Tampa Bay Water

May 1, 2012

Jury’s Verdict for HDR is Major Setback for Tampa Bay Water

Source: http://enr.construction.com, April 23, 2012
By Scott Judy

After a federal jury took just four hours to rule that HDR Engineering’s design did not cause the cracks at Tampa Bay Water’s six-year-old reservoir, the utility was left with nothing for its gamble on a $30-million settlement offer but an estimated $24 million in legal bills. Nevertheless, the utility is planning to roll the dice again and seek a new trial.

The latest legal move, announced on April 16, sets the stage for a motion to appeal, says the utility. In 2008, Gerald Seeber, the utility’s newly hired general manager, advised his board of directors to proceed with the lawsuit against HDR. He remains adamant that TBW was right to blame the engineer for the cracks.

“Our position is unchanged,” Seeber said a few days after the April 10 verdict. “We feel strongly that the public shouldn’t have to pay twice for a fully functioning reservoir.”

TBW says its lawyers estimate an appeal could cost $200,000 to $400,000. The utility has not stated the rationale it will use to argue for a new trial.

While jurors may agree with the idea of not paying twice for a facility, they evidently didn’t see that HDR’s design was to blame for the significant cracking that is still occurring at the 15.5-billion-gallon C.W. “Bill” Young Regional Reservoir in Lithia. And Tampa Bay Water’s legal strategy at trial focused squarely on proving a design error.

For example, even though HDR had quality-control responsibilities in its contract, TBW attorneys expressly stated during closing arguments that the utility was making no claim against the engineer for quality-control issues—and the judge’s jury instructions repeated the statement.…

September 20, 2011

Deal to settle Tampa Bay Water reservoir lawsuit comes up one vote short

Source: http://www.tampabay.com, September 20, 2011
By: Craig Pittman

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.…

April 11, 2011

Engineering company official says reservoir doesn’t need major repair

Source: St. Petersburg Times, April 7, 2011
By: Craig Pittman

The company that designed Tampa Bay Water’s troubled reservoir says it doesn’t need a multimillion-dollar repair job that would raise customers’ rates, as utility officials contend.

Instead, according to HDR Engineering’s senior vice president, Tim Connolly, all the reservoir needs is regular monitoring for any new cracks in the walls, and perhaps the occasional patch job.

The cost: Less than $1 million a year, which would mean no need for a rate increase.

The reason: Although Tampa Bay Water has been drawing water out of the reservoir since fall, no major new cracks have developed. And the cracks that appeared in the past “were in a very small area of the reservoir,” so the entire reservoir doesn’t require repair, he said.

The claim by a top HDR executive this week comes on the eve of Tampa Bay Water receiving bids on the big fix, which by some early estimates may cost $125 million, nearly as much as the reservoir cost to build.…

March 17, 2011

Tampa Bay Water, reservoir engineer reach settlement

Source: Tampa Bay Online, February 21, 2011

The region’s water supplier settled today with the general contractor of its faulty reservoir but will continue to pursue a lawsuit against the engineering company that designed the 15-billion gallon structure.

The settlement approved by Tampa Bay Water’s board calls for contractor Barnard Construction and subcontractor McDonald Construction Corp. to pay $750,000 before the case goes to trial. The company also could be liable for up to $5 million, depending on the outcome of the case.

Tampa Bay Water will continue its case against HDR Engineering, the company that designed the massive, above-ground reservoir in southeastern Hillsborough County.

The regional utility is suing to recover some of the $125 million estimated cost to fix cracks in the soil cement covering over the sides and bottom of the reservoir. The reservoir cost $140 million to build.…