ST. PETE BEACH — “Sewers ain’t pretty, but they’re necessary.”
Those were the words of Mayor Al Johnson on Oct. 27 as he joined city, county and state leaders for a groundbreaking ceremony of a $12.5 million sewer improvement project that has been six years in the making.
In 2014, the city was ordered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to improve its inadequate sewer system that was causing sewage to overflow into streets and into Boca Ciega Bay. In 2016, city leaders adopted a moratorium on new development that could increase sewer flow.
The project, which is expected to last 18 months, aims to both cut down on sewer overflows and expand the system’s capacity, allowing the city to lift the moratorium.
“It’s so important for the function of the city to have a proper sewer system and this is going to allow not only an improvement to the environment because it’s going to eliminate … our overflows but it’s going to allow for additional development in the city,” City Manager Alex Rey said during the event held at the corner of Gulf Boulevard and Gulf Winds Drive.
Some of that new development is already in the works.
Recently, the Miramar Beach Resort unveiled plans to demolish the hotel that’s been on site since 1953 to make way for a 6-story, 54-room luxury resort.
County and state leaders praised the city for prioritizing a project that is costly and time-consuming, but important.
“This is the kind of important work that local government does,” County Commissioner Charlie Justice said. “… There’s other projects that’s more exciting, that are sexier, that get more coverage, but this is the kind of work that our citizens count on, our citizens depend on.”
State Rep. Jennifer Webb, whose district covers St. Pete Beach, also praised the city for overcoming a setback when Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed $1 million in appropriations that was in the budget.
“When the budget was cut this year because of COVID, St. Pete Beach did not just shy away and say, OK, we’re going to give it another year,” she said. “They stepped up and they found the money that they needed.”
The project, which is being financed through a low-interest loan from the FDEP, will include plenty of construction work, including a new sanitary sewer force main pipe and four new lift stations.
Work will start at the intersection of Gulf Winds Drive and Gulf Boulevard and will move north to Boca Ciega Drive and then to 87th Avenue connecting to Pump Station 1. It’s expected that work will start on Gulf Blvd at 37th Avenue working north to 55th Avenue connecting to Pump Station 2 by June or July. The four new lift stations will be built at 44th, 50th, 55th, and 59th avenues.