ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. (FOX 13) - St. Pete Beach Mayor Alan Johnson wants to build onto his town’s thriving tourism industry – but at the same time, he wants tourists to be able to flush their toilets.
“You can’t build a hotel without upgrading the sewers,” Johnson said.
For some time, St. Pete Beach has outgrown its dated sewage system. Currently, the town pumps sewage off the island to a treatment plant in nearby St. Petersburg. The system can barely handle the capacity on a dry day, and things become even more problematic during a major storm.
Hotels on the island aren’t allow to expand after the city imposed a moratorium on commercial development until their sewage system is upgraded.
Keith Overton, the president of Tradewinds Island Resort, says the concern is the sewage system isn’t able to handle the extra capacity.
“The reality of it is that it needs to get fixed before we can hook up anything to it in regards to new development,” Overton said. “The real question is how you get the money to do it.”
It would cost upwards of $12-million to upgrade the system. The town is planning to finance the project through municipal bonds and they recently hired a lobbying firm to push lawmakers in Tallahassee.
However, Mayor Johnson wants a more aggressive approach. He wants to use bed tax money the county receives from hotel stays to pay for part of the project.
“We generate a lot of taxes here but we don’t get much of it ourselves,” Johnson said.
Up until recently, bed tax monies could only be used for tourism-related projects and promotion. Mayor Johnson says so far, the county hasn’t been too receptive of using tourism tax dollars for the sewage upgrade, but they are continuing to have a dialogue.