UPDATE: Tampa’s storm fee passed Thursday night.
“As you can tell from the storm outside and continuous Tampa flooding, this is a huge victory for our neighborhoods,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. “Thank you to the members of council who supported this vision to improve this storm system, now for the first time in countless years, we can invest in infrastructure a system that is over 100 years too old.”
PREVIOUS STORY: TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The storm water fix-it plan is aimed at alleviating systemic street flooding in Tampa within 10 years.
“We can’t afford to ignore this problem any longer,” city council member Lisa Montelione said.
The improvements will be paid for through a fee on Tampa property owners. Assessments will be based on the amount of hard surface a property as. Hard surface area cannot absorb storm water, so fees will be higher for people with more of it.
That’s not what Tampa property and business owner Randy Portillo wants to hear. “I’ve lived in my house 30 years and for the first time I can’t pay my property taxes,” Portillo said.
Montelione promised the city will work with those who are hard pressed. “We need hundreds of millions to address this but the cost to citizens is the price of a cup of coffee these days,” Montelione said.
He said he thought the aggressive clean up of drains, ponds and ditches helped alleviate flooding issues significantly during Wednesday’s downpours. “That was maybe the BAND-AID that we have the extra maintenance, but our system, I think some of our infrastructure, is like over one 100 years old,” Montelione said.
Who does the fee apply to?
The assessment won’t apply to property owners on Harbour Island or in New Tampa because they have self-contained storm water drainage systems.
Tampa Bay Bob Buckhorn talked about the cost of the plan. “I can tell you a $250 million investment in additional capacity in our pipes and additional pump stations will go a very, very long way to alleviate this problem,” Mayor Buckhorn said earlier this week.
But $250 million won’t quite cover it. “It’s over a half a billion dollars, or over $500 million dollars with interest,” city council member Charlie Miranda said.
Miranda argues the volume of water coming in at high tide is much greater than what will flow out of the fix-it plan’s larger drainage pipes. “It’ll help alleviate. How do I tell somebody that I’m spending money and not solving the problem?” he asked.
The long-time council member says he is not hearing answers to questions he has about this fix-it plan.
“How do I tell the public, who’s making under $10 an hour, that now I’m going to tax them again?” Miranda asked.
Now it’s up to the council to decide whether Tampa takes an expensive next step.