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.…
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.…