Sunday, October 30, 2016

St. Pete City Council drowning in a torrent of sewage and a flood of consultants

We know where the sewage comes from but why all the consultants?

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

St. Pete's sewage mess got deeper this week (pun intended) as the City's public works administrator Claude Tankersley; seem to renege on his desire to reopen the city's Albert Whitted Waste Water treatment plant.

The plant's closing has been at the heart of the discussions, reasons and excuses for the recent wastewater dumping into bay area waters.

Tankersley said it might not be feasible to reopen the plant, no specifics just not "feasible."

Feasibility like beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, and it just may be that Kriseman's desires for the land the Albert Whitted plant sits on may have caught up with Tankersley's comments.

Claude might want to consider some whistle blower protection.

In response to a comment by Counsel member Kornell, City Administrator Gary Cornwell interrupted: "Thursday, we will bring a plan on what the administration wants to do."

What the administration appears to want is to make sure the Albert Whitted plant is not restarted and becomes a permanent part of the downtown waterfront.

Remember the fish farm?

Add to all of this Assistant City Attorney Kim Streeter confirmed a federal agent along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has questioned an unnamed City  worker.

City Council is having a hard time untangling the maze of studies, opinions and consultants. See Charlie Frago Times Staff Writer, Consultant: St. Petersburg has too many consultants working on its 900-mile sewer system.

Why all the consultants?

The City Engineering department has a long history of farming out public works projects to consultants. There are a number of reasons but principal among the reasons is it gives the Engineering department many places to point when things go bad, like now.

Often the consultants hire other consultants and the line of true responsibility for everything from system failures to cost overruns become so blurred it is impossible to place responsibility.

It is not by accident it is by design.

The City engineering department's first objective is to make sure they have someone to blame when things go bad. The second objective is to hire the consultant they want see my post; St. St.Petersburg's use of the "Consultants Competitive Negotiation Act" or CCNA is deeply flawed, and the third objective is to get the project done.

In the Mark Puente Times article:
Council member Ed Montanari said to Claude Tankersley, "You were adamant to open it back up," "We've been waiting for the plan. We seem to be going all over the place."

Council Member Steve Kornell said, "I'm getting tired of pulling up the truth over and over again."

For another view see Tampa Bay Times Columnist John Romano, Romano: Here's my mea culpa on St. Petersburg's water problems. Where is theirs?

For now, Mike Connors, Tom Gibson and Steve Leavitt are going on the offensive see Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer Charlie Frago,  Former sewer officials finally speak out, defending themselves in St. Petersburg’s sewage crisis.

The best way to get to the truth is for an empowered agency to file some criminal charges and let's get the boys talking to cover their own backsides.

Short of that, City Council may just want to stop wasting time trying to get to the bottom of the sewage spill and the unraveling of the well-designed consultant camouflage and get on with fixing the problem.

The Albert Whitted wastewater plant is an existing facility that can and should be restarted. Even if it has to be torn down to the ground, the infrastructure is in place.

City council also needs to be very wary of ultra-high cost estimates that place the Albert Whitted startup out of reach.  

Another often used ploy.

Restarting Albert Whitted  may not be Kriseman's vision, but unless City Council wants to be in the hot seat next rainy season for some half-baked plan by the dream team to buy barges, trucks or whatever to deal with the problem; they need a serious solution to deal with Albert Whitted and the South West treatment plants.

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