St. Petersburg council considers how to spend BP settlement money

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Mayor Rick Kriseman's plans to spend a $6.5 million settlement from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill started Wednesday and immediately hit a wall Thursday. 

"I just want to be real cautious on not rushing to spend money" city councilman Jim Kennedy told a council committee meeting. "I would basically make a motion that we make no decision this morning."  The motion was seconded and passed, putting the mayor's plans on hold until the city council gets more information on potential repairs to the city's sanitary sewer system. 

"You know when you're in your comfort zone and things seem to be moving along you don't think about waste water" councilman Bill Dudley admitted, "Who wants to talk about sewer lines?"

However a three week long period of heavy rains this past summer exposed the deficiencies of the city's sewer system and resulted in deliberate dumping of partially treated sewage water near Clam Bayou. 

Monday councilman Karl Nurse shared new information that programmed upgrades may fall far short of the needs.  "We've got to find essentially $25 million so that we can fund what we know we have to do in the next five years" he told FOX 13 News.

Nurse wants to spend all $6.5 million of the BP settlement to expedite sewer upgrades. 

Mayor Kriseman proposed spending $1 million from the same source. 

Thursday city council chair Cahrlie Gerdes split the difference.  "My personal preference is spend half of this money on sewer pipes now" Gerdes said, "If my roof was leaking at home and I inherited some money from my aunt, I'm fixing my roof.  I'm not putting it in my savings account."

Next week, at another meeting, the city's administration will provide more information on the budgeted and unbudgeted sanitary sewer system needs. 

The mayor cautioned council members that speedier upgrades will require more money sooner.  "Rates are going to go up.  I mean there's just no way to avoid that" Kriseman told them. "So we all just need to go into this with our eyes wide open."