City reconsiders fee to improve drainage system

It only takes a heavy shower to cause major problems in Tampa.

"In a matter of about 15 minutes, if there is a downpour, we are flooded," said one jogger.

Bayshore Boulevard is one of the worst. "It is pretty intense. Especially in certain spots in pools," she said.

Residents have had enough. John Marek lived on Bayshore for 15 years and he said, "It is difficult. It causes traffic problems."

Once more Tampa City Council will look at a fee to improve the city's drainage system.  Last year council members voted against the fee, saying they were worried people on a fixed budget couldn't afford the additional cost.

"I think it's an obligation they have to the residents to improve the area," said Marek.

This year officials will present a plan to spend $20 million from the city's Community Investment Tax.  The new fee will start under $50 for a homeowner and rise to about $90 in six years.

In turn, the city has created a hardship program for older homeowners who can't afford the fee. They will also allow homeowners to apply for a mitigation credit.

It is a vote that Mayor Bob Buckhorn is hopeful council members will get behind. Since last year he noted the city has big problems.

"I think the public, today, if they didn't know already, realizes that in order to upgrade a 60-, 70-, 80-year-old system, it's going to take resources," Buckhorn said last year.

Yet, some others are opposed. "It doesn't flood here at all. It just runs that way to South Tampa," said Mel Toledo, who lives near Kennedy Boulevard and said he shouldn't have to pay for a problem that doesn't affect him. He is worried for his neighbors. "Some people can afford it. Some can't. We don't have a problem here so why should we go into our pockets."

Many agree something needs to be done. "It is an issue that needs to be addressed," insisted Marek.

Tampa City Council will once again address the issue and make a decision on Thursday night.