Source: http://www.tampabay.com, September 3, 2013
By: Anna M. Phillips
Pinellas County is suing the two companies it hired years ago to design and build several water treatment facilities for Lake Seminole as part of an attempt to reduce water pollution.
The lawsuit, filed Aug. 21, claims that Environmental Research and Design and Tampa Contracting Services failed to properly design the project that, once built, suffered structural problems and ultimately cost the county additional money to repair. The county is suing for damages and negligence.
The project was funded with money from Penny for Pinellas and also relied on grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, also known as Swiftmud, which is not involved in the suit.
Leaders of both companies said the lawsuit came as a surprise.
The Lake Seminole project ended in 2011, said Daniel Harte, founder and chief executive officer of Tampa Contracting Services, which is based in Palmetto.
“The project was done and substantially complete,” he said. “This is news to me.”
An attorney for the county declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal dispute.
In 2003, Pinellas officials brought in Environmental Research and Design as a consultant to study the feasibility of building a stormwater treatment system, which would use the chemical alum to reduce turbidity. The company still lists the project on its website, where it says it was paid about $2.4 million for engineering and construction work that was completed in September 2009.…
A sharply divided Tampa Bay Water board voted Monday to settle its lawsuit against the company that designed its flawed reservoir, with HDR Engineering handing over $30 million — far less than the cost of a repair, which means the ratepayers would likely pick up the rest of the tab.
The regional utility’s management announced the settlement in a news release, and an HDR executive hailed it as the best possible solution.
But there was a problem. The settlement passed by a vote of 4-3 — and it turns out that’s not enough.
Late Monday, two Pinellas County commissioners who were on the losing side of the vote pointed out what was wrong: The rules governing Tampa Bay Water require at least five of the board’s nine members to ratify any legal settlement.
Votes to approve the settlement fell one short, so “it doesn’t count,” said Pinellas Commissioner Susan Latvala.
Latvala and Commissioner Neil Brickfield had voted against the settlement and then heard about the problem from county attorneys who were familiar with how Tampa Bay Water was set up, she said.…