayor said.

TAMPA …

Full Story

St. Pete city workers not getting their due, says Karl Nurse

St. Petersburg City Council member Karl Nurse thinks city workers haven't gotten enough credit for their hard work in recovery efforts post-Hurricane Irma

Times File Photo

St. Petersburg City Council member Karl Nurse thinks city workers haven't gotten enough credit for their hard work in recovery efforts post-Hurricane Irma

City Council member Karl Nurse thinks the exhaustive media coverage of Hurricane Irma and its aftermath has missed something: the hard work of city workers.

Crews have worked 12-hour shifts for days clearing debris and getting the city back into operating shape, Nurse said.

“They deserve an attaboy,” Nurse said. "You can't say thank you enough."

He has a neighbor who is a building inspector, but was called into work on recovery efforts, Nurse said.

“They are working incredibly hard and word hasn’t gotten out,” Nurse said.

Nurse is term-limited and leaves office in January. He has been on City Council since April 2008.

 

Full Story

With schools out, Tampa opens rec centers early

Tens of thousands of children and teens have taken advantage of extended hours at Tampa's recreation centers during the Stay & Play program during the summer. This week the city is opening recreation centers early to give kids who are out of school something to do.

City of Tampa

Tens of thousands of children and teens have taken advantage of extended hours at Tampa's recreation centers during the Stay & Play program during the summer. This week the city is opening recreation centers early to give kids who are out of school something to do.

With schools closed, the city of Tampa is opening its recreation centers early starting today to give kids and a parents a break, officials said.

Normally, the rec centers would not offer programmed activities until the afternoons after school, city spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said. But they will be open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. today through Friday.

“Thousands of residents in the city are still out of power. It’s hot and uncomfortable. We are hoping by opening up the parks and pools, families will be able to get out, cool off, and make the best of the next couple days,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in announcing the openings. “Our work didn’t stop after the sun came out. We are out in neighborhoods cleaning up debris, fixing traffic signals and addressing issues in every corner of our city. Be patient with us and be kind to your neighbors. We are all in  this together.”

In 2015, the city opened its recreation centers late to give children and teens a place to go during the summer. The move came after an unusually deadly spate of shootings. Since then, the city’s Stay & Play program has seen tens of thousands of young people come for the opportunity.

The facilities open early are: …

Full Story

Kriseman urges patience, kindness as St. Pete recovers from Irma

Mayor Rick Kriseman says city will work hard to restore normalcy after Irma

Eve Edelheit

Mayor Rick Kriseman says city will work hard to restore normalcy after Irma

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman said Tuesday the city was doing everything it could to restore a sense or normalcy to the nearly 100,000 residents still without power after Hurricane Irma.

Just because the Sunshine City didn’t experience the destruction experienced by many in southwest Florida, the mayor said, “it doesn’t mean we haven’t been significantly impacted by the storm.”

HURRICANE IRMA: Latest coverage from the Tampa Bay Times.

Kriseman, dressed in a St. Petersburg Fire Rescue polo, stressed that utility crews would restore power without favoring one neighborhood over another. He asked residents to have patience.

A Duke Energy spokesman said the utility hoped to have electricity restored to every resident in Pinellas County by midnight Friday.

The mayor also urged residents who came through the storm relatively intact to share their good fortune with others. He noted speaking with mothers of newborns who lacked the money to buy formula.

The city has also received more than 4,000 calls after the storm, the mayor said, mostly about debris and power outtages. …

Full Story

Hurricane Irma leaves St. Pete mayor's race on hold -- for now

Irma disrupted the St. Pete mayoral race. When will it resume?

Dirk Shadd

Irma disrupted the St. Pete mayoral race. When will it resume?

ST. PETERSBURG — Remember the battle of the two Ricks? Something may have interrupted that. But it’ll be back.

What had been an intense mayoral race between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker has been on hiatus for more than a week because of Hurricane Irma.

HURRICANE IRMA: Latest coverage from the Tampa Bay Times.

Kriseman edged Baker in the Aug. 29 primary, then both candidates suspended campaign activities on Sept. 6 as the Tampa Bay region fell under Irma’s path.

The mayor has been highly visible since then, visiting sandbagging sites before the storm, attending news conferences with other elected officials at the Pinellas County Public Safety Complex, and checking out the damage after the storm. That activity that has been amply covered by the local and national media.

SUNSHINE CITY SHOWDOWN: Keep up with the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the St. Petersburg mayoral race.

Baker said they would monitor the storm and reassess on Monday. But the former mayor did post to his campaign’s Facebook page that day about visiting a Midtown mom and pop grocery store. Here is the text of that post: …

Full Story

St. Pete will start parking enforcement Wednesday

St. Pete doesn't start ticketing until Wednesday at 8 a.m.

Willie J. Allen Jr. (2008)

St. Pete doesn't start ticketing until Wednesday at 8 a.m.

If you are downtown Tuesday, park as you please (within reason).  The city won't start enforcing its parking ordinance until 8 a.m. Wednesday.

City garages are open, but normal charges apply, said Mayor Rick Kriseman's spokesman Ben Kirby.

 

Full Story

Sewage spill in St. Pete

St. Petersburg spills 423,000 gallons of sewage

Eve Edelheit

St. Petersburg spills 423,000 gallons of sewage

Hours after Mayor Rick Kriseman praised the resilience of his city's improved sewer system, the city spilled 430,000 gallons of partially-treated sewage on Monday afternoon after Hurricane Irma moved north.

A faulty sensor in a holding tank at the Northeast sewage plant, 1160 62nd Ave NE, became stuck,  falsely showing partially-treated sewage at levels below what was really in the tank. 

The sewage eventually spilled over the top of the tank until workers noticed at 4:35 p.m.

The partially-treated sewage was contained on the plant's property.

The plant's biological processes for breaking down sewage were disrupted during the spill. Workers hope to have it fixed by 12:30 p.m.

During the storm, under 19,000 gallons citywide spilled from lift stations that had experienced power disruptions. 

Clearwater had a power-related 1.6 million gallon spill during the storm. And smaller spills occurred thorughout Tampa Bay during Hurricane Irma, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Below is the city's news release:  …

Full Story