Tampa Bay Water considers appealing $73 million lawsuit defeat

04/16/12 Janelle Irwin
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Tampa Bay Water lost a $73 million lawsuit against the engineering firm they say is responsible for cracks in the state’s largest reservoir. Board members still aren’t sure whether an appeal is in the works, but their attorney, Richard Harrison is filing a motion for a new hearing. At a board meeting this morning he said it will take 30 days to find out what motions have been filed by HDR Engineering, including their attempt to recover legal expenses.

Tampa Bay water is already out $10 million in legal fees and expects HDR Engineering to try to recoup another $13 million of their own legal expenses. If Tampa Bay Water board members decide to file an appeal in their case they risk racking up the legal bill even more if they lose. Sandra Murman, a board member and Hillsborough County Commissioner, said she doesn’t support risking any more financial loss, but wants to make sure the board makes informed decisions going forward.

Murman’s fellow board member on both Tampa Bay Water and Hillsborough County Commission, Mark Sharpe, is in favor of appealing the loss.

Tampa Bay Water has been dealing with the cracks in the C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir for more than five years. Jonathan Kennedy, the project manager for the reservoir’s renovations said a lot has happened in that time.

Kennedy supports completely repairing the cracks because he said continuing patch jobs isn’t cost effective.

One Tampa Bay Water board member proposed replacing their counsel. Neil Brickfield, a Pinellas County commissioner, made a motion in today’s board meeting to do that. The motion was not seconded.

Ratepayers could see an increase in their water bills regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit. But those effects will be put off for now while the board and their attorneys work through the legal process. Last October the board nearly settled with HDR Engineering for $30 million, but changed their minds and rejected the settlement.

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