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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Buckhorn merges Tampa’s road, stormwater departments

— Mayor Bob Buckhorn is shuffling the city’s public works agencies ahead of the 2015 budget year, which will includes millions in spending on roads and drainage projects.

Buckhorn announced Monday that he will merge the city’s transportation and stormwater departments, which already work closely when it comes to repaving the city’s roads. Jean Duncan, the current transportation director, will lead the new agency.

The merger will become official later this week.

The reorganization will add a call center residents can contact to report problems with roads, traffic and flooding.

“I have specifically directed them to focus on improving customer service and being responsive to residents’ needs, particularly given the added funding appropriated to resurfacing and stormwater improvements,” Buckhorn said.

Buckhorn told the Tampa City Council last month he plans to boost the city’s road and drainage budgets by about $6 million next year to take care of projects that have been put off during years of budget cuts.

The public works to-do list for 2015 includes:

♦ Improving drainage in a 1,150-acre area of East Tampa bounded by Adamo Drive, North 40th Street, East Hillsborough Avenue and North 50th Street. The $5.4 million first phase will be split with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

♦  Drainage improvements in South Tampa for about a 1,000 acres surrounding the intersection of South Manhattan Avenue and West Vasconia Street. The city will split the $5.4 million cost for the first phase of improvements with the water management district.

♦  Flood relief, bike lanes and other improvements to streets in the Drew Park neighborhood in West Tampa.

The city also plans to repave Cleveland and Platt streets, both major corridors for traffic moving east-to-west across South Tampa.

Cleveland Street, which has degraded between North Boulevard and Armenia Boulevard, will get $2 million. Platt will get a bike lane and on-street parking in the area near South Howard Avenue.

All told, the city will repair or resurface 63 lane-miles of streets in 2015, about 30 percent more than normal.

Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez, who leads the council’s public works committee, said the merger makes sense given how intimately connected roads and drainage projects are.

“Whenever we tear up something we have to put it back,” Suarez said. “All those things go in a vertical way.”

Also as part of the reorganization, the public works department will be renamed Assets and Logistics. It will oversee the city’s vehicle fleet, facilities and parking. Ocea Lattimore, who now works for the city’s wastewater department, will take over the new department. Current public works director Irvin Lee is leaving the city this week for a job in the private sector.

The third part of the shuffle puts Eric Weiss in charge of the wastewater department, replacing Anthony Kasper, who also is moving to the private sector, said Ali Glisson, Buckhorn’s spokeswoman.

Salaries for the new directors are still being determined. They will serve in an interim capacity until their nominations can be confirmed by the city council.

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Twitter: @kwiatrowskiTBO

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