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Congresswoman secures $5.5 million for St. Pete projects

Mark Parker

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Congresswoman Kathy Castor (standing) announced May 1, 2023, that she was seeking federal funding to transform South St. Petersburg's Enoch Davis Center. She secured $1.5 million. Photo by Mark Parker.

Six local projects that encompass everything from uplifting South St. Petersburg communities to clean energy initiatives will benefit from U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s federal appropriations success.

The congresswoman recently secured $14 million in area Community Priority Grants, with $5.5 million directly benefitting St. Petersburg organizations. Castor was particularly proud of receiving $1.5 million – her full ask – for the Enoch Davis Center.

The facility at 111 18th Ave. S. is named after a prominent local civil rights activist. Mayor Ken Welch called the center “vital but dated” when he announced plans in May 2023 to transform it into a state-of-the-art community hub.

“I love that one because I’m at the Enoch Davis Center a lot,” Castor told the Catalyst. “Those modern, up-to-date community centers are more important than ever.”

The federal grant will fund assessment, pre-construction and energy-efficiency costs. Welch previously noted the facility’s expansive upgrades will support neighborhood health and safety and provide “technology and tools to excel in our competitive 21st-century economy.”

Castor explained that the Inflation Reduction Act also allows local governments and organizations to receive rebates for sustainability efforts, like solar panels. “When you help the city save money, you help our neighbors save money, too,” she said.

“So, you’re going to see those kinds of investments … really ramp up,” Castor added. “And boy, do we need it – because our electric bills are out of sight.”

She also secured over $1.1 million for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. The agency will use the money to convert its bus fleet to electric motors.

The federal funding will also help PSTA electrify its St. Petersburg Pier tram system. Castor called it a “great demonstration” of clean energy benefits due to the vehicles’ “high profile.”

“I was out there on The Pier about a week and a half ago, and they run all the time,” she said. “They’re gas-powered. And if you’re sitting behind the engine, it’s not great.”

From left, PSTA CEO Brad Miller and Congresswoman Kathy Castor discuss the SunRunner service with local resident and frequent rider Christopher Winters. Photo by Ashley Morales.

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg emerged as a big winner in the grant cycle. The Coastal Resilience Data Visualization Center at the College of Marine Science and the Disrupt Human Trafficking Data Project will each receive $963,000.

Coastal Resilience Center officials will use the funding for scientific planning, threat simulations and public outreach activities. Castor noted the city and state are particularly vulnerable to more frequent and intense storms and sea-level rise.

In addition, the nation experienced the hottest February in recorded history. Castor said people need up-to-date information on where to build and live safely.

“Hopefully, this informs policymakers to help them steer development away from the most dangerous areas,” she said. “It comes back to how people are feeling in their pocketbooks, with insurance costs. We really have to give people better tools and a better understanding of what a changing climate will mean for them.”

USFSP’s Trafficking in Person’s (TIP) Risk to Resilience Research Lab will use the Community Grant funding to develop a statewide data repository called TIPSTR. The program will assist law-enforcement investigations, mitigate gaps in victim services, develop prevention programs and help discern the problem’s magnitude.

An $850,000 grant will support the Deuces Rising development, formerly the Sankofa project. It will provide 24 homeownership opportunities along the 22nd Street South (the Deuces) corridor for those earning below 80% of the area median income.

The public subsidy for each unit in the long-discussed development is just under $500,000. Castor said she “thought it was worthwhile to try to help lower the cost of the affordable housing portion.”

“This may turn out to be a one-two punch,” Castor added. “It (funding) is not at the level I sought. If it will qualify next year, I may come back and try to do another tranche for that.”

The Pinellas County Urban League will receive $81,130 for new computers and updated technological infrastructure. The goal is to increase reliable digital access to bolster economic opportunities in underserved communities.

Castor called the Urban League one of her “most valuable partners” in St. Pete. She said organizational leadership relayed their struggle to keep pace with continuously evolving technology.

Castor said securing the funding was easy as it aligned with congressional economic development initiatives. She also noted that the Urban League plays a prominent role in lowering local electricity costs by helping low-income residents weatherize their homes.

“The summers are so hot and go on for a longer period of time, and that impacts you if you work outside and want to enjoy our beautiful Sunshine City,” Castor said. “I don’t hear the climate skeptics that I used to … because the economics of it are right in front of them.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor was named the American Council on Renewable Energy’s Renewable Energy Champion in March 2023. Photo provided.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Patrick K. Harris, P.E., CAP-PMP

    March 25, 2024at10:09 am

    Why won’t she secure funding for Amtrak to increase service between Orlando and Tampa? I asked Amtrak when they were going to increase trips from one to three per day and they told me to ask my Congresswoman about funding. I asked her and she never responded.

    Also, since Duke Energy provides most of its electricity from natural gas generation, it would make more sense to convert PTSA busses to natural gas as thermal losses occur in electricity generation (40% of the heat generated is actually converted into electricity). It’s a waste of natural gas resources to convert it into electricity and then use that electricity to power a vehicle. You remove a wasteful step by powering a vehicle directly from natural gas.

    I also asked her to make the TVA complete the Belefonte Nuclear Plant. Its two reactors are 80% and 65% complete and us taxpayers have already spent $5,000,000,000 on this clean energy project. She never responded to that request either.

  2. Avatar

    monah

    March 13, 2024at5:21 pm

    Meanwhile, in Pinellas County’s other congressional district… *crickets*

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