TAMPA BAY WATER MOVES FORWARD ON NEW DESAL MANAGEMENT-Andrew Stelzer

08/30/04

The Tampa Bay Water board met today to consider two proposals to fix and rebuild the disastrous desalination plant near Apollo beach. Built in 1997, the plant turns seawater into drinking water for much of Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties, but the first two companies who operated it went bankrupt, and the filters have been damaged by not being operated correctly. After a request for proposals was put out in February, two companies submitted proposals to operate the plant for the next 20 years, American water, and Veolia. Tampa Bay Waters general manager, Jerry Maxwell, recommended the proposal by American water, but not without several hours of deliberation by the board. WMNF’s Andrew Stelzer was there and filed this report.

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ACT “I’m a native of Florida I think desal is the answer, Hillsborough county commissioner Jan Platt raised objections throughout the meeting, asking for the decision to approve American water to be delayed until the board had a chance to look at the proposals in depth.

ACT but this has to be a model and if we act in haste that wont be the case, there are too many blanks in the proposal, to many things unanswered.

American waters bid came in at 332 million dollars, a savings of 51 million dollars compared to Veolias bid. Veolias proposal, however, only had the plant being shut down for 6 months, while American waters requires the plant to be out of operation for 13 months. But using an 100-point rating system—American waters earned a 93, wile Veolias rated an 81. The board had two items to act on—one was to accept the two proposals, the second was to approve the choice of American water. For over an hour, several members of the board argued that they should not even accept the proposals, because they had some irregularities—the board chairman said the irregularities ere just typos and math errors, but Hillsborough county commissioner and Tampa bay water board member Kathy Castor said they were more then just technical mistakes.

ACT “What we deal with as city agencies is that e send an RFP..irregularities have created a situation where these are apples and oranges..these irregularities are major.�

Eventually, the board voted 6 to 2 to accept the proposals, and then moved on to a very similar debate, whether they would accept the general manager recommendation of American water, or delay that decision. St Petersburg mayor Rick baker said he wanted some time to have his staff look over the proposals—he was questioned by Pasco county commissioner Ann Hildebrand about his reasons for wanting to delay the decision.

ACT “Would you clarify the delay hats the purpose? I got this on Saturday morning..�

2 proposals ere floated—one to delay the decision until November, and another to vote to delay it until next month. Hildebrand said she was concerned that a dry summer next year could put the areas water supply in danger.

ACT ‘The desal plants has a history of being Murphy’s law, we have to fix it we were on a track, by delaying the fix and the decision is not right and it will take longer for that fix to get into place…e don’t know what kind of rain next year will bring…September is ok, but November is too far out�

And commissioner Platt was pushing the hardest for more time; as both companies proposals came up short of all the specifications laid out in the request for proposals, Platt told Neil Callahan, a consultant hired by Tampa Bay Water, that she was skeptical the desal project would succeed.

ACT “I think you told the board in 2001, and 2003 that it as gonna work, what guarantee is there that this will work this time.� …no guarantee exists.�

In the end, the board voted to wait one extra month before accepting American waters bid. The board members have until September 8th to study the proposals, the board will meet again on September 20th and vote on accepting entering into contract negotiations with American water. The desal plant will not be in operation until at least mid-2006.

For WMNF news, I’m Andrew Stelzer

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