Members give first approval to a $674-million budget proposal, but ask staff to find money for stormwater projects.
TAMPA - At first it was all about pants.
But after a lengthy debate over firefighters' trousers - and whether to spend nearly half a million dollars over two years or go with a cheaper cotton alternative - the Tampa City Council hit an issue on almost everyone's minds:
With an unusual spate of storms soaking Tampa's neighborhoods, council members said they want to do something to help residents as soon as possible.
"We need to bite the bullet and do what it takes," council member John Dingfelder said.
It might take higher stormwater fees paid by residents, said public works administrator Steve Daignault.
Daignault told the council during Thursday night's first public hearing on the proposed new budget that he would give them a full presentation in October on longer-range ways to find more money for stormwater and wastewater. Those could include a "reasonable increase" in the stormwater utility fee, as well as a number of grants, he said.
"I hope a year from now we are giving you a bigger budget," he said.
The City Council wants to act sooner than that.
They voted 6-0 to give preliminary approval to the proposed $674-million budget - but asked staff members to find ways to cut other areas to free up money for stormwater projects in South Tampa, and purchase new fire rescue equipment needed in northern parts of the city.
Council member Gwen Miller was not present.
The final hearing on the proposed budget will be held Sept. 30. The budget takes effect Oct. 1.
South Tampa residents showed up to vent their frustrations with the city's stormwater woes, which they said sent water into their homes when Frances blew through the area.
"Please excuse my casual appearance, but my clothes are in boxes drying out," said Cynthia Hogue, a resident of W Paxton Avenue.
"You have spent thousands of dollars on studies that show the need for 42-inch pipes, and we have 18-inch pipes," she said. "Now I'm flooded out, and I have nowhere to live."