Walter Donnally is making a name for himself when it comes to the sewage woes of St. Petersburg. The Marina Bay resident is quoted in numerous arti- cles about the problem and advocates for repairs to the system as a principal of the Alliance for Bayway Communities (ABC), which represents about 10,000 residents of the city’s southwest side.
The alliance which now includes 48 neighborhood associations started with seven in 2013. They shared information on best practices and costs for common items (e.g., elevator maintenance, insurance, etc.).
“This was well received and led to a joint effort to reduce the cost of bulk telecommunications (from Bright House). Thirty-three associations for- mally joined that effort which resulted in significant cost savings,” says Bill Blazowski a resident of Bacopa Bay and also an ABC principal. The savings for residents added up to more than $1 million a year and the agreement also included additional options for service previously unavailable.
“No single association could have done this,” adds Blazowski.
Each member association signed a letter allowing the alliance to include them when it advocates with public and private organizations to improve city and other services and accommodations in the Pinellas Bayway area. They also represent major organization there like Isla Del Sol Yacht & Country Club and Eckerd College.
They recently expanded from four to seven principals who are considered equals and focus on different issues once they all agree on a position. In addition to Donnally and Blazowski, principals include Bob Rogers, Harold Butler, Nancy LaBare, Ken Wolfe, and Del Ulreich. The ABC has no budget and operates informally. They are selective on the issues they opt to under- take and they must be local and widely beneficial. They also endeavor to remain non-political and have established and work to maintain positive relationships with the private and government agencies that impact the quality of life on the Bayway including city agencies, county officials, FDOT and property management companies serving their associations.
They hold monthly seminars in venues of their member associations to keep residents up-to-date from November through April and publish a newsletter which is distributed via the associations.
In addition to the telecom initiative, the ABC fought to reverse legislation in 2016 that would have eliminated the resident annual toll pass and bills that would cap fees that associations may charge for documentation they must provide on the status of accounts for units that are being sold. “The bills would have resulted in management companies and, in turn, associations unjustifiably paying for more of these costs.
“We believe ABC efforts to work with the city on wastewater collection and treatment matters have been influential,” says Blazowski. Their initial efforts were to convince people it was not just a 100-year event. “This provided an earlier start … on programs to develop the tools necessary to understand the problem and define what needed to be done in the short and long term.”
They have been successful at push-back efforts, but plan to work at identifying and advocating positions earlier. They plan to continue pushing for improvements to the Bayway, are working to get an agreement to offer lower-cost, high quality bulk internet and hope to get a website. And of course, they will keep an eye on the progress of the waste- water initiatives.