Second effort nets city $2 million from state for sewer pumping station

Local officials joined Gov. Ron DeSantis as he visited Crabby Bill’s in St. Pete Beach to announce the city has received a $2 million grant to help upgrade its master pumping station. From left are St. Pete Beach Fire Rescue Chief Jim Kilpatrick, Planning and Zoning Director Wesley Wright, Director of Community Development Michelle Gonzalez, Commissioner Melinda Pletcher, DeSantis, City Clerk Amber LaRowe, Commissioner Mark Grill, Mayor Al Johnson, Chief Operations Officer Jennifer McMahon, City Manager Alex Rey, and Assistant City Manager Vincent Tenaglia.

ST. PETE BEACH — The second time proved the charm as the state Department of Economic Opportunity awarded St. Pete Beach $2 million in Florida Growth Grant funds to help the barrier island city pay for a $4 million upgrade to its master pumping station.

On Oct. 12, Gov. Ron DeSantis stopped by Crabby Bill’s Restaurant to make the announcement that the state will provide matching funds for a $4 million project to upgrade the pumping station. The master pump station provides the final thrust for sending wastewater out of the city to St. Petersburg’s sewage treatment center.

The governor’s office predicted the upgrade and its subsequent economic impact by sparking new development is “expected to create 1,316 new, permanent jobs and generate nearly $13 million annually for the local economy.”

The funds will finalize the overhaul of the city’s wastewater treatment system and upgrade its capacity. The city has been under a building moratorium for the past six years after the state Department of Environmental Protection found its wastewater system inadequate.

But now, new hotels and motels are already being planned by developers.

Mayor Al Johnson told Tampa Bay Newspapers that he appreciates the state providing the matching grant. He noted the city applied for the same grant last year, but didn’t make it.

“City staff has been working very hard for two years to acquire this grant and they did a great job,” Johnson said. The city secured other state grants to complete the project and plans to receive $4.8 million from the American Rescue Plan.

“I am pleased to announce $2 million to finalize wastewater system upgrades that will support economic growth in St. Pete Beach,” DeSantis said at Crabby Bill’s. “This infrastructure will serve a vital role in protecting the incredible environment here while allowing the area to expand accommodations and welcome more visitors, which will bolster all parts of the local economy. By investing in projects like this one, we continue to make Florida the top destination in the country for job growth and economic activity.”

Secretary Dane Eagle of the DEO said the funding “will help the city of St. Pete Beach complete the current wastewater renovations, open doors to redevelopment, and help create new jobs to further support the lives of the Floridians who live there.”

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton said the grant demonstrates how investments in the protection of natural resources can also bolster economic resiliency. “This announcement is great news for the city of St. Pete Beach. Funding for infrastructure, such as this, is critical to the health of our environment and the growth of communities across our state.”

Johnson said it will be another two or three months for the new pumping station to come online at the same time the city’s upgraded sewer system is completed in December.

“The city is currently in the final stages of upgrading the capacity of its sewer system to handle the flow from current and new construction,” the mayor said.

Over the past several months, the city has undertaken a major construction project to upgrade the system that runs under Gulf Boulevard along with lift stations situated throughout the city. The $16,825,900 project includes installation of a new sanitary sewer force mains ranging in size from 16” pipe to 30” pipe.

In addition, four new sanitary sewer lift stations along Gulf Boulevard, at 44th, 50th, 55th, and 59th avenues, have been upgraded as part of the project, with larger pipes adding much-needed flow capacity to the city’s system. That project is being funded with a $12,950,000 low-interest state revolving fund loan, 2015 debt proceeds of $3,452,000 and $423,900 in local reserves.

During the Oct. 12 City Commission meeting, City Manager Alex Rey told the board that with sewer system upgrades expected to be completed and online in December, the city will ask the DEP to release it from its moratorium.

Johnson noted future projects will include upgrading a major subaqueous sewer line that connects to St. Petersburg while refurbishing the large current pipe to serve as a backup in case of an emergency. The city will also undertake projects to reduce rain and groundwater intrusion into underground sewer pipes, to reduce the cost the city pays St. Petersburg for treating water.