St. Pete-Clearwater airport announces big increase in passengers

CLEARWATER — Officials at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) released the April passenger report on May 7, and it was good news.

April 2021 passengers increased 2,740% over 2020; however, as an additional comparison, April 2021 passengers were down 20% over April 2019.

April 2020 was the most significantly impacted month during the pandemic with a loss of 97%. Year-to-date 2021 is up almost 9% over 2020.

Allegiant has new routes to Portsmouth, New Hampshire beginning in June and Little Rock, Arkansas beginning in May. PIE also has charter flights to Gulfport-Biloxi on Sun Country Airlines for the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. International flights on Sunwing are currently suspended. A new service from Sun Country to and from Minneapolis-St. Paul will begin in November.

A Federal Mask Mandate remains in effect at the airport through Sept. 1. The Transportation Security Administration requires wearing a mask at all times in and on the airport and failure to comply may result in removal and denial of re-entry.

Refusing to wear a mask in or on the airport is a violation of federal law; individuals may be subject to penalties under federal law. PIE’s Covid-19 Action Plan is available at fly2pie.com.

Mayors’ Council of Pinellas County elects new officers

The Mayors’ Council of Pinellas County announced on May 4 the installation of its officers for the 2021-2022 term. The officers were installed during a recent meeting of the association and its members.

MCPC membership elected South Pasadena Mayor Arthur Penny president of the association. Members also elected Oldsmar Mayor Eric Seidel vice president and treasurer as well as Largo Mayor Woody Brown as secretary.

During the meeting, membership also recognized outgoing MCPC President Wanda Dudley, former mayor of the Town of Kenneth City, for her service to the council during her term this past year.

The MCPC promotes the improvement and efficiency of municipal government and the administration of municipal affairs in Pinellas County’s local governments.

Only mayors from Pinellas County municipalities are eligible for membership. The council is governed by a board of directors and staffed by the Florida League of Cities.

Tampa Bay Water considers slight increase in water rates

CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay Water’s proposed 2022 budget calls for a slight increase in the uniform water rate: $2.5634/1,000 gallons, an increase of 0.17% ($0.0044) over the current year.

For the average household, which uses a little less than 4,200 gallons of water a month, the proposed rate increase would mean an extra $0.02 in their monthly bill.

Officials with Tampa Bay Water way the agency has been able to keep the proposed rate increase so small because of efficient and effective operations, adding that this proactive measure may help mitigate a larger increase in the future. At less than half a penny per gallon, wholesale tap water remains a value in the Tampa Bay region, they say.

Tampa Bay Water staff presented the proposed budget to its board of directors to gain feedback at the April budget workshop. Feedback from the board and member governments will help staff refine the budget before presenting the final version for approval in June.

As a wholesale supplier, Tampa Bay Water provides water to the Tampa Bay region. Over the past several years, the region’s population has grown significantly, calling for an increase in water supply and related infrastructure.

Projected demand for the region in 2022 is 192.2 million gallons per day (mgd). That’s 7.5 mgd more than what was projected demand for 2021 (184.7 mgd).

The proposed budget anticipates using current sources of supply to meet the projected demands of the six-member governments’, but it also considers the utility’s capital needs. It does not anticipate using any rate stabilization funds this year to preserve reserve accounts for use in future years. Four staff positions are included in the proposed budget.

An important part of 2022 and future fiscal budgets are new facilities that must be built in the next 10 years to accommodate increased demand, supply reliability and water quality improvement, which were highlighted in a capital improvements program presentation.

PSC OKs rate increase for Duke Energy Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) today approved an Agreement May 4 between Duke Energy Florida LLC and other parties to stabilize customer rates through 2024.

“We determined the agreement was a fair resolution in the public interest, and I believe it resulted in lower rates than would have been possible without a settlement,” PSC Chairman Gary Clark said in a press release. “Customers now know what to expect on their bills through 2024, and Duke can focus on providing safe and reliable energy to its customers.”

The agreement, in part, includes base-rate increases of $67.25 million in 2022, $48.93 million in 2023, and $79.2 million in 2024, for a total increase of $195.4 million. It also includes caveats that could change the increases, such as a Federal and/or State income-tax change.

Residential customers will see a bill increase of approximately 3% to 4% percent in 2022.

With the PSC’s approval, DEF’s Return on Equity is 8.85% to 10.85%, with a midpoint of 9.85%. DEF can also offer a new electric-vehicle charging station program that would build on an existing pilot program. In addition, the agreement approves DEF’s Dismantlement Study—including the retirement of two coal-fired plants at its Crystal River North site — deferring the impact of a regulatory asset for recovery in its next base rate proceeding.

The agreement also resolves all issues in two ongoing storm cost recovery dockets related to Hurricanes Michael and Dorian, and clarifies cost allocation and rate design matters pertaining to DEF’s Storm Protection Plan Cost Recovery Clause.

DEF serves more than 1.8 million retail customers in Florida.

Pinellas joins green building leadership program

Pinellas County is one of 15 cities and counties selected by the U.S. Green Building Council to participate in the nationwide 2021 LEED for Cities Local Government Leadership Program.

The program supports local governments’ efforts to advance sustainability and resilience by measuring and tracking performance using the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Cities green building rating system.

As a part of the Local Government Leadership Program, the county’s Sustainability and Resiliency Program will gain access to technical assistance, training, educational resources, as well as waived membership, registration and certification fees as the county works toward a higher LEED certification. Pinellas County has been a LEED-certified community since 2019.

LEED certification provides a framework for local governments to implement strategies to address resiliency, energy, water, waste, pollution and environmental systems. The rating system also takes into account social and economic indicators, such as health, equity, education and prosperity.

“Pinellas County is committed to managing our resources responsibly and implementing long-term solutions to address our environmental, economic and social needs,” said Pinellas County Sustainability and Resiliency Coordinator Hank Hodde. “The rigorous standards established by the USGBC’s rating systems and the support provided through the LEED for Cities Local Government Leadership Program will help us accomplish these goals in a strategic, systematic and equitable way.”

On top of holding the LEED community certification, Pinellas has built two LEED-certified buildings and plans to build five more. The county became the first Florida Green Building Council “Green Local Government” in 2006.

Launched in 2017, the Local Government Leadership Program was created through a partnership with USGBC and Bank of America and has contributed more than $1.75 million to support 56 cities and counties in their pursuit of LEED certification. The 15 local governments (five in Florida) selected for the 2021 program represent more than five million Americans in diverse places around the country.

Residents reminded to dispose of old generator fuel

Hurricane season starts on June 1 and residents should prepare their generator so that it is running properly this season, and that includes replacing the fuel.

The shelf-life of gasoline is three to six months and up to one year for diesel fuel. Draining and safely disposing of the old fuel should be an annual part of any hurricane preparations.

To safely dispose of the old fuel and other unwanted electronics and chemicals, Pinellas County offers two free and convenient options.

The Household Electronics and Chemical Collection Center (HEC3) is open Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., and is located at 2855 109th Ave. N., in St. Petersburg.

Residents can bring up to five five-gallon containers of gasoline, diesel or kerosene. Fuels must not be in containers larger than five gallons. Containers can be returned to residents after the fuels are deposited into collection tanks, as long has the fuel has not been mixed with any other chemicals or water.

Disposal options for hundreds of items can be found in the Where Does it Go? Search Tool at www.pinellascounty.org/wheredoesitgo.

The Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste also offers Mobile Collection events on select Saturdays, from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., at locations around the county. The HEC3 and Mobile Collection events are only available to Pinellas County residents for the collection of unwanted household electronics and chemicals.

To learn about COVID-19 handling procedures before and during your visit, please review the following websites:

• For HEC3 safety procedures, visit: www.pinellascounty.org/hec3

• For Mobile Collection procedures, visit: www.pinellascounty.org/mobileoptions

Electronics and chemicals generated by businesses are not accepted at mobile collection events and are only accepted at HEC3 on select days for a fee. For business collection dates and fees, visit www.pinellascounty.org/bizwaste.

For detailed information about accepted items, quantity limits, and hours, visit www.pinellascounty.org/hec3 or call 727-464-7500.